The fast food industry is holding steady with consumers’ emotions, ranking sixth out of the 15 industries studied in the latestBrand Intimacy 2019 Study, the largest study of brands based on emotion, from marketing intimacy firm MBLM. Brand Intimacy is defined by the firm as the emotional science that measures the bonds we form with the brands we use and love—and some fast food brands are excelling, while others have slipped in the last year.
Despite another flair-up of controversy over the last several months, Chick-fil-A rose to the #1 spot in fast food, followed by Dunkin’. Starbucks dropped to third after ranking first for the previous two years. The top 10 for the industry was rounded out by: McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Subway, Wendy’s, Burger King, Chipotle and KFC.
Chick-Fil-A also ranked 10th in the overall industry. In addition to performing well in MBLM’s study, the brand increased its revenue at a 15 percent annual rate from 2010 to 2018, while the industry as a whole only grew by 3.4 percent, according to a recent Barron’s report. In 2018, Chick-fil-A also reported more than $10 billion in revenue, its 51st consecutive year of sales growth. This correlates to the study findings, which revealed that top intimate brands in the U.S. significantly outperformed the top brands in the Fortune 500 and S&P indices in both revenue and profit over the past 10 years.
“Chick-fil-A has gradually risen to the top of the fast food industry in our annual study,” said Mario Natarelli, managing partner of MBLM, in a news release. “The brand is able to connect with a wide range of customers, and we expect it to continue to perform well in years to come. Others in the industry can learn from the leader in creating more robust, stronger connections with their patrons.”
Additional noteworthy fast food findings include:
- Fast food had an average Brand Intimacy Quotient of 33.2, which was above the cross-industry average of 31.0
- The industry retained its 2018 sixth spot ranking
- Indulgence, which is related to moments of pampering and gratification, was the most prominent archetype (a pattern that is consistently present among intimate brands) in the category, and Chick-fil-A was the top-performing fast food brand for indulgence
- Chick-fil-A was the top brand among both men and women
- It was also the leading brand for users under and over 35 and those with incomes under $100,000, whereas higher-income consumers preferred McDonald’s
- Dunkin’ and McDonald’s rose in the rankings since last year, while Starbucks and Chipotle fell in rankings
- 22 percent of the industry’s customers are in one of the three stage of intimacy: sharing, bonding and fusing
How Chick-fil-A delivers brand intimacy
In conjunction with the industry findings, MBLM also analyzed the top ranking fast food brand in its complementary article, “Chick-fil-A: Climbing the Brand Intimacy Rankings.” Chick-fil-A improved across all six Brand Intimacy archetypes, showing the breadth and range of its ability to build emotional bonds with users in a variety of compelling ways. The brand also improved its performance in the fusing stage of Brand Intimacy, which is the most advanced stage of intimacy and occurs when a person and a brand are inexorably linked and co-identified.
Chick-fil-A also has a wide appeal. Additionally, among intimate users, it has greatly improved its price resilience metrics, 26.7 percent of Chick-fil-A users said they would be willing to pay 20 percent more for the brand’s products. This is the third-highest price resilience score in the 2019 study. The brand has weathered some controversy on its support of certain issues; however, it appears to continue to grow and connect with consumers. Notwithstanding the divisive nature of some of the brand’s associations, it is clearly becoming a major player in its ability to build emotional bonds. If Chick-fil-A increases its base of intimate users, MBLM expects it to continue to be a leader in the industry and rank highly in the overall study as well.
During 2018, MBLM with Praxis Research Partners conducted an online quantitative survey among 6,200 consumers in the U.S. (3,000), Mexico (2,000), and the United Arab Emirates (1,200). Participants were respondents who were screened for age (18 to 64 years of age) and annual household income ($35,000 or more) in the U.S. and socioeconomic levels in Mexico and the UAE (A, B and C socioeconomic levels).