Pandemic Proof: The Most Loved Brands of COVID-19
View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.
Since March of this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of people to physically distance themselves from others, yet many feel closer to their loved ones than ever before.
When it comes to brands, consumers have forged relationships that could be just as meaningful. In fact, consumers demonstrated a 23% increase in the number of brands they have an emotional connection with—so what does this mean for brands?
The graphic above highlights data from MBLM’s Brand Intimacy COVID Study which measures how emotionally connected consumers in the U.S. are to the brands they use, and how brands can benefit.
The Power of Love
While attracting eyeballs or increasing foot traffic may carry a lot of weight when it comes to determining the success of certain brands, the real metric that should be paid attention to is love.
Brands that nurture emotional bonds with their customers tend to outperform top companies listed on the S&P 500 and Fortune 500 in both revenue and profit. Not only that, they can also build higher levels of trust, which in turn breeds a more loyal consumer base over time.
“The concept of brand intimacy is important for marketers because emotion has been proven to drive purchase decisions, and also long-term customer bonds.”
—MBLM Managing Partner, Mario Natarelli
As the global pandemic rages on, this idea has become more relevant than ever before. Consumers have been using their newfound time to deepen their relationship with brands, but who has managed to win their hearts?
Brand Love in the Time of COVID-19
Apple has been named as the most loved brand during COVID-19, moving up from third place before the pandemic. Even though the tech giant beat Disney and Amazon for the top spot, its success can mostly be attributed to female and millennial consumers, while Amazon was voted the most loved brand for male consumers.
The list of most loved brands has seen three new additions throughout the year: Google, YouTube, and Toyota, which means that media and entertainment brands now dominate the list. The retail industry has also increased intimacy score performance by 9.4% during the pandemic, with Walmart flying the flag for retail brands in fourth place.
The Formula for a Happy Relationship
When it comes to giving consumers what they want, Apple ticks the box for three important need states highlighted in the report:
- Fulfilment: A brand that exceeds expectations by delivering on superior service, quality, and efficacy.
- Ritual: When a person ingrains a brand into his or her daily actions, it becomes a vitally important part of their everyday life.
- Enhancement: Customers become better through use of the brand—smarter, more capable, and more connected.
Interestingly, brands that are part of the smartphone ecosystem generally outperform brands that are not, and the ecosystem has only increased in strength during the pandemic. Moreover, brands that fall into the “devices” or “content/information” categories have higher intimacy scores, and are therefore more loved.
There has also been an increase in the performance of brands in the “access” category—such as Verizon and AT&T—which may be attributed to the value people are placing on communication during the pandemic.
It’s also worth noting that consumers have increased their usage of virtual conferencing brand Zoom more than any other brand in the study.
While hand sanitizer brand Purell did not make the list of most loved brands, it ranked in first place when it comes to the best response to the pandemic and is the brand consumers are most willing to pay 20% more for.
Overall, it is clear that COVID-19 has had a huge influence on the brands that consumers connect with most. With their preferences now leaning towards brands in the smartphone ecosystem, one has to wonder: will marketers of the future place more value on winning the hearts of consumers, or simply getting in their hands?
Ranked: The 20 Best Franchises to Open in the U.S.
Considering factors like the cost of investment and number of locations, this graphic breaks down the best franchises in the U.S.
Ranked: The 20 Best Franchises in the U.S.
The U.S. is famous for chain restaurants, franchised shops, and brand name hotels. One thing these franchises aim for is consistency in store feel, customer service, product offerings, and prices, no matter which state you’re in.
This visualization uses Entrepreneur’s annual Franchise 500 Ranking to showcase the best franchises in the U.S. worth owning, from Dunkin’ Donuts to Snap-on Tools.
