The fast food moved up from eighth to sixth place in MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2018 Report, which is the largest study of brands based on emotions. The top three in the industry were Starbucks, Chick-fil-A and Chipotle. The remaining brands in the Top 10 for fast food were: Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza, Wendy’s, Baskin-Robins, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts and KFC.

Brand Intimacy is defined as a new paradigm that leverages and strengthens the emotional bonds between a person and a brand. MBLM’s study again revealed that top intimate brands in the U.S. surpassed the top brands in the Fortune 500 and S&P indices in revenue and profit over the past 10 years.

“Starbucks is the clear leader in the fast food industry,” stated Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM. “The brand continuously seeks to improve its offerings and deepen customer bonds, from capitalizing on food trends, optimizing its app, personalizing its services and creating a space for people to connect with others. Despite some well-publicized missteps this year, the brand handled those transparently, and continuously seeks to emphasize its social responsibility. Other brands in the industry can learn from this trailblazer on how to build more robust, lasting bonds.”

Additional noteworthy fast food findings from MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2018 Report include:

  • The fast food industry had an average Brand Intimacy Quotient of 28.0, which was above the cross-industry average of 27.1
  • Indulgence, which describes a brand relationship centered on moments of pampering and gratification, was the most dominant archetype in the category, and Starbucks was the top-performing brand for indulgence
  • Starbucks was also the most intimate brand among women, whereas men preferred Chipotle
  • Domino’s Pizza and Wendy’s moved up in the industry’s rankings since last year, whereas McDonald’s and Subway fell in the rankings

To view the fast food industry findings, please click here. The full Brand Intimacy 2018 Report and the Ranking Tool can be found here.

This year’s report contains the most comprehensive rankings of brands based on emotion, analyzing the responses of 6,000 consumers and 54,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries in the U.S., Mexico and UAE. MBLM’s reports and interactive Brand Ranking Tool showcase the performance of almost 400 brands, revealing the characteristics and intensity of the consumer bonds.



During 2017, MBLM conducted an online quantitative survey among 6,000 consumers in the United States (3,000), Mexico (2,000), and the United Arab Emirates (1,000). Participants were respondents who were screened for age (i.e. 18 to 64 years of age) and annual household income ($35,000 or more) in the U.S. and socioeconomic levels in Mexico and the UAE (A, B, and C socioeconomic levels). Quotas were established to ensure that the sample mirrored census data for age, gender, income/socioeconomic level, and region. The survey was designed primarily to understand the extent to which consumers have relationships with brands and the strength of those relationships, from fairly detached to highly intimate. It is important to note that this study provides more than a mere ranking of brand performance and was specifically designed to provide prescriptive guidance to marketers. We modeled data from a total of 54,000 brand evaluations to quantify the mechanisms that drive intimacy. Through factor analysis, structural equation modeling, and other sophisticated analytic techniques, the research allows marketers to better understand which levers need to be pulled to build intimacy between brands and consumers.


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