America: Divided by Politicians; United by Brands

20 January 2005

Despite the bitter divisions revealed in November's presidential elections, a politically sundered America does not - by and large - project these attitudinal biases toward commercial brands.

Electoral maps, beloved by TV and the press, showed the nation divided into opposing camps: "red states" (heartlands and the South, pro-Bush) and "blue states" (urban, pro-Kerry).

But according to research recently conducted by MarketProbe International for J Walter Thompson, those camps display surprising near-unanimity when it comes to their attitudes about brands. The survey, published this week, polled 1,002 US adults aged twenty-one and over on January 10 and 11.

It reveals that people who live in "blue states" have a greater predilection toward technology brands; while "red-staters" incline more favorably toward familiar and traditional brands.

Marian Salzman, a freelance strategist who oversaw the survey, reports that when respondents were asked to name some of the best American brands (prompted via BusinessWeek's Global Brand Scorecard), more "blue-staters" chose Microsoft, IBM and Intel, while "red-staters" opted for Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Ford.

However, these preferences were statistically marginal, notably when respondents were asked which Fortune 50 companies make "a positive contribution to American life." Leading the pack, irrespective of political preference, were Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft. Asked to nominate the best American brands, both groups plumped for Coca-Cola and Microsoft.

A divide was evident only for a handful of companies, such as Wal-Mart (higher marks in "red states) where, likewise, Coke was significantly more popular, as were UPS, Ford and Lowe's.

Comments JWT worldwide ceo Bob Jeffrey: "More than two months after the election, there is a semi-permanent red-and-blue-state hangover. As keepers of our clients' brands, it is important that we understand the differences among the people in these states."

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff