Men and Women Have 'Intimate' Connections to Different Fast Food Restaurants

But we're all eating a bit more fast food these days.

Pedestrians walk past an American fast food company McDonald
Photo: SOPA Images via Getty

For individuals and businesses alike, the world is a much different place in January 2021 than it was in January 2020. A pandemic has totally disrupted our daily routines, shuffling our preferences and habits as consumers in the process.

Now, the latest edition of an annual branding study from marketing agency MBLM shows just how Covid-19 has changed our perception of various fast food brands, revealing a bit of interesting info about the disparate preferences of men and women in the process.

According to the agency's Brand Intimacy Covid Study, Chick-fil-A enjoys the strongest "brand intimacy" of any fast food company, meaning it outranks competitors when it comes to forming emotional bonds along the six archetypal dimensions of fulfillment, identity, enhancement, ritual, nostalgia, and indulgence. In particular, the chicken chain scored highly when it came to the idea of fulfillment and indulgence, sentiments that could really apply to any well-liked fast food chain.

What was interesting about Chick-fil-A's scoring in particular was that women felt a more intimate connection with the brand than men. While Chick-fil-A took the top spot overall across demographics, men actually felt the strongest "intimate" connection to McDonald's in the 2021 edition of the survey, taking over the top spot from Starbucks. Though fast food as a category performs better for men than women (and better among the young than the old), female support for Chick-fil-A was enough for it to take the brand intimacy throne.

In terms of more concrete, quantitative data, MBLM's study shows that daily fast food consumption is actually up 37 percent since the pandemic took hold, despite the fact that some in the industry haven't fared as well financially amid shutdowns and an improvised shift to a more delivery-driven model.

"Despite daily consumption increases, the fast food industry has been severely affected by stay-at-home orders and initial closings. However, consumers have been more emotionally connected to fast food brands during the pandemic," MBLM managing partner Mario Natarelli said in a press release. "As we return to 'normal' life, fast food brands should find a way to reference what we have all been through together and how they have reliably comforted us through this crisis."

For a brand like Chick-fil-A, it might be worth cashing in on that brand loyalty to boost the bottom line — literally. According to data from the study, 22.1 percent of surveyed customers said they'd be willing to pay 20 percent more for Chick-fil-A, significantly higher than the 14.1% average across all brands in MBLM's study.

While some facets of how we interact with restaurants is likely to change for good in the post-pandemic world, it's possible that the nature of our "intimacy" with the brands who feed us will change as well, even if the idea of intimately connecting with a corporation feels silly. Still, you can't discount that people of all kinds — but especially women — love their Chick-fil-A.

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