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Brand intimacy for SMEs

Brand intimacy for SMEs

Posted 15th August, 2019 by Sarah

Intimacy; up until a few years ago it was a word that didn’t really belong in a business environment. Today, it’s one that should be on every company’s radar – small or large.


In January 2019, a report by The Brand Intimacy Study Lab found that Fortune 500 companies with high levels of brand intimacy performed better on the revenue and profit front than businesses with lower levels of brand intimacy.

In this article, we’ll look in more detail at the concept of brand intimacy and see how smaller businesses and start-ups can begin to incorporate its principles into their own operations.

What is brand intimacy?

Mario Natarelli is to be credited with the concept of ‘brand intimacy’. He outlined the idea in full in his book ‘Brand Intimacy: A New Paradigm in Marketing’.

His in-a-nutshell description of the term is as follows:

‘The science of how we bond with the brands we use and love. These bonds are reciprocal and are fuelled by emotion. Brands that build stronger bonds create stronger business return and longevity’.

Although the term ‘brand intimacy’ was coined by Natarelli, the term actually builds on the broader concept of emotional marketing – the skill of stirring up emotions in current and potential customers in order to get them to take notice, remember, and purchase.

Which companies do brand intimacy best?

According to The Brand Intimacy Study Lab’s recent report, the following companies excel at building brand intimacy…

Disney: Interestingly, Disney had even higher rates of brand intimacy with male consumers than female.

Apple: 38 per cent of those surveyed by The Brand Intimacy Study Lab claimed that they couldn’t live without the Apple brand in their lives.

Amazon: Amazon’s brand intimacy scores were found to come mainly from its interactions with customers over 35.

Chick fil A: This American fast food company replaced Jeep in the Brand Intimacy Study Lab ratings for 2019.

Tips for building your own brand’s intimacy levels

Before you can build on your brand intimacy, you’ll need to know exactly who you’re targeting. Have you done in-depth customer research recently, through both traditional methods and online analytics? Are your company personas up to date? These insights are the foundations on which to build your brand intimacy levels. If you’re up to speed, you’re good to go with the following. If you’re not, you’ve got a bit of research to do before you can begin.

Exceed expectations

Okay, so you might feel like this is easier said than done, but going above and beyond doesn’t have to be a struggle. Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at multiple areas where companies can fine-tune their operations in order to surpass customer expectations.

In ‘Social service: how to provide excellent customer service online’ we looked at how businesses can up their customer service game.

In ‘How harnessing cognitive biases can be good for business’ we explored the notion of reciprocity and discussed how giving customers something as small as an unexpected chocolate mint was enough to make them feel more favourable to a company.

And in ‘How to create the perfect welcome email’, we looked at the concept of personalisation in its easiest form – email – and how tiny gestures like thanking customers can make a difference to the way they view a company.

Tell your story

We’ve touched on storytelling on the tsoHost blog before, but the Brand Intimacy Study Lab’s own research further highlights its importance in building brand intimacy.

The BISL suggests that in order to become an intimate brand, companies need to have a strong identity. In particular, they need to give customers something to aspire to. Plus they need to hold admirable values and beliefs.

Most businesses will be passionate about one cause or another. Through storytelling techniques, outlined in the above blog, companies can covey these passions to like-minded customers and build brand intimacy levels.

Help customers be better

Again, according to the BISL, intimate brands tend to be those that enable their customers to become better – be it smarter, more capable, or more connected – through the use of their products and services.

Research also suggests that customers become more attached to brands that make them feel better. Knowing this can help small businesses re-think or enhance the way their market their products.

On your sales pages, for example, don’t just describe your products and services, explain how the products have the potential to make buyers feel and behave better, and you should find your brand intimacy inches up a notch.

Offer a product for life

The Brand Intimacy Study Lab found that some of the most intimate brands tend to be those that customers have had the opportunity to grow up with. Think Disney and Apple.

What inspiration can newer businesses take from this – short of jumping in the DeLorean?

There are two takeaways here.

Firstly, newer businesses can harness nostalgia in their marketing in order to make customers feel like the company has been around longer than it has.

Secondly, companies can start thinking about ways of expanding their range or suite of services so that customers need to buy from the brand for longer and from an earlier age.

BMW does a great job of this, in offering electric ride on versions of cars for kids.


Finally, the BISL suggests that brands can build on brand intimacy by offering ‘moments of pampering and gratification that can be occasional or frequent’.

How does this translate into real life? One tip is to think about offering loyalty schemes to committed clients that pamper them a little bit more than other customers. Another option is to set up personalised email offers to regular customers, indulging them a little bit more than before.

Categories: Marketing, Small Businesses

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