Brand intimacy has defined success in the COVID era—who are the leaders?

by | Sep 16, 2021 | Public Relations

A brand’s ability to emotionally connect with consumers—a metric known as brand intimacy, the emotional science behind the bonds we form with the brands we use and love—has been a lynchpin skill for leading brands for years, but this component became even more crucial to success during the COVID era. In fact, intimate brand performance has increased, on average, 7 percent since the start of the pandemic, resulting in more users willing to pay 20 percent more and less willing to live without the brand

Apple ranks as the #1 most intimate brand during COVID, according to from marketing intimacy agency MBLM’s 2021 Brand Intimacy COVID Study, a study of brands based on emotional connections during the pandemic. MBLM (pronounced Emblem) uses emotional science to build and manage more intimate brands. Amazon and Google are second and third in the study overall, respectively.

“In year two of the pandemic, our study reveals the brands that pivoted effectively and benefitted from doing so, demonstrating how leading brands continue to gain emotional currency in our lives,” stated Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM, in a news release. “The reality is that the pandemic has created brand winners and losers—and those that are ‘winning’ are seeing dramatic improvement in business performance and increased distance between themselves and their competitors.”

The new study reveals that the remaining brands in the top 10 are Amazon, Disney, Target, YouTube, Toyota, Walmart, Costco, Harley-Davidson, and Google. The latest COVID rankings show many of the top Brand Intimacy performers continue to lead. However, there were three new top 10 entrants, Target, Costco, and Harley-Davidson. There has also been a shift in focus with more retail brands in the top 10 and fewer media and entertainment brands, suggesting the beginnings of a shift to post-pandemic normalcy in terms of how customers engage with the brands they love, and a greater reliance on retail brands.

Brand intimacy has defined success in the COVID era—who are the leaders?

Top intimate brands have also continued to outperform leading brands in the Fortune 500 and S&P 500 indices in profit, and stock price growth over last year, generating an additional $16 billion in profit.

The study also revealed additional noteworthy findings, including:

  • The percent of consumers that are in an intimate relationship has increased 37 percent since before the pandemic
  • Consumers have shown a 31 percent increase in brands they can’t live without, and 21 percent are willing to pay 20 percent more to engage with their favorite brands
  • Daily usage of consumers’ favorite brands is on the rise, at 30 percent compared to 28 percent in the same period of 2020
  • Media & entertainment, automotive and retail are the top 3 industries
  • Apple is the shared top brand across all ages and income ranges
  • Purell is the top brand that people are using more during the pandemic, followed by Zoom and Netflix
  • Chick fil A is the #1 brand for consumers willing to pay 20 percent more for its services or products. Last year, the top ranked brand for this measure was Purell
  • New entrant Costco ranks #1 for users in the sharing stage of Brand Intimacy, the earliest stage during which knowledge is being shared and attraction occurs through reciprocity and assurance

To see the study’s detailed methodology, click here.

During summer 2021, MBLM conducted a quantitative survey of 3,000 consumers in the U.S. to detail their experiences across 10 industries and 100 Brands. The follow-up Brand Intimacy COVID Study focuses on highlights, insight and rankings from this survey.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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