Good morning, America, and happy 238th birthday from us, your faithful citizens!
Today is a day of celebrations, barbeques, and fireworks. But, it's also a day of remembering those who've fought for, defended, and established this country, both in the past and in the present. Without the innovation and dedication of these countless millions of Americans, this wouldn't be the land of the free and home of the brave that we're so blessed to live in.
More so, as investors it's also a chance for us to reflect on those businesses that bring out that patriotic spirit in each of us. The term "Made in America" doesn't have the same emphasis it once had with so many companies and products calling the U.S. home, so finding ways to differentiate what companies and products have deeply rooted cultural ties and strong emotional attachments to consumers could lead us to companies that can be successful in any economic environment.
Thankfully, brand engagement-focused research firm Brand Keys once again did the hard work for us. Brand Keys recently polled nearly 4,700 consumers, ages 16 to 65, and asked them to evaluate 225 companies on a collection of 35 values, one of which was "patriotism."
Today, we're going to examine those results and look at the top three most patriotic brands of all.
However, before I spill the beans on which three brands took the top spots, I believe it's worth noting that a number of technology-based and social media companies worked their way into the top 50 for the first time ever. As Brand Keys notes, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, and this little "fruit company" known as Apple all worked their way into the top 50. These companies don't exactly inspire patriotism right off the bat, but they are readily apparent and rapidly growing symbols of the younger generation.
Without further ado, let's get right into the thick of it: America's most patriotic brands!
No. 3: Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)
Out of the top three most patriotic brands, carbonated- and still-beverage maker Coca-Cola should be the least surprising of the bunch with its third-place ranking and 95% rating. Coca-Cola has a veritable laundry list of accomplishments that ingrain it in American culture. Its logo is recognized by 94% of the world's population (and you'd have to imagine this figure is even higher in the U.S.), it's considered one of the most valuable brands in the world, and the company serves 1.9 billion people on a daily basis!
However, what stands out even more is the fact that Coca-Cola was instrumental in shaping the current image of Santa Claus.
Coca-Cola has been using the modern-day image of Santa in its Christmas advertising campaigns since the 1920s and was a driving force behind the current impression we have of Santa Claus in the U.S. as a jolly fat man that delivers toys to good boys and girls on Christmas Eve. There are few holidays as deeply rooted in American culture as Christmas, and being the progenitor behind the image of Santa Claus certainly goes a long way to strengthening its perception of being patriotic with Americans.
Arguably Coca-Cola has considerably more to fall back on than just a feeling of patriotic loyalty from Americans, but coupled with more than a dozen billion-dollar beverage brands it's tough to argue that Coca-Cola isn't among Wall Street's safest investments. There's a reason it's one of Warren Buffett's largest holdings!
No. 2: Levi Strauss
Surprise! Privately held Levi Strauss hurdled Coca-Cola from the No. 4 spot in 2013 to take second place among this year's most patriotic brands with a rating of 97%.
While it may not be as readily apparent as Coca-Cola, Levi Strauss, the company made famous for its denim blue jeans, has two particular factors that work in its favor that I suspect help induce high levels of patriotism among Americans.
First, the sheer mention of Levi's jeans brings up the image of dependability. There are plenty of other jeans you can buy that can cost up to 10 times as much as a pair of Levi's, but when you consider quality versus cost, it's incredibly difficult to beat a pair of Levi's. As you can tell, I speak from experience here: Dependability is a key component to Levi Strauss' success.
Perhaps even more critical to propelling Levi Strauss' perception as highly patriotic is the story behind its founder. There aren't many companies still in existence that have a rags-to-riches ending, but founder Levi Strauss began with virtually nothing, moved to San Francisco, and essentially gave birth to the blue jeans that are now a staple in many American closets. Strauss' humble beginnings and classic apparel allow consumers to easily relate to the brand and handily pushed it to the No. 2 spot among the most patriotic companies in 2014.
No. 1: Jeep
Retaining its top ranking as the most patriotic brand in America for a second year in a row was Fiat Chrysler Group's (NASDAQOTH:FIATY) Jeep with a rating of 98%.
Jeep doesn't have a couple of factors working in its favor -- it has everything! Jeep's SUVs are perceived to be highly dependable, they offer the best resale value of any U.S.-made vehicle after five years, and they're rugged, representing one of the few SUVs built today that's truly capable of going off-road.
Jeep, like Levi Strauss and Coca-Cola, also has a rich company history. But the differentiating factor that puts it over the top is its deep-rooted ties with the U.S. military. Last year, when Jeep grabbed the top spot, USA Today proclaimed that it was the "brand known for winning World War II" in that it provided ground transportation to U.S. troops overseas. It doesn't get more patriotic than having the Jeep brand mentioned as a primary factor that allowed the U.S. and its allies to be victorious in World War II.
This high level of patriotism is one reason that the Jeep brand sells so well and is likely a strong factor behind its high resale values. As long as Jeep is able to retain its emotional bond with consumers through the next generation of buyers, there's little reason to believe it can't retain its ranking as the most patriotic brand for years to come.