Customers Form Emotional Bond with Chick-fil-A

A brand intimacy study ranks the top fast food companies that resonate with customers.

August 19, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—In a research study looking at the brands that are the best at building bonds with their customers, the fast food industry ranked sixth out of 15, with Chick-fil-A leading the way, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2019 Study. Using various archetypes of brands, the study also delved into how these top brands outperform the Fortune 500 and S&P in profit and revenue.

So what is “brand intimacy” and how can companies use it to their advantage? According to MBLM, “Brand Intimacy is defined as the emotional science that measures the bonds we form with the brands we use and love.”

Chick-fil-A took the No. 1 spot in the fast food industry, followed by Dunkin’ and Starbucks, respectively. The coffee chain dropped after being first for the past two years. Rounding out the top 10 were McDonald's, Taco Bell, Subway, Wendy's, Burger King, Chipotle and KFC. When compared to all industries, Chick-fil-A ranked 10th.

In a press release, MBLM shared other findings for the fast food industry that include:

  • Fast food had an average Brand Intimacy Quotient of 33.2, which was above the cross-industry average of 31.
  • The industry retained its 2018 sixth spot ranking.
  • Indulgence, which is related to moments of pampering and gratification, was the most prominent archetype (a pattern that is consistently present among intimate brands) in the category, and Chick-fil-A was the top-performing fast food brand for indulgence.
  • Chick-fil-A was the top brand among both men and women.
  • Chick-fil-A was also the leading brand for users under and over age 35 and those with incomes under $100,000, whereas higher-income consumers preferred McDonald's.
  • Dunkin' and McDonald's rose in the rankings since last year, while Starbucks and Chipotle fell.
  • 22% of the industry's customers are in one of the three stages of intimacy: sharing, bonding and fusing
Chick-fil-A has been edging its way into the forefront of fast food services offered in the United States during the past several years. In June, the chicken sandwich serving establishment was named the third-largest U.S. restaurant chain. Sticking to tried and true methods in regard to preparing food, Chick-fil-A has also used artificial intelligence to track potential health trends and risks to minimize health hazards. Additionally, the restaurants’ brand has gained appeal from both consumer and retailer alike due to their dedication to their employees’ education, as well as working to appeal even to the non-chicken lover with non-chicken sandwiches. The chain’s rapid success has lead to competitors also seeking a bit of the slice of the “chicken sandwich,” offering their own versions of Chick-fil-A’s signature menu item.