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The Primal Importance Of Brand Intimacy

Establishing an intimate bond with your consumers pays dividends, builds strong emotional connections and commands price premiums!

The need for love and intimacy is primal, as fundamental as our need for water, food, air and shelter. It is an essential element of our emotional well-being; when our primal needs are met, we thrive and grow! When they’re not, we wither and die an “emotional death” leading to anxiety, depression, isolation, addiction or worse.

What is intimacy? It’s about the degree of emotional closeness we have with another person. Being intimate involves merging our life with someone else, making the ultimate connection of sharing our heart and our soul.

Why is it important? It’s derived from the Latin word intima meaning ‘inner’ or ‘innermost’. Intima is our inside being, the real us that only we truly know. Intimacy means letting someone see into us and see the person we really are, while being allowed to see who they really are too. It is the lifeblood of love as it means exposing our vulnerabilities, our secrets, our fears and our lives.

There are many forms of intimacy and they all impact on the strength of a relationship: intellectual, experiential, emotional, spiritual, physical and financial. Any human relationship needs intimacy. Regardless of what form it takes, a relationship will slowly decline and fade away without it.. No-one wants to be intimate with someone they are unhappy with!

Intimacy is just as important when it comes to brand love. According to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2017 Report, brands that have an intimate relationship with their consumers have stronger revenue and profit growth and command price premiums.

Their Brand Intimacy rankings measure which brands consumers feel closest to in a personal relationship sense. It’s the relationship between a person and a brand that goes beyond purchase, usage and loyalty. In their words; “brand intimacy is a new paradigm that leverages and strengthens the emotional bonds between a person and a brand.”

Reputed to be the largest study based on emotions, the responses of 6,000 consumers aged 18 to 64 years of age in the US (3,000), Mexico (2,000) and the UAE (1,000) were analysed. 54,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries (apparel, apps and social platforms, automotive, beverages, consumer goods, fast food, financial services, health and hygiene, hospitality and theme parks, insurance and investing, luxury, media and entertainment, retail, technology and telecommunications and travel) were conducted to understand the degree to which consumers have relationships with brands and the strength of those relationships, from fairly detached to highly intimate.

The study revealed the strength of the consumer bonds for 386 brands. Five components contribute to the Brand Intimacy model concluding with the Brand Intimacy Quotient:

  1. User – you have to have used a brand in order to be intimate with it!
  2. Strong emotional connection – the stronger the connection the stronger the relationship
  3. Archetypes – six markers that characterise the relationship (fulfilment, identity, enhancement, ritual, nostalgia and indulgence)
  4. Stages – 3 stages of bond strength (sharing, bonding, fusing)
  5. Brand Intimacy Quotient – a composite measure based on the prevalence (usage) and intensity (where the relationship is on the spectrum of stages). The higher the score, the more intense the emotional relationship between consumer and brand.

Why these three countries? The US as it’s arguably the largest consumer market, Mexico to represent the Latin American market, and the UAE as a fast-evolving country in a growing region.

The top 10 ranked intimate brands outperformed both the S&P and Fortune 500 indices in revenue and profit over the past decade. If any of the top S&P and Fortune 500 brands had performed at the same growth rate, then an average S&P company could have earned an additional $7.7 billion in revenue and $5.3 billion in profit, while an average Fortune 500 company could have earned an additional $20.3 billion in revenue and $2.9 billion in profit!

Intimate brands can also command a price premium. The results demonstrated that a consumers willingness to pay a premium for a brand increases with its level of intimacy –  on average 21% of intimate consumers are willing to pay 20% more. This figure rises to 30% for the brand with the highest price resilience score, which this year was Amazon.

The US consumer has the least intimate brand connection, which could be due to market proliferation, economic uncertainties or even growing distrust of corporations.

The automotive industry was number one in both the US and the UAE, and third in Mexico. Financial services did well in both Mexico and the UAE, ranking sixth in the US.

The most intimate brand in the US was Apple, followed by Disney and Amazon. Harley Davidson, Netflix, Nintendo, Samsung, Whole Foods, BMW and Toyota make up the rest of the top 10. All ten “are exemplars in building emotional bonds and deep connections with their customers and creating stronger attachment and engagement.”

Reflecting a turbulent 2016, escapist brands dominated the US rankings and all have shot up the rankings from last year: Disney 6th to 2nd, Netflix 25th to 5th and Nintendo 6th from 12th. For Millennials, five of the 10 top brands are in the media & entertainment category!

American Express is by far the most intimate brand in Mexico, up from last year followed by Nike and Apple with seven of the top 10 brands being financial services and technology and telecommunications rather than traditional consumer orientated brands.

The top 10 in the UAE are all Global brands. The first local brand is Emirates, which is arguably a Global brand too at number 13! Automotive manufacturers dominate the list with five car brands in the top 10.

Consumers were asked for which brands “I would feel deprived without them in my life” – the Holy Grail for any brand!  With the exception of Disney perhaps, they are all brands that score highly for ritual (defined as a vital part of daily existence). But, being habitual isn’t enough without emotion; without intimacy, apathy creeps in.

“Our report once again reveals that the bonds created between a brand and a consumer deliver greater economic growth. Brand growth starts and ends with emotion and the quantity, quality and character of the bonds formed with customers,” says Mario Natarelli, MBLM’s managing partner.

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