On Sunday, President Trump was asked about the efforts to prepare for Hurricane Irma as the storm whipped across Florida.

In response, he offered a very Trumpian bit of praise for one of the less-frequently praised branches of the armed forces.

“A group that really deserves tremendous credit is the United States Coast Guard,” Trump said. “What they’ve done — I mean, they’re going right into that, and, you never know. You know, when you go in there, you don’t know if you’re going to come out.”

“If you talk about branding?” he continued. “No brand has improved more than the United States Coast Guard.”

As far as we can tell, no one was talking about branding. But, that detail aside, it’s not clear that this alleged jump in the Coast Guard’s Q Score has done much to capture Americans’ interest.

We’ve learned over time that a good way to gauge that interest is by tracking Google search interest. If people want to know more about something that has piqued their curiosity, Google is where they turn. If you talk about branding? Google has a great brand.

If we use search interest as a proxy for branding, the Coast Guard does not have a great brand. It trails the Army, Navy and Air Force in search interest over the past month.


There was a slight uptick when Hurricane Harvey made landfall and another late last week, but it’s nothing compared with the other branches.

Even tracked hourly over the past week, the same trend holds true. Even Trump praising the Coast Guard didn’t get people in the United States to want to learn more about it.


Or, we can look at it another way. One reason to Google “Coast Guard” is to figure out how to join up. Comparing searches for “join Coast Guard” with “join Army,” etc. — Coast Guard still comes in last. There was a brief uptick last week, early on Thursday (indicated with the circle). But even then, it trailed interest in joining the Army or Navy.


(A few days earlier, Trump had appeared alongside members of the Coast Guard to insult the media.)


The Coast Guard responds to search and rescue requests related to Hurricane Harvey in the Beaumont, Tex., area on Aug. 30. (U.S. Coast Guard/Brandon Giles)

None of this detracts from the very good work the Coast Guard does, of course. In June, Gallup reported that the Coast Guard was the branch of the armed services that Americans would be third-most likely to suggest that a child join, beating the Army and the Marines. It was tied for second with the Navy for the branch of the military about which people were most likely to say they knew “a lot” or “some” about. (The Air Force was in first.)

If you talk about branding? Donald Trump has a well-known brand.


Not enough to float the Coast Guard, though.