With its booming technology scene and natural wonders like Yosemite, California has a lot to offer.

Throughout the years, many brands have established themselves as quintessentially Californian, meticulously weaving aspects of the state's vibrant culture into their marketing efforts and design aesthetics. They want to associate themselves with the state's history of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Apple  (AAPL - Get Report) , Tesla (TSLA - Get Report) , and Vans epitomize these efforts. The tech giant, electric car manufacturer and casual shoe maker have imbued their marketing with a California imagery and vibe. They have made the design of products that might otherwise go overlooked feel relevant and cool. That has helped build brand loyalty that translates to growth. 


Apple is such a widely loved brand that it's easy to forget about the electronics company's Northern California roots. The company was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, but it wasn't until 1997 when it launched the first iMac with Jobs as CEO that the brand started to evolve into the Apple we know today.

The first product launched under Jobs during his second reign as CEO, the iMac, was the perfect combination of cutting-edge technology and San Francisco style. It performed just as well as other mainstream computers on the market, but its unique shape and bold color options set it apart from the competition. San Francisco has always been known for its eccentric culture -- a place where you can feel comfortable standing out -- and the iMac perfectly encapsulated that essence, successfully selling the San Francisco mindset to global shoppers in the form of a personal computer.

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Apple followed the iMac with a variety of new products throughout the years, including the iPod in 2001, iPhone and the iPad in 2010. Every product combines user friendly functionality and sleek design, and the company's marketing campaigns have been groundbreaking. These campaigns have often evoked a California vibe. 

Consider the iPod commercials of about a decade ago featuring bright colors and dancers in silhouette dancing to high-energy music? One of the spots spotlighted the rock group U2. 

How about those ads with a casually dressed actor Justin Long representing Mac going head-to-head with the more formally clad comedian John Hodgeman? Long embodied California's more laid back lifestyle while highlighting the superiority of Apple technology.


Tesla is arguably the most innovative car manufacturer in the world, and its founder and CEO Elon Musk is one of Silicon Valley's most celebrated entrepreneurs.

Musk has been an iconic figure in the Valley for decades, having founded several successful technology companies including payments pioneer PayPal and the space travel company SpaceX. Using cutting-edge technology to fundamentally change the way we do things is everything the Valley stands for, and Musk's ability to make that change happen is largely what has made him so highly regarded. His reputation has enabled Musk to effectively market Tesla as a Silicon Valley-born, technology innovator.

Musk has used social channels effectively to build his company's brand. He comments regularly not just on his company but on business and world events so that consumers feel connected to the company. To be sure, Tesla critics have questioned whether the company will achieve its lofty goals of producing a half-million cars a year by 2018. The company will produce fewer than 100,000 this year. 

But Tesla's brand is inspiring. For example, Uli Appelbaum, president of brand strategy firm First The Trousers Then The Shoes told Digiday he bought a Tesla Model 3 without ever seeing the vehicle in person because of "Tesla's and Elon Musk's vision of a sexy world powered by electricity."

Tesla also embodies the Golden State's reputation for being environmentally forward thinking. WalletHub recently ranked California as the country's twelfth greenest state, with the fourth lowest overall energy consumption per capita and it is tied for third for the highest percentage of recycled municipal solid waste.


Southern California is known for its beautiful beaches and the surfing and skateboarding culture. Few brands epitomize that culture more than Vans, best known for its rubber soled skateboarding shoes.

The brand was founded in Anaheim in 1966, and skyrocketed in popularity in the early 1970s, when skateboarders who liked the rugged style and sticky soles of Vans shoes started wearing them all over Southern California. Since then, Vans have remained popular in the SoCal skating and surfing world, and have also popped up in a number of well-known films and television shows, including "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," where surfer stoner Jeff Spicoli played by Sean Penn wore them. 

Since then, Vans has continued to market itself as a quintessentially Californian brand in a variety of ways. For example, it opened a massive skate park in Orange County, where it regularly hosts competitions for local skaters. In July 2013, Vans became the title sponsor for the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, and went on to open a skate park in the beach town later that year.

In its Instagram and Vine accounts continue to highlight surfing and skating culture, not to mention its connection with snowboarding, a sport partly popularized in California. In its marketing, Vans has convinced consumers that they can snag a little piece of SoCal with every Vans purchase.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.