Retail’s Ability to Create Strong Emotional Bonds With Consumers
Each year, our agency releases a Brand Intimacy Study, which is the largest study of brands based on emotion. We cultivated the theory of brand intimacy nine years ago, defining it as the emotional science that measures the bonds we form with the brands we use and love. MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2019 study contains the most extensive rankings of brands based on emotion. We analyzed the responses of 6,200 consumers and 56,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries in the U.S., Mexico, and UAE. This year, we found that retail ranked fourth out of all of the industries studied in the United States.
Amazon.com placed first in the industry and third in the overall study, showcasing the power of this mammoth brand and driving up the overall retail industry performance. Amazon's dominance is enhanced when you factor in that it also owns the No. 2 brand: Whole Foods. The two brands’ combined Brand Intimacy Quotient is 62.1, compared to 37.8 for the rest of the industry, which includes Target, Costco, Walmart, Macy’s, eBay, Nordstrom, Sephora, and Ikea.
Our study demonstrates that brand intimacy performance correlates to better financial performance. Over the past 10 years, the top intimate brands in the U.S. considerably outperformed the top brands in the Fortune 500 and S&P indices in both revenue and profit. The more intimate users are with brands, the more they're willing to pay, and the less they're willing to live without them.
In 2019, Amazon was also No. 1 among women and those over 35, as well as those with incomes under $100,000. On the other hand, men preferred Whole Foods, as did those with incomes over $100,000. Millennials chose Target as their top brand. Sephora ranked first for immediate emotional connection.
Amazon has continuously performed well in MBLM’s study, and we expect the brand to eventually rise to the top spot overall. This year, 50 percent of Amazon's customers said they formed an immediate emotional bond with the brand. Amazon has many sub-brands and services that offer wide-ranging solutions to customers in a variety of areas, including retail, entertainment, electronics, and content, among others. The brand is continuously branching out into new industries as well. For example, Amazon announced in July a partnership with Realogy. The online giant's newly launched TurnKey program connects consumers in 15 cities with residential real estate agents under the Realogy brand, and Amazon offers free home services ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 and select smart home features.
Interestingly, Amazon’s strong performance is giving the brand the ability to weather negative criticism of its business and labor practices. This year’s study found that Amazon needs to improve its connection with millennial and Gen Z consumers; it performs much better with older, female, and lower-income shoppers, who are more value-conscious. However, we expect Amazon is actively working to address any demographic weaknesses.
The retail category overall had a solid performance in our study. However, factoring Amazon and Whole Foods out of the mix, we see a lot of potential for other retail brands to further leverage their emotional bonds with consumers. Brands can look to leaders like Amazon to see and understand methods to deliver value and affect the lives of their customers more holistically. By focusing on creating stronger emotional bonds, we know brands can ultimately improve their bottom line.
Mario Natarelli is managing partner at MBLM, a branding agency with offices in seven countries that cultivated a new marketing paradigm, Brand Intimacy, and each year releases the most comprehensive rankings of brands based on emotion.
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