Love in a coffee cup

Apple, BMW and Toyota give customers warm and fuzzy feelings, according to a recent report about the “most intimate brands.”

Apple topped the list, with luxury carmaker BMW right behind and Toyota in third place. The study, which ranked the top 100 brands overall, was conducted by Praxis Research Partners for MBLM, a New York City-based brand agency. It looked at the responses from 6,000 consumers in the US, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.

Why does it matter? Because more love means more money.

Money for Nothing?

Customers who feel a connection or who have a deep affinity for a particular brand are willing to spend extra. For example, customers are willing to pay a premium of up to 20 percent for a product from a favorite brand, even if the quality is substantially similar to lower priced competitors.

This is rather apparent when it comes to Apple. A new iPhone retails for $649 or more. Take away the customer love and you’d be hard pressed to understand why anyone would pay so much for a smartphone, especially because there are so many other options of arguably similar quality at a much lower prices.

In some cases, the love customers have for a brand stems from added value the company offers. Apple, for example, builds customer engagement through product support: many appreciate Apple’s customer service and willingness to give iPhone, iPad and Mac owners tutorials at Apple stores.

Other times, customers are drawn by status. How many drivers love the image and lifestyle represented by a BMW in their garage? Same goes for Harley-Davidson, which is No. 5 on the Most Intimate list.

Entertainment is also key, especially for those under 35. Disney was in the Top 10, while Nintendo, Xbox, Netflix and YouTube also slid in to the top 100.

MBLM Brand Intimacy

Value Deepens the Connection

But intimacy is not just about conspicuous consumption.

Customers love Amazon for its competitive prices, combined with its ruthless efficiency at shipping products. And Toyota isn’t exactly a luxury brand, but clearly enough consumers like the reliability of their Corolla or Camry.

MBLM, which commissioned the study, is a big proponent of building “brand intimacy.” The agency argues that such brands outperform those that don’t have that same type of emotional connection.

“In addition, these brands command a price premium, enjoying more financial resilience than brands in the same industries that are not intimate,” the report says.

The key is engagement. The brands in the top 100 all do something to more deeply connect with customers, whether it’s through going out of their way to build some type of emotional currency or by creating high-quality products.

Customers have a variety of reasons they may feel a bond for a particular brand, such as nostalgia, customer service, price or some perceived value.

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Title image by Hello Goodbye.