brands people crave

What is your brand’s “Brand Intimacy”?

Emotions Matter

Around 90% of all purchasing decisions are made based on emotion. That means that how consumers feel in the moment can dictate whether or not a brand succeeds or fails. So, in order to even be remotely successful in today’s market, brands have to connect with people on a deeper level by appealing to their emotions.

That is where the idea of brand intimacy comes in. For a brand to establish intimacy with their consumers, they must meet them where they are and attempt to build a real relationship based on trust and understanding. Genuine, positive interactions are the golden ticket to creating emotional bonds with consumers.

According to Mario Natarelli, author of Brand Intimacy: A New Paradigm for Marketing, “brand intimacy parallels human intimacy”. This means that shoppers establish relationships with brands the way they establish relationships with other people. First impressions matter and the relationship must progress naturally over time – nothing can be forced.

Who Can Develop Brand Intimacy?

Regardless of the industry, every brand has its share of consumers, and every single consumer creates an opportunity for developing brand intimacy.

Even industries that don’t seem emotional in the least can build meaningful relationships with consumers. Industries like financial services require a certain amount of trust, which is directly linked to emotions. By appealing to that emotion and need for trust, financial services businesses can get closer to creating loyal, devoted customers.

It is important to note that just because a brand might be the biggest industry player, the most financially successful, or the top trend setter, it doesn’t mean they will have the strongest consumer bonds. Even if a brand is successful and strong now, having weak consumer-brand bonds will eventually lead to downfall since the biggest indicator of purchase is how consumers feel about a brand.

Brand intimacy exists to help brands stand strong, experience growth, and profit, all by fulfilling their customers’ needs and wants.

MBLM Brand Intimacy Annual Report

The MBLM Brand Intimacy report is a study that takes the idea of brand intimacy and creates a yearly ranking of brands based on their relationships with consumers. There are two separate lists of rankings, one for brands and one for overall industries.

This report goes beyond rankings by also providing information about what type of consumers brands are appealing to based on demographics such as age, gender, and income. Knowing these demographics can make it clearer about why certain brands rank higher or lower than others.

How Are These Rankings Determined?

All the brands on the list are ranked using a score out of 100. The score is determined based on hundreds of consumer interviews conducted by the MBLM Agency, which is responsible for the annual report. The information gathered from the interviews and data determines how many consumers feel an established relationship with a particular brand, and what the strength of that relationship is.

6 Patterns

The MBLM Agency, which is responsible for the annual report, uses six different categories to identify what types of needs are fulfilled by brand-consumer relationships. Almost all brand intimacy relationships satisfy one of these six different need categories:

  • Fulfillment – Fulfills all needs, excels in service, quality, and/or value
  • Identity – Projects a desirable lifestyle, represents the consumer’s identity
  • Enhancement – Makes life easier for the consumer in some way
  • Ritual – Becomes apart of the consumer’s daily routine (dependence)
  • Nostalgia – Reminds the consumer of good times from the past
  • Indulgence – Pampers the consumer and indulges their senses

Some exceptional brands will fulfill multiple consumer needs from this list. These brands have the strongest brand intimacy by going above and beyond.

The Relationship Stages

Along with creating categories for needs fulfilled, the MBLM Agency also created categorizes to measure the stages of a relationship between brands and their customers at any given time. As previously mentioned, consumer-brand relationships move through stages just like relationships between people. All relationships need time to progress and mature over time to move through stages.

The three stages brand intimacy moves through are:

  • Sharing Stage – This is the beginning stage of the relationship. Consumers have been introduced to the brand and have formed initial impressions based on the first few interactions.
  • Bonding Stage – This is the intermediate stage of the relationship. Consumers become attached to the brand after establishing trust in the relationship.
  • Fusing Stage – This is the most advanced stage of the relationship. Consumers feel deeply connected to the brand and will defend it. It has subconsciously become a part of their identity.

The length of time in between the different stages varies brand to brand. Factors like size, location, product/service, etc. can affect the passage between stages.

2018 MBLM Rankings

Brand Rankings:

  1. Apple
  2. Amazon
  3. BMW
  4. Jeep
  5. Disney
  6. YouTube
  7. Target
  8. Netflix
  9. Whole Foods
  10. Google

Industry Rankings:

  1. Media & Entertainment
  2. Automotive
  3. Retail
  4. Tech & Telecom
  5. Consumer Goods
  6. Apparel
  7. Fast Food
  8. Health & Hygiene
  9. Beverage
  10. Hospitality & Theme Parks
  11. Financial Services
  12. Apps & Social Platforms
  13. Luxury
  14. Appliances
  15. Travel

What Do These Rankings Mean?

Some of the above rankings might make perfect sense while others don’t make any sense at all. It isn’t hard to see why companies like Apple, Amazon, Disney, and Netflix rank highly among consumers. They all give consumers some source of entertainment or enjoyment. The same thing applies for Media & Entertainment’s number one spot on the industry ranking list.

But why does the Automotive industry rank second, above other seemingly more enjoyable industries like Apparel or Fast Food? Well, since purchasing a car is a massive decision in a consumer’s life, a lot of care and thought goes into the purchase. Because of this, car companies have to work harder than many other companies to establish trust with the consumers. So naturally, because they work harder to establish this trust, they have better brand intimacy overall.


Ultimately, prioritizing brand intimacy is key for long-term success. As the marketplace becomes increasingly crowded with products and brands, consumers are presented with an abundance of choices. To stand out and cultivate a loyal customer following, companies need to prioritize emotional connections. Brand intimacy emerges as the most effective strategy for achieving this goal.In this day and age, brand intimacy truly is the be-all end-all.

If you need help crafting your brand messaging, our strategic branding agency can help you connect with your audience and build those crucial emotional bonds.

Contact us today!