A study of “brand intimacy” concludes that major QSRs gained ground with consumers last year, with Chick-fil-A ranked #1 out of 10 chains.
The MBLM brand and digital agency in New York chose to measure intimacy instead of loyalty because it believes the latter is an “outdated construct,” according to managing partner Mario Natarelli.
“Loyalty as a concept is only going to take you so far in this modern world of brand building,” Natarelli tells Marketing Daily. “Intimacy is a more emotionally driven way of thinking about the bonds we are forming with brands.”
MBLM surveyed 3,000 U.S. adults who were users of the 10 QSR chains.
Overall, the fast-food industry placed sixth in consumer intimacy scores among 10 industries in 2021. The leaders above fast-food were, in order from #1, media & entertainment, automotive, retail, tech & telecom and consumer goods.
Ranking below QSRs were beverages, health & hygiene, financial services and apps & social platforms.
The fast-food industry had an average Brand Intimacy Quotient of 35.1 compared to 50.2 for Media & Entertainment and 25.5 for Apps & Social Platforms.
QSRs increased their score last year by 3%, with 32% of users having an increased emotional connection with fast-food brands since MBLM’s 2020 study.
Chick-fil-A led the pack for the second consecutive year, with a Brand Intimacy Quotient of 47.7, followed by Starbucks (44.5), Dunkin’ (39.1), McDonald’s (38.2), Taco Bell (34.1), KFC (30.7), Pizza Hut (30.6), Domino’s (30.5), Wendy’s (30.0) and Subway (26.1).
Under MBLM’s methodology, there are two dimensions to intimacy, the first composed of six archetypes: Fulfillment, Identity, Enhancement, Ritual, Nostalgia and Indulgence.
The second dimension measures the intensity or strength of bonds between brands and consumers. Within that dimension is a factor MBLM calls “fusion.”
The percent of users fusing with fast-food brands increased 14% over the 2020 study.
“Fusing is where you and the brand are inextricably linked,” says Natarelli. “This is the most rare stage of intimacy and also the most powerful.”
A 10-point scale that asked survey respondents how essential the QSR brands are to their lives—dubbed Can’t Live without—yielded a response of 27%, up 102% from 2020.
“What we’ve noticed during the pandemic is, the more we became separated from each other, the more we depended on brands. So overall intimacy increased. There were definitely winners and losers—and QSR’s were more on the winner’s side of that equation,” said Natarelli.