The 20 Most ‘Intimate’ Brands in America (and Why)


Of all the studies we’ve reviewed recently, the title of this one from independent brand agency MBLM may seem most strange: the “Brand Intimacy Rankings” sought to measure not which brands consumers see as most authentic or “real” but those to which we feel closest in a personal relationship sense.

Here are some of its most interesting findings:

  • Americans are more intimate with their brands than residents of any other country
  • Tech brands dominate and Apple is the winner by a landslide, with intimacy rankings more than eight times as high as those of the runner-up
  • Shockingly, 76 percent of the 350 people involved in the survey were not predisposed to having intimate relationships with brands — yet the average user has such relationships with “two or three”
  • Frequency of product use was a major factor determining which companies scored highest
  • All major social media platforms were absent, despite their tech status and regular usage

After the jump, we list the winners and ask Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM, for his takeaways.

Here, are the 20 brands with which Americans feel most intimate, in descending order: Apple, Sony, Nike, Dell, Starbucks, Samsung, Ford, Clorox, Tide, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nabisco, Kraft, Volvo, Amazon, Toyota, HP, Whole Foods, Levi’s, and McDonald’s.

20 brands

The first thing we noticed about this list is that it is very different than Cohn & Wolfe‘s 20 “most authentic” brands. While Walmart topped that one, followed in the top ten by Target and Costco, the only traditional retailer in the MBLM top 20 is Whole Foods.

We would say this is due to the utilitarian nature of the supermarket shopping experience and efforts by companies like Whole Foods to more actively reflect their customers’ lifestyles and passions than Walmart. But then, how intimate is your current relationship with your detergent? Apparently the answer is “very.”

Here are some takeaways from Mr. Natarelli.

How do you define “intimacy” in this case?

“Brand intimacy is an essential relationship between a person and brand that transcends purchase, usage and loyalty.”

Why was the goal of the study?

“Seismic shifts in technology have both empowered and disintermediated us. The way we choose products, access information and make decisions has created a new landscape before us that requires a different perspective and new tools for marketers. Finally, the bonds we create with brands, their characteristics, and their intensity are at the core of the Brand Intimacy Study.”

Which findings surprised you most?

“It was surprising that some categories like financial services didn’t show up on any of our country rankings, while others, like high tech, performed very strongly.

Being an iconic and valuable brand, by itself, appears to be irrelevant to the discussion of a brand’s efficacy at creating intimacy. Perennial top brands on the Interbrand and BrandZ lists — like IBM, Microsoft, GE and Disney — were barely mentioned by consumers, and none were close to being top 20 intimate brands in any country. While IBM is a pure B2B brand, Disney is a consumer brand, and Microsoft and GE have strong B2C businesses. In addition, long-time No. 1 most valuable brand and current No. 3, Coca-Cola, was ranked in the top 20 in only two of our counties and didn’t crack the top 10 in either.”

We would say that companies making products that consumers use frequently for long periods are most “intimate,” but it doesn’t take too long to drink a latte, so brands like Starbucks that manage to ingratiate themselves into a customer’s daily life and develop a “personality” of sorts also scored highly. And that’s evidence of great PR at work.

What do you take from these findings, readers?

(On a side note, today we learned that you never search for stock images using the word “intimacy” while in the office. Lots of NC-17 scenes.)

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.