If you’re like most people, you have favorite brands for toothpaste, soap and other personal health and hygiene products like razors, mouthwash and hair products. But the favoritism isn’t so pronounced that you won’t swap out one brand for another if there’s a really good sale or the product you want can’t be found on store shelves.
That’s because even though all of these are the types of products whose function is of an intimate nature, most companies within this sector haven’t really developed a correlating relationship with their customer base—an intimate one built on strong emotional bonds. And a company that studies the Brand Intimacy factor suggests that when health and hygiene brands don’t live up to their potential, customers may be losing out on brand experiences that matter.
Brand Intimacy is a term coined by MBLM, a brand consultancy. For the last several years, the firm has issued the Brand Intimacy Study, which weighs the various factors that figure into the relationships that brands build with their customers. The level of intimacy a brand builds with its customers is key to shaping the customers’ perceptions of what the brand stands for.
MBLM’s 2018 Brand Intimacy report, which ranked Apple the most intimate brand among U.S. consumers, divides the field by industry. The health and hygiene sector ranks eighth out of the 15 industries analyzed, moving up one spot from 2017 results.
Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM,notes:“These brands are inherently personal and intimate, yet they do not perform up to their potential in our study. Clearly, there are unmet opportunities for them to create stronger, lasting bonds with their customers and link more strongly to emotion.”
The two most intimate brands in this category are Olay, which has a Brand Intimacy Quotient of 44.2, and Dove, which has a Brand Intimacy Quotient of 34.7. Both are seen as beauty brands, with associations that are tied with one’s physical appearance. And while both emphasize product quality and efficacy, they’ve used quite different underlying value propositions to build Brand Intimacy.
If you’re a fan of Olay, for example, you’ve engaged with the brand’s notion of “ageless beauty,” and the pursuit of younger and more beautiful skin. Dove, on the other hand, has a quite different message, with its “real beauty” campaign that celebrates all types of beauty and encourages you to nourish both your skin and a positive attitude about how you look.
MBLM’s Brand Intimacy Study uses a variety of archetypes as a way to measure emotional connections. The strongest, most influential archetypes vary according to industry group.
In technology and telecommunications, for example, enhancement is the dominant archetype and it’s associated with becoming better through the use of a brand. With health and hygiene, however, the dominant archetype is ritual—and that’s fitting since it stands for a brand that is ingrained into one’s daily routines. “In fact,” says Natarelli, “ritual signifies more than just habitual behavior. It signifies that a brand has become a vitally important part of your daily existence.”
The study also shows decided differences in the emotional connections created with health and hygiene brands by gender and by age group. Women rank Olay as the top brand in this category and men rank Gillette number 1. Meanwhile, millennials put Dove at the top of their list, while the 55 to 64 age group give Ivory top ranking.
“Brands in this category have plenty of room for improving their intimacy bonds with consumers,” adds Mario Natarelli.