Consumers have a particularly strong connection with the Apple brand. The technology company came in at No. 1 in MBLM’s 2021 Brand Intimacy COVID Study, a study of brands based on emotional connections during the pandemic. MBLM—pronounced “Emblem”—uses emotional science to build and manage more intimate brands. Amazon and Google are second and third in the study overall, respectively. Brand Intimacy is the emotional science behind the bonds people form with the brands they use and love.

MBLM’s study reveals that the remaining brands in the top 10 are Amazon, Disney, Target, YouTube, Toyota, Walmart, Costco, Harley-Davidson and Google. The latest COVID rankings show many of the top Brand Intimacy performers continue to lead. However, there were four new top 10 entrants: Target, Costco, Harley-Davidson and Samsung. There has also been a shift in focus with more retail brands in the top 10 and fewer media and entertainment brands, which MBLM suggests points to the beginnings of a shift to post-pandemic normalcy in terms of how customers engage with brands and a greater reliance on retail brands.

Intimate brand performance has increased, on average, seven percent since the start of COVID, resulting in more users willing to pay 20 percent more and fewer willing to live without the brand. Top intimate brands have also continued to outperform leading brands in the Fortune 500 and S&P 500 indices in profit, and stock price growth over last year, generating an additional $16 billion in profit.

“In year two of the pandemic, our study reveals the brands that pivoted effectively and benefitted from doing so, demonstrating how leading brands continue to gain emotional currency in our lives,” says Mario Natarelli, managing partner, MBLM. “The reality is that the pandemic has created brand winners and losers—and those that are ‘winning’ are seeing dramatic improvement in business performance and increased distance between themselves and their competitors.”