- Consumers feel more brand intimacy toward Chick-fil-A than any other fast food brand, according to MBLM's 2019 Brand Intimacy Study.
- Dunkin' ranked second for brand intimacy, followed by Starbucks, which had ranked first in both 2018 and 2017.
- Fast food brands ranked sixth out of 15 industries examined in the study, which examined consumers' emotion-based perceptions of branding. The study defines brand intimacy as "the emotional science that measures the bonds we form with the brands we use and love."
It's not the largest QSR in the country, but Chick-fil-A may boast the most loyal fan base. Its customers voted it as the top fast food brand in another study on emotional engagemnet and loyalty earlier this year, while another report concluded that Chick-fil-A has the strongest brand personality of any QSR.
The secret behind Chick-fil-A's cult-like following lies primarily in its strong emphasis on customer service and ability to appeal to a wide swath of consumers. Chick-fil-A is also investing in human interaction with personal touches. For example, the chain is testing a tableside button that allows customers to call for a server to take a second order, demonstrating its ability to build an evolved emotional connection with its customers while remaining tech savvy.
The brand also builds rapport through its loyalty programs. It incentivizes consumers to download its app by offering a free sandwich for each download. In 2016, the company launched its app and a 'Mom's Valet' program to let young parents order via a drive-thru before being served in the store to minimize parents' stress of waiting in lines to order.
Chick-fil-A has taken heat for donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations and for its CEO's open stance against same-sex marriage, but despite subsequent boycotts, its politics haven't stopped its national growth. It in fact saw a boost in sales at the height of the controversy in 2012 as some customers flocked to the store to demonstrate loyalty, often as a political statement. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, for example, hosted a "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day", in counter protest to an LGBTQ kiss-in held at the store earlier that year.
The brand has claimed that it has since wound down its donations and the CEO said that he would stay out of politics, but Think Progress reports in 2017 and 2019 based on the company's IRS tax filings found that the company has continued to quietly donate to discriminatory groups.
Dunkin' has cultivated a similar sense of brand loyalty through its loyalty program, which has 10 million current members according to the brand. It allows users to scan a DD Perks loyalty ID QR code to pay using a variety of methods and helps users accrue program points. It also recently added a plant-based breakfast option to its menu, a Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich, making it one of the first QSRs to bring the alternative protein offering to a breakfast menu.