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The Surprising Fast-Food Chain Americans Feel Most "Emotionally Connected" To

A new study shows the impact that brand intimacy has on us during difficult times.
starbucks inside

If someone asked you which fast-food restaurant makes you feel good, which one would you choose? To clarify, this is not a question about the chain with the best food or amenities, but rather, which one you feel you have a special bond with…

MBLM, a brand intimacy agency in NYC, recently published its Brand Intimacy 2020 Study, revealing that Starbucks ranked as the fast-food brand that U.S. consumers feel most emotionally connected to. The agency, which has been using emotional science to build more intimate brands during the pandemic, conducted the survey in 2019 with 6,200 respondents. MBLM later revisited and enhanced the research for the top five brands from the study during the week of June 15 and found that customers' perception of Starbucks remained unchallenged despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though the survey was conducted well before the pandemic began, what it finds speaks volumes about which chains consumers are preferring to frequent right now. Establishing a loyal fan base has become considerably more important for the livelihood of a business, and the report gauges how effective a brand is at connecting with its customers. People want to feel taken care of during traumatic periods of time, and this survey suggests that the brands making efforts to pamper their customers have better relationships with them.

Now, whether having a deep love for a fast-food chain correlates with performance is nearly impossible to answer during the pandemic, as the mandatory shutdown inevitably caused many big-name brands to lose billions of dollars—including Starbucks. The chain lost over $3 billion in revenue in its latest quarter.

Chick-fil-A was the second most favored brand in the report, followed by McDonald's, Dunkin', and Subway. Starbucks was the most intimate brand among male respondents, but for females, Chick-Fil-A reigned supreme. Both brands showed their support during the pandemic, with Starbucks launching a global emergency relief program in April to help its employees, and Chick-fil-A creating a $10.8 million community relief fund for franchisees to distribute to local communities in need the same month. Plus, both brands took the necessary precautions to keep their customers and staff safe.

So, have you thought more about which fast-food brand you feel most emotionally connected to? Perhaps the chain you cherish the most is also the One Fast Food Restaurant Exploding in Popularity During COVID-19.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more