Patriotism as a Branding Tactic
In our latest chapter about branding, we’re going to focus on the holiday weekend and discuss the use of patriotism as a branding tactic. This week, we’ll talk about not only what patriotism as a branding tactic is, but also how it’s done. We’ll look at brands that currently employ the use of patriotism in their branding and whether it is effective.
What is Patriotic Branding?
When you think of a brand that is considered patriotic, what corporations come to mind? Companies like Ford, Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Budweiser, John Deere, and Walmart probably come to mind.
The reason for this is because the way the brands are constructed, the company creates an image of being “All-American.”
Advertisements showcase things like a long history of the brand’s existence, as well as where the product is made —if it’s a patriotic brand, hopefully the product is made in America.
They inspire consumers to feel a little boost of nationalistic pride, and the advertisements work because they play into the emotions of consumers wanting to support something “local” (that is, American, rather than made overseas).
Like most other methods for attracting customers, patriotic branding is a way of marketing to consumers who want to support their country.
How Do Companies Do it?
Patriotic branding is employed by not only using nationalistic logos or imagery, but by presenting an idea of what it means to be American (or another nationality, if we’re talking about international brands—but for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume we’re talking about American brands).
Patriotism is something to be profited from, and consumers know if a brand is just slapping on an American flag to their usual tactics or if they’re actually entrenched in patriotism. For example, if a company is well-liked by people who take pride in their country, those people will likely remain loyal customers over the years.
However, the converse is true as well—if a company only appears to be patriotic but is actually just “wrapping itself in the flag” in order to make a quick buck, consumers will see through those efforts and choose to do business with another company.
Take, for example, if a company who produced its goods in another country decided to market their product this weekend by offering a “July 4th discount”—they might make a quick dollar over the weekend, but they won’t attract lifelong customers.
Who Does It?
Jeep, Chevrolet and Ford are all great examples of companies that employ the use of American-pride in their marketing. Interestingly, it doesn’t necessarily require that a brand’s products are made in the country. For example, Ford and Chevy trucks have a lot of parts produced out of the country, while seemingly foreign brands, like Nissan, are produced by and large within the States.
Patriotic brands may not need to be made-in-America, but they do have to be iconic. They have to use the imagery associated with national pride.
For another example, Budweiser products are often sold at sports games—at baseball stadiums. What’s more “American” than baseball (besides apple pie, of course)?
Coca-Cola also does this, even though it may not seem immediately like a “patriotic” brand. Just think of how long they’ve been around, and how ubiquitous they are for most “American”-themed events. They showcase, as previously mentioned in our branding series, what the American dream entails—a happy lifestyle.
Coca-Cola has been around for decades and in surveys has ranked highly as one of the “most patriotic brands” around. Its advertising has spanned World Wars, and its presence at things like Fourth of July barbecues is practically a given.
Levi’s is another brand that is seen as patriotic, and that’s no surprise. They’ve been a landmark brand that stands for quality jeans, and their recent advertisements have shown things like sparklers ON the Fourth of July—there’s nothing more American than celebrating independence, these ads seem to say.
The fact that their last American factory, in San Antonio, Texas, closed in 2004, doesn’t seem to hurt the brand’s reputation as one that’s an American standby.
Is It Effective?
As previously mentioned, it does not seem to matter if the brand actually is American or patriotic, or if their products are produced on American soil. What seems to matter is how well these brands market to people for whom patriotism and pride in their country is an important value.
For companies who brand themselves as all-American and patriots, they work to maintain that image and, over time, brand loyalty is developed based on the idea that these companies represent their customers’ views. In the context of marketing post-9/11, patriotic branding was especially helpful and effective.
Americans felt unsure of what was going on in the country, and brands that had been around for years and years stepped up to reassure people that although the country’s future seemed a bit shaky, they weren’t going anywhere.
In the realm of instilling confidence into consumers, patriotism is a great way for business to do so. Using patriotism in their branding lets customers know that a business cares about where they do work, and who they do business with.