The Best and How They Were Selected
The report assessed five broad categories to score the country’s famous chains:
- Costs & fees: including franchise fee, total investment needed to open one store, and royalty fees
- Support: including training times, marketing support, operational support, franchisor infrastructure, financing infrastructure, and litigation
- Size & growth: including open & operating units, growth rate, and closures
- Brand strength: including social media, system size, years in business, years franchising
- Financial strength & stability: including franchisor’s audited financial statements
A franchise was only considered if it was actively seeking new franchisees and must have already had at least 10 units operating.
Here’s a closer look at the top 20:
|Rank||Franchise||Initial Investment Needed||Global Units 2022|
|#1||Taco Bell||$576K - $3.4M||7,900|
|#2||Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen||$384K - $3.5M||3,851|
|#3||Jersey Mike's Subs||$194K - $955K||2,402|
|#4||The UPS Store||$122K - $508K||5,464|
|#5||Dunkin'||$438K - $1.8M||12,957|
|#6||Kumon||$67K - $146K||26,527|
|#7||Ace Hardware||$292K - $2.1M||5,746|
|#8||Culver's||$2.3M - $5.8M||871|
|#9||Hampton by Hilton||$12.3M - $22.8M||2,824|
|#10||Wingstop||$315K - $948K||1,873|
|#11||Tropical Smoothie Cafe||$277K - $584K||1,142|
|#12||Arby's||$629K - $2.3M||3,561|
|#13||KFC||$1.4M - $3.2M||26,498|
|#14||McDonald's||$1.4M - $2.5M||39,696|
|#15||Wendy's||$330K - $3.7M||7,049|
|#16||Servpro||$217K - $271K||2,050|
|#17||Smoothie King||$264K - $1.2M||1,373|
|#18||7-Eleven||$125K - $1.3M||81,887|
|#19||Budget Blinds||$141K - $212K||1,378|
|#20||Snap-on Tools||$201K - $465K||4,771|
The number one franchise, Taco Bell, has been in business since 1964 and has 7,900 locations as of 2022, spanning beyond the U.S. to Canada, Australia, Europe, and other regions of the world. The average cost of investment to be a franchisee is between $576,000 to $3.4 million.
While most of the top 20 are in the food service industry, there is also one hotel, one shipping company, and a few hardware and home goods stores that make the list.
Ace Hardware (#7), for example, which specializes in home improvement goods, is actually an international franchise with close to 6,000 units. Kumon (#6) is an education center and is the only non-U.S. franchise on the list.
The Feasibility of Being a Franchisee
To get a better sense of the costs needed to start a franchise, let’s take a look at one of the most famous convenience stores in the world. Here’s a sample of the different fees involved in 7-Eleven’s initial franchisee process:
|Initial Franchise Fee||$0 - $1,000,000|
|Initial Investment||$125,250 - $1,333,500|
|Cash Requirement||$50,000 - $250,000|
|Veteran Incentives||10-20% off franchise fee, up to $50,000; preferred interest rates and special financing|
|Ad Royalty Fee||1%|
|Term of Agreement||15 years|
|Is franchise term renewable?||Yes|
In terms of low-cost franchises, 7-Eleven is among one of the cheapest to open, according to Entrepreneur, sometimes costing less than $150K. Other franchises with lower cost barriers of entry include UPS ($122K – $508K) and Cinnabon ($112K – $547K).
There is more to consider than cost, of course, and some franchises provide better support than others in aspects such as financing, industry training, or legal support. Popeye’s, for instance, provides in-house financing for their franchise fee, as well as connections with third-party sources to help cover equipment, inventory, payroll, and other expenses.
Looking at feasibility in regards to opportunities, some of the fastest-growing franchises include chains like Jersey Mike’s Subs and Wingstop. Here’s a closer look at the Franchise 500’s fastest growing list:
- #1 Stratus Building Solutions
- #2 Jersey Mike’s Subs
- #3 Goosehead Insurance
- #4 Signal
- #5 Wingstop
In total there are almost 800,000 franchises in the U.S. The franchise market in the country has an economic output of over $825 billion and employs over 8.4 million people. With many of these franchises continuing to grow and seek new franchisees, there is ample opportunity in the market.
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