Wrapping a brand in the American flag can give it a boost, but it can also come off as crass.
Consumers don't necessarily believe the message delivered to them in a commercial. They also have their own criteria for what makes a company American, according to Brand Keys CEO Robert Passikoff, whose company just completed its 15th annual survey of American brands.
"It is important to note that these brand rankings do not mean that other brands are not patriotic, or that they don't possess patriotic resonance or intention," says Passikoff in a press release. "Rational aspects, like being an American company, or 'Made in the USA,' or having nationally directed CSR [corporate social responsibility] activities and sponsorship, all play a part in the personality of any brand. But if you're a brand that wants to differentiate and engage via emotional values, if there is believability, good marketing just gets better."
This year's report surveyed 4,860 consumers, 16 to 65 years of age, balanced for political party affiliation. They were asked to "evaluate which of 280 brands included in the 2017 survey were most resonant as to 'patriotism.'" The list contains some familiar names, but two entries in the top 10 (really the top 11, because there was a tie at No. 6) are new to the top 50.
The only new entrant in the top-10 Comcast's cable brand may also be the most controversial entrant on the list due to how politically polarizing some of its content is. It's worth noting that FOX News, arguably MSNBC's biggest rival, placed 15th on the list.
9. Samuel Adams
Boston Beer Company has a patriotic background. The company named its signature beer line after Samuel Adams, a man who helped organize the Boston Tea Party and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
While Adams' name graces the front of each bottle of Boston Beer's various brands, it's not his image on the label. "Fellow Patriot Paul Revere's portrait appears on the front of each bottle, allegedly due to Samuel Adams' notoriously bad looks," according to BeerInfo.com, which also noted that Boston Beer is the largest American-owned brewery.
8. Jack Daniels
It's hard to think of something more American than this whisky brewed in Lynchburg, Tennessee, for more than 150 years. Jack Daniel's, which took its name from creator Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniels, has been made using the same charcoal mellowing process it has employed since its founding. The original company, which is now owned by Brown-Forman, was the first registered distiller in the U.S.
7. Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren the brand, created by Ralph Lauren the man, has helped pioneer a look that's quintessentially American. The company may not have created "preppy," but it has driven the idea forward with its signature Polo line, which was inspired by the uniforms worn in the eponymous sport. This often-copied look in some ways embodies American dress to much of the world.
6. Hershey, Twitter
The two brands that tied for sixth place represent two very different aspects of the American ideal. The Hershey Company, an iconic chocolate brand founded in 1894, offers an array of recognizable candies. Twitter, which has become a platform for political discourse alongside less serious discussion, represents the new age of American innovation as one of the world's leading social-media companies.
Ford has wrapped its brand in the American flag. The company, which began in Detroit in 1903, essentially created not only the U.S. automobile industry, but also the assembly line. Now, Ford is still a Detroit-based company, and it's hard to think of many products more strongly associated with America than the Mustang and the F-series pickup truck, which has been the nation's best-selling vehicle for 35 straight years.
Coca-Cola has (for better or for worse) distributed its signature, American-as-apple-pie beverage all around the world. The company, which remains based in Atlanta, traces its history to 1886, when it was first sold at soda fountains as a supposed medicine. Now, there are few places on Earth where you can't get a Coke, and the company has grown well beyond its iconic cola.
3. Walt Disney
Another global brand, Walt Disney has distinctly American roots. The company pioneered animated films and created the modern theme park business. Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California remain top travel destinations not just for U.S. families, but for people all around the world.
2. Levi Strauss
If Americans had a "uniform," it would likely include a pair of blue jeans. Levi Strauss created the first pair of blue jeans in 1873.
The company was actually founded based on a process created by tailor Jacob Davis. The company explains on its website:
One day the wife of a local laborer asked Jacob to make a pair of pants for her husband that wouldn't fall apart. Jacob tried to think of a way to strengthen his trousers and came up with the idea to put metal rivets at points of strain, like pocket corners and the base of the button fly. These riveted pants were an instant hit. Jacob quickly decided to take out a patent on the process, but needed a business partner to help get the project rolling. He immediately thought of Levi Strauss, from whom he had purchased the cloth to make his riveted pants.
From that humble beginning came a pair of pants most Americans, and many people around the world, consider a wardrobe staple.
While Jeep may not seem like an obvious choice to top this list, the brand actually topped the first Brands Keys most patriotic survey in 2002. The company was founded in the U.S. in the 1940s by Mark Smith, and while its products are sold around the world, the company still remains very popular in its home country.
Now owned by FiatChrysler, Jeep still makes the kinds of rugged utility vehicles it originally made for the U.S. military during World War II. It has also expanded into more civilian-friendly formats like luxury SUVs and subcompact crossovers.