• Transform magazine
  • March 01, 2021


Valentine’s Day sparks examination of brand intimacy

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With Valentine’s Day around the corner, strong emotions are all around, and not just between people but also between brands. Despite not being humans, brands are created on and respond to everyday emotions, making it important to understand ‘brand intimacy’ the emotional science that measures the bonds people form with brands they use and love. Brand intimacy has become increasingly important as brands adjust the ways they connect with consumers today.

The Brand Intimacy Study, led by MBLM, a strategy and design agency that uses emotional science to build more intimate brands, is the most comprehensive ranking of brands based on emotions. The study analyses the response of 6,200 consumers and 56,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries in the U.S., Mexico and the UAE. The brand intimacy model is based on five key components: users; strong emotional connection; archetypes; which include fulfilment identity and ritual; stages, which measure the depth and degree of intensity of intimacy; and lastly brand intimacy quotient, based on prevalence, intensity and character.

In the 2020 study, Amazon ranked number one, with Disney, Apple and Ford following suit. The retail giant gained increased popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, with most shops closed and consumers solely stuck with online shopping. The report shows reveals that 33% of Amazon users can’t live without the brand. Amazon is also the only brand to appear in the top five across all three age groups, 18-34, 35-54 and 55-64

“Its use of technology to create personalized customer experiences has contributed to its success and the brand  has become an important part of its users' lives. We see other brands in this industry following Amazon's lead and trying to also evolve their services, focusing on meeting the needs of consumers, especially during today's challenging times,” says Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM.

The report also highlights how the brand intimacy insight centres around the smartphone, with those brands which are part of the smartphone ecosystem generally outperforming those that aren’t. The average ‘brand intimacy quotient’ for those in the ecosystem is 38.1, which is significantly higher than the overall study average and suggests that if a brand has a strong presence on these devices, it can expand its capacity for fostering emotional connections with users.

In terms of generational divides, Xbox and Spotify, while belonging to two different industries, were  both top two brands among Gen Z. . Both brands are strongly associated with ritual, which is when a brand becomes ingrained in daily life. Xbox is also linked to nostalgia, and also have their largest amount of users in fusing, the highest stage of intimacy. However, over 60% of users felt an immediate emotional connection with Xbox, compared to just under 50% for Spotify.

The overall percentage of intimate users across the countries of the study highlight that Mexico has the highest rate of intimacy, slightly higher than the UAE, while the U.S. continues to lag behind.