Saluting Loyalty: Most Patriotic Brands Reveal Genuine Strategies
A product does not have to be made in America to be viewed as patriotic. Brand Keys 2015 list of America’s most patriotic brands, lead again by Jeep, instead reveals a more deep-rooted requirement: believability.
Many companies wave a flag during the days leading up to the 4th of July, but for many consumers it is not always clear which flag they are saluting – the company’s or the country’s.
This much can be learned from Brand Keys Inc.’s 2015 list of the most patriotic brands of America. From Jeep to Disney to Harley-Davidson, each brand on the list embodies one of the most important keys to engaging on message and fostering loyalty: believability.
“It’s kind of like turning the glove inside out. There’s a difference between waving the flag and waving the flag believably,” Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, said in an interview. “It doesn’t mean a brand that’s not on the list isn't patriotic; it just isn't resonating enough with that value to make it leverage-able.”
The practice of backing up a brand’s beliefs, demonstrably and genuinely, can be applied to qualities beyond patriotism. Any brand mission, from shinier hair to saving the earth, has to be supported by people who personally support that quest every day. Otherwise the message, like a man without a country, is lost.
And having a mission that extends beyond profit, to meet customer expectations, can itself be profitable – and urgent. Consumer brand expectations have increased by 28% in 2015 over 2014, according to a separate report by Brand Keys, called the 19th Annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index.
Top 10, and Rule of Six
A brand that can establish believability is well on its way to making an emotional connection, achieving what Passikoff calls “The Rule of Six.” This occurs when consumers are six times more likely to believe in and behave positively toward a brand. They also are six times more likely to buy a product, to make recommendations to people, to rebuff competitive offers, and to give the brand the benefit of the doubt under certain circumstances. All of this, he said, can be gained along with the emotional connection.
For the list, Brand Keys recruited 5,427 consumers, aged 16 to 65, to evaluate 35 cross-category values, including “patriotism,” as they applied to 230 brands. On the top-10 list:
- Ralph Lauren
- Levi Strauss
- Ford/Jack Daniels (tied)
- Harley Davidson/Gillette (tied)
- Apple/Coors (tied)
- American Express/Wrigley’s (tied)
- Gatorade/Zippo (tied)
Not all of these brands operate formalized loyalty initiatives, though loyalty programs, and the analytics that fuel them, do serve as effective tools to communicate a brand’s mission and messaging. What is consistent among all brands is they are well trusted. What the brands on this list do have in common is each collects some degree of customer data. What makes the brands believable, however, is the ability to turn the data into information that enables them to better understand what actually makes customers loyal, said Earl Quenzel, partner with the marketing agency Quenzel & Associates, in Fort Myers, Fla., and a loyalty expert.
“It’s amazing the number of brands that don’t do that,” he said. “Data is often collected to reinforce what management wants to hear.”
Banner year for others
Those brands that can break from the status quo will also likely stand above those companies that are shopped merely for price or convenience. On the Brand Keys list of most patriotic brands, the equivalent would be those brands that elevated significantly year over year. According to Brand Keys, an increase of even five percentage points, when applied to the value of patriotism, is significant at the 95% confidence level. Eleven brands rose to this degree:
- Jack Daniels (+18%)
- Coach (+15%)
- Major League Baseball (+11%)
- Coors, Wells Fargo (+10%)
- American Express, Wrigley (+9%)
- Goodyear, KFC (+6%)
- Craftsman, Johnson & Johnson (+5%)
Not all brands resonate on a patriotic level, and those that don’t should not try to force it using data or other means, Passikoff said.
Rather, brands should first determine where they authentically fit in the patriotic spectrum, if at all, and then how they symbolize what it is they do stand for. At that point they should gauge the extent to which their mission – whether as a patriotic brand, an earth-friendly product or mom-friendly employer – meets customer expectations.
“Brands had better find a way to be able to telegraph who they are and what they stand for in ways that are believable and ways that people act on,” Passikoff said. “You don't want them to just stand up and salute. You want them to stand up, salute and buy. This is a business, after all.”