It's Fourth of July weekend, which probably means you got an extra day off work this week, you have plans to break out the barbecue, and you may even be heading to the beach or lake to get away from it all. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as you keep in mind that July Fourth isn't "National BBQ Day."
The Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, is a symbol of American freedom. It's the day the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, and it's the official birthdate of the United States of America. The Fourth of July serves as a constant reminder that we can't take our freedom and liberties for granted.
July Fourth also has a way of bringing Americans around the country together. Sure, we may have ideological and income differences that divide us at times, but the camaraderie of being American and celebrating the values that allow us to live in the greatest country in the world has a way of tearing down those differences.
Five brands that bleed America's red, white, and blue
This emotional engagement with America and its values is a powerful tool that certain brands have used throughout history to build brand recognition and drive sales. Let's face it -- some brands simply exude "America." If consumers believe a brand closely represents the patriotic values with which they identify, they're more likely to purchase goods or services from that company.
With that in mind, let's take a brief look at five brands that best exemplify America, at least according to Brand Keys, which recently released its annual list of America's most patriotic brands. The U.S. Armed Forces ranked as 100% patriotic on a scale of 1%-100%, and these five brands (in ascending order) are right on its heels in terms of patriotic engagement.
5. Levi Strauss (94%)
Levi Strauss may have ceded three spots in 2015 (it ranked No. 2 last year), but the factors that make it an American staple haven't changed much, if it all.
For starters, Levi Strauss is a workhorse of dependability. Levis are arguably the best-known denim brand in the United States, and they have been for decades. Americans like to buy brands they can trust, and Levis certainly fit the mold.
Additionally, Levi Strauss, the company's founder, came from a very humble background. When he moved to San Francisco to start the company, he had virtually no money but nevertheless laid the foundation for what has become a monster denim brand. Americans love rags-to-riches stories, especially when they happen right here in the U.S. This helps makes Levi Strauss one of America's most patriotic brands.
4. Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL) (95%)
Sticking with the theme of apparel, clothing retailer Ralph Lauren locked up the No. 4 spot in Brand Keys' list of the most patriotic brands.
You might scratch your head a bit and wonder why Ralph Lauren of all companies tends to pull on Americans' heartstrings. The answer can be found in its founder, Ralph Lauren. In 1998, Lauren gave $13 million to get the ball rolling on donations to save the original Star-Spangled Banner, which is now back on display in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. That's right -- Ralph Lauren directly saved one of America's proudest symbols of independence.
Ralph Lauren himself is an interview-shy individual who, like Levi Strauss, worked his way up from a modest start into a successful businessman. Tack on the company's willingness to sponsor the U.S. Olympics and adorn some of its clothing line with the American flag, and you'll see why it's so easy for American consumers to become attached to Ralph Lauren -- both the individual and the company.
3. Disney (NYSE:DIS) (96%)
It's the greatest place on Earth, so should we really be surprised that Mickey and Minnie Mouse moved into the top three most patriotic brands?
How has Disney so deeply penetrated the mind of the American consumer? Look at all the different ways it influences us as children. From theme parks and movies to cartoons and collectibles, Disney likely helped shape all of our childhoods in some way. Its parks represent a place where family and friends can get away from the rigors of life and people know they'll have fun. Consumer behavior expert Kit Yarrow of Golden Gate University's psychology department described Disney as "a positive, predictable happy place."
Walt Disney was another man of humble origins whose only purpose was to put smiles on people's faces. Adding to that patriotism was Disney's time working for the Red Cross in France during World War I. A rags-to-riches story built around American culture and military service makes Disney an easy brand for Americans to stand behind.
2. Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) (97%)
Beverage giant Coca-Cola actually gained a spot in this year's rankings, although the reasoning behind Americans' attachment to the brand is very much the same as in prior years.
Recognition is one reason behind Coca-Cola's high levels of patriotism, with 94% of people around the world recognizing its logo. You can only imagine what that recognition rate might be like in the United States.
However, symbolism is an even bigger reason why Coca-Cola ranks as No. 2 in terms of patriotic brands. Coca-Cola's Christmas campaigns, which strongly influenced the modern-day image of Santa Claus in the 1920s, pretty much sealed its fate as one of America's most loved brands. Christmas is a strongly rooted holiday in the United States. Coca-Cola fosters its association with Christmas and Santa Claus, reaching children when they're young and impressionable and leading to an emotional engagement that lasts a lifetime.
One final note: like Ralph Lauren, Coca-Cola is also a sponsor of the Olympic games, further adding to its appeal among Americans.
1. Jeep (98%)
Once again grabbing the top spot as America's brand most likely to bleed red, white, and blue is Fiat Chrysler Automotive Group's (NYSE:FCAU) Jeep.
Jeep makes cars that Americans want. The Jeep Wrangler, the flagship of the company's SUV lineup, ranked second in terms of resale value in Kelley Blue Books' 2015 Resale Value Awards and has had a place near the top of the list for the last four years. Aside from that, Jeep also has ties to the U.S. military in World War II. Both help make Jeep America's most-beloved brand.
Jeep was the company charged with providing transportation to U.S. troops on foreign soil during World War II, and was an instrumental component in helping the Allies win the war. The Jeep brand is held in high regard because of its perception of being hardy, tough, and dependable. These factors perhaps helped foster an emotional attachment that's likely been passed down from grandparents and people with a military background to parents, grandchildren, and friends over the last seven-plus decades. Jeep still holds to this ruggedness by being one of the few SUVs these days that's still geared to go off road.
As long as Jeep doesn't lose its rugged appeal, its connection to the U.S. Armed Forces will likely keep it at the top spot for many more years.
Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.