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Report: Consumers Have Deep Emotional Ties with the Brands They Buy—and Amazon is at the Top

Amazon isn’t just dominating consumers’ wallet share—it’s pulling at their heartstrings, too.

A 2019 Brand Intimacy Study released Wednesday by the MBLM research group ranked consumers’ emotional attachment to brands by category. While retail fell to the No. 4 spot from No. 3 last year (beat out by technology and telecommunications), the category still ranked in the top third out of 15.

Within the retail category, Amazon took first place, with subsidiary Whole Foods in second. Others rounding out the top 10 included Target, Costco, Walmart, Macy’s, eBay, Nordstrom, Sephora and Ikea.

MBLM defines brand intimacy as “the emotional science that measures the bonds we form with the brands we use and love.” The retail industry displayed a higher brand intimacy quotient than other categories, with 41.8 percent of respondents saying they felt emotionally invested in the category, while the cross-industry average hovers at 31 percent. Of the top 10 retail brands named, Sephora ranked first for “immediate emotional connection.”

Still, Amazon has been a consistently strong performer in the annual study, MBLM said. Even with a recent maelstrom of bad press relating to warehouse conditions and product quality issues, the online behemoth has thrived.

“Amazon has become an immense company spanning industries and categories almost too big even to grasp. Though it may be fighting battles on several fronts in the media, these are a small fraction compared to the vast number of customers its serves, and millions of transactions it completes daily,” Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM, told Sourcing Journal.

Brands that perform well in building brand intimacy can weather crises better than under-performing brands, he explained. “They have gained goodwill and equity with consumers, and this can shield the brand in the short term,” he said, adding that Amazon users display an intimacy unrivaled by almost any other brand, regardless of category.

“Users are forming a powerful bond with the brand, and its many sub-brands and acquisitions,” he said, referring to Whole Foods. “They aren’t willing to live without it.”

Even though the company continues to dominate, Natarelli is reticent to say its reign will last forever.

“Our data may be a trailing indicator,” he said, given that the data for the study was collected throughout 2018, before the company’s most recent round of bad press. “We may see Amazon take a hit in the 2020 or future annual studies.”