Jingo Marketing: Red + White + Blue = Green?
This Monday is the closest to July 4th, so early Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans. I thought this most patriotic of days would be a good time to analyze what I call (without malice and hopefully minimal bias) Jingo marketing.
Jingoism is defined as an overtly aggressive, even warlike degree of patriotism and comes from a British article about fighting Russia that uses Jingo as a minced oath to avoid taking the Lord’s name in vain.
But what I call Jingo marketing doesn’t have to be aggressive and is seldom warlike. It’s merely my term for the appeal to a person’s sense of national pride and cultural identity. This can certainly appear war-like and backfire, however. For example, Absolut Vodka got into trouble when it catered to Mexican American Jingoism in a print ad that suggested a reconquista of the Southwestern U.S.
A more measured example of Jingo marketing, and very iconic one at that, would be “See the USA in your Chevrolet.” It suggests that taking in the beauty of the United States would be compounded or enhanced by viewing it in that brand of car, and by extension, that a real American should drive a Chevy in the first place. Indeed, a lot of Jingo marketing has an underlying “No True Scotsman” component that must be carefully weighed before utilizing. And speaking of Scots:
Sometimes Jingo marketing creates loyalty in a domestic market while still doing well abroad, or even doing better abroad because of positive connotations of that national identity. Irn Bru is a fun example. The chief market is in Scotland, which makes Scottish people very proud of their soft drink, but also makes people who are interested in Scotland all the more eager to try that radioactive-looking beverage. Similar connotations can be found with Guinness in Ireland and IKEA in Sweden.
So that begs the question: does Jingo marketing work?
Short answer: Absolutely! As long as common sense is employed, it rarely backfires and usually doesn’t alienate any markets, while spurring passions among domestic (and sometimes foreign) consumers.
Longer answer: In order to make proper use of Jingo marketing, it is essential to build on a pre-existing identity and brand. IKEA couldn’t market themselves around the world as the quintessentially Swedish brand without first being a success in Sweden. Anyone can wave a flag around; in order to make good use of Jingo marketing you need to fulfill all the prerequisites.
Above all else, it must come from a place of sincerity. If you don’t identify strongly with the nationality you are conveying, people will notice. It’s easy to argue “This is a real *insert nationality here* *insert product here*” but more important than the underlying argument (and all marketing is debate and rhetoric, by the way) is that the company has a genuine reason to desire to appear in association with that nationality. “Fake it til you make it” is NOT a good strategy with Jingo marketing.
Bottom line: if it fits your brand, you can certainly cater to patriotism, but do it responsibly and after building that aforementioned brand in a way that isn’t wholly reliant on national identity as you could be painting yourself in a corner.