Starbuck’s America vs. McDonald’s America: Political Ideology and the Cultural Symbolism of Brands

Which brands best symbolize America-brands like Walmart and McDonald’s or brands like Target and Starbucks? We show that conservatives view American culture as more stratified/hierarchical, than liberals, and see brands as more culturally symbolic when they are aligned with these cultural perceptions. Focusing on brands that embody horizontal values (e.g., concern for equality, welfare of others) and vertical values (e.g., pursuing high social status, respecting authority), we show that conservatives (liberals) evaluate vertical (horizontal) brands as more iconic of American culture. These differences in cultural symbolism result in stronger psychological connection with and commitment to vertical vs. horizontal brands.