Commentary

What To Consider Before Jumping On Patriotic Branding Bandwagon

Fourth of July marks the annual high point of patriotic branding. It’s the time of year companies across America -- from LaCroix to PUMA -- roll out red-white-and-blue packaging, products and content to capture the nation’s celebratory mood. 

In the months leading up to summer, we typically sees a marked uptick in patriotic-themed creative projects. However, it’s worth noting that since President Trump took office in 2016, the overall volume of overtly patriotic branding and design projects has declined around 26%. 

Does this shift away from Americana-infused marketing a signify a real trend or is it just coincidence? We’ll leave it for you to decide.

Either way, it’s important for brands to slow down and ask themselves a few questions before jumping on this tried-and-true branding bandwagon. 

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Does patriotic messaging make sense for your audience? What really works, and what will just get lost in the 4th of July noise? Here are some tips for marketers planning ahead for next year’s July 4 and for throughout the year: 

  • Don’t blindly jump on the trend without considering your customer base. For example, studies show that millennial and GenZ consumers are significantly less patriotic than their parents; they are more culturally diverse, educated and socially progressive than any other generation. Context is everything, so take a moment to consider if your proposed imagery or messaging might be interpreted as polarizing rather than feel-good. 
  • Is your brand authentically American, or do you provide a product or service that’s generally considered to be uniquely American? If not, you risk turning off more skeptical customers. For example, Blue Bell ice cream’s red, white and blue flavors, Coca-Cola and Tootsie Rolls’ flag-themed packaging makes sense given the “All American” image of these products. But if you’re an international brand with a more universal product, (e.g., an Italian pasta brand, a Europe-based fashion brand, etc.), it’s probably best to avoid something that could look disingenuous. 
  • Don’t let your creative be clichéd: there’s more to America than flags and fireworks. For example, design experts have pointed out that the redesign of Air Force One by Trump intended to make it look “more American” actually completely obliterates the historically significant American design roots of the current plane. America has a wealth of history and stories that can influence creative work, so think outside the box to find inspiration for a unique celebration.  
  • Do incorporate a meaningful, long-term cause that reflects American values. There have been some wonderful examples of brands taking a more sophisticated and meaningful approach to patriotic branding in recent years. For example, last year Budweiser went a step beyond its previous “America” beer cans to the launch of a special edition Freedom Reserve Red Lager, inspired by a recipe found in George Washington’s military journal. The brewer had veterans — whose signatures were featured on the bottles — make the beer, and a portion of the proceeds were then donated to Folds of Honor, a nonprofit supporting military families. By tying a campaign to a cause that appeals to fundamental social values, the likelihood of creating the desired feel-good reaction increases, and does some good along the way.
5 comments about "What To Consider Before Jumping On Patriotic Branding Bandwagon".
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  1. Todd Gaak from Observer, July 1, 2019 at 4:22 p.m.

    Rather than coming up with yet another article infused with why the President has surely signaled the start of The Apocalypse, perhaps this column itself identifies one root cause as to why Millennials and GenZ-ers are so less patriotic than their elders. 
    "4th of July" (used 3 times here) and zero mentions of "Independence" (1/2-point given for mentioning Geo. Washington's beer recipe brand with "Freedom" in the name) has apparently become "December 25" -- another day off of work devoid of meaning. 
    Perhaps if those generations were instead taught about "Independence Day" and the reasons for it, they wouldn't be so confused why it isn't observed on a Monday or a Friday so everyone could have another three-day weekend. (Think about that--moving the "4th" to another day!)  
    To those of us north of 50, it's a pity today's younger folks derive more meaning from May 4th or the 5th of May than they do, sigh, "July 4th" or "the 4th of July."     

  2. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, July 1, 2019 at 4:59 p.m.

    I, for one, appreciate the fact that you took the time to post a perfect example of why the article is valid.  Whenever one group begins claiming that certain holidays are not being appreciated "properly" by another group, that holiday has essentially been co-opted.  

    So, enjoy "your" 4th of july.  

  3. Todd Gaak from Observer replied, July 1, 2019 at 5:44 p.m.

    Chuck: Sorry, I'm not part of a "group," nor am I a toady of "the Hair" in the WH.  Just so bored that ev-er-y-thing has to political slant.( The DT 2 references were the author's, not mine)
    Getting back to the premise of the article, which starts out "(The) Fourth of July is ..."
    -- Is it really too much to mention the proper name of the thing?  I mean, it's not like we're expecting them to know from whom we won that Independence.        

  4. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, July 1, 2019 at 6:29 p.m.

    You identified yourself as part of a group when you made the claim that "Millennials and GenZ-ers are so less patriotic than their elders."

    And to muddy the waters even more, here's what John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail about that holiday:

    "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more." - John Adams

  5. John Grono from GAP Research replied, July 2, 2019 at 7:19 p.m.

    Very interesting Chuck.   I wasn't aware of that fact (and yes I studied American History) until today, so I did some digging around.


    • On July 02 the Second Continental Congress voted to approve Lee's motion for independence (well 12 of the 13 colonies - NY had to abstain as its representative didn't yet have permission to vote).

    • But it wasn't until July 04 that the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.

    • Philadelphia's celebration (i.e. the first official celebration) was on July 08.

    • George Washington didn't hear about it until July 09.

    • Most delegates signed on August 02.

    • The last to sign was Delaware sometime in 1776.


    So I suppose you could pick any of those days, but July 04 was the date it was adopted does seem the most appropriate.

    And Chuck, thank you for filling in a gap in my knowledge.

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