A divided nation flocks to partisan brands

By Sara FischerDanielle Alberti | Axios | May 13, 2021

Americans are leaning into companies that have strong political positions, in the wake of one of the country’s most divisive election years.

Driving the news: New rankings from the Axios/Harris 100 poll — an annual survey to gauge the reputation of the most visible brands in the country — show that brands with clear partisan identifications are becoming more popular.

Patagonia is the top brand in America, according to the new survey.

  • The brand, which in 2017 sued the Trump Administration to protect national monuments, took a further turn left last year, sewing “VOTE THE ASSHOLES OUT” tags in its clothing ahead of the election.
  • REI, Patagonia’s outdoor apparel rival and fellow Trump antagonist, appeared on the list for the first time this year.

Several prominently conservative brands performed well, too.

  • Chick-fil-A moved up in the rankings, from 11 last year to 4 this year. Hobby Lobby appeared on the list for the first time, as did Goya, which became a political lightning rod after the company’s CEO praised then-President Trump. All three have positive reputations.
  • Americans listed MyPillow and the Trump Organization among the companies they’re most aware of, but both have strongly negative reputations. The Trump Organization came in last place in this year’s rankings.

The big picture: This year’s reputation rankings reflect a return to normalcy in the business world. While many of the most polarizing companies are doing better than last year, they aren’t necessarily the most visible companies.

  • The most visible companies are blue-chip brands that consumers relied on heavily throughout the pandemic, such as Amazon and Walmart, Apple, Facebook, Google, Target, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Nike and McDonald’s.
  • “Coronavirus companies” that ranked high on the list last year, including Clorox, Peloton and Doordash, have all moved off of this year’s list.

Methodology: The Axios Harris Poll 100 is based on a survey of 42,935 Americans in a nationally representative sample conducted April 8-21, 2021. The two-step process starts fresh each year by surveying the public’s top-of-mind awareness of companies that either excel or falter in society.

  • These 100 “most visible companies” are then ranked by a second group of Americans across the seven key dimensions of reputation to arrive at the ranking. If a company is not on the list, it did not reach a critical level of visibility to be measured.