4 Patriotic Brands That Backfired

While we all enjoy celebrating the Fourth of July and our nation’s freedom, with this holiday comes an important reminder for businesses wanting to show off some patriotism. From a branding perspective, any politically driven message gets messy fast. As a business who wants to attract various types of clients, these messages carry with them a potential risk of angering or losing new or existing customers.

Now more than ever, consumers are wanting the brands they wear, carry, eat, watch etc, to tap into more than just their wallets, but their political beliefs and shared values as well. Cause-sumption marketing is a fairly new type of marketing that has emerged as more businesses feel comfortable supporting or disapproving of political-related activities and causes. While Millennials especially like to see their favourite brand supporting a shared cause or donating to a charity, a business must tread very lightly in these areas as donating to one charity may pull a certain consumer closer and another further away.

A survey done in January of 2018 revealed only one political issue among 14 resulted in majority approval when it comes to a business donating funds. The issue that polled the greatest approval rate was donating to charities that aid veterans and military families. Not many people can find harmony when it comes to politics and this goes to show a polarized political climate is not the best place for business to reside in.


#1 Patagonia vs Trump Administration

On December 7, 2017, Patagonia CEO, Rose Marcario, along with the entire Patagonia brand took a stand against Trump’s decision to eliminate some of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and publically sued the Trump Administration. In fact, Patagonia changed its entire homepage to read “The President Stole Your Land,” sharing the link all over social media.

So what happened as a result? This sparked an outbreak of Republicans coming forward to speak out against the Patagonia brand, claiming they misused their right to freedom of speech by rebuking President Trump’s policies. To couple with, the House Natural Resources Committee responded by tweeting Patagonia only pulled the stunt in order to “to sell more products to wealthy elitist urban dwellers from New York to San Francisco.”

#2 Yeti Cuts Ties With NRA

Let’s just start with this headline and see what you think? “NRA supporters are blowing up Yeti coolers.” Yikes… it takes a lot of passion to blow up an expensive cooler ranging between $250-$1,300 dollars. Yeti had decided to halt all business with the NRA Foundation along with other unnamed organizations, yet did not provide a specific reason upon doing so.

The result? Various NRA activists and supporters went to social media speaking against Yeti’s decision. One purchaser of the Yeti cooler took a video on Facebook Live stating,

“If Yeti can’t stand behind the NRA, I can’t stand behind Yeti no more.” This video was then shared more than 2,300 times.

#3 Coca-Cola’s 2014 Super Bowl Commercial

In a commercial done by Coca-Cola in the 2014 Super Bowl, #WeAccept went viral by the end of halftime. The titled “It’s Beautiful” advertisement was played alongside the song “America the Beautiful” featuring children and adults from various parts of the country singing along in different languages.

The advertisement suffered the severe backlash as the tweet “#BoycottCoke” quickly trended soon after. People were upset that an American song was being sung in languages not native to the country. The former Republican congressman, Allen West even wrote a blog post in rebuttal to the commercial stating,

If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing “America the Beautiful” in English in a commercial during the Super Bowl, by a company as American as they come — doggone we are on the road to perdition.”

#4 Airbnb’s 2017 Super Bowl Commercial

Airing roughly nine days after President Trump decided to limit immigration, Airbnb used the Superbowl as a platform to speak out against this movement. In what normally takes weeks to complete, in just three days the founders of Airbnb put together a 30-second commercial to restate its continued support for all types of people including refugees and its commitment to donate $4 million dollars to the International Rescue Committee that works to help groups of displaced people. The Coca-Cola commercial from 2014 re-aired before this was played and Airbnb brought back the #WeAccept to once again reiterate their open arms to all.

What happened? At this point, you can probably guess backlash was endured. A longtime journalist, Jeff Bercovici, found that Airbnb had used a clip from one of its previous commercials used in response to discrimination claims against the company. He took to Twitter writing,

What was a response to Airbnb’s own discrimination problem is being spun as Airbnb’s protest against discrimination. How cynical is that?”



Thomas Ordahl, chief strategy officer of the brand consulting firm Landor, sums it up perfectly, stating.

“it’s hard for consumers to break established habits. Convenience, lifestyle and habits trump — for lack of a better word — people’s political views.”

As a business, always remember that you are being watched, heard, and evaluated by all types of people with various beliefs and backgrounds. The cost of voicing political opinions may not be worth the risk of putting your business in jeopardy of backlash.


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