NEW YORK: Brand owners in the healthcare, financial and automotive sectors could derive particular benefits from building emotional bonds with shoppers, a study has indicated.

A new survey of 2,000 US consumers, conducted by rbb Public Relations and IBOPE Inteligência, sought to identify "breakout brands" – which put the customer, rather than chasing the competition, first.

Some 76% of those polled argued that an "emotional connection" was especially important in the healthcare segment, standing at 63% for banking, and 62% for professional services.

Travel logged 56% on this metric, beating insurance on 55%, the automotive category with 52% and technology firms on 44%, the same score as food. Beauty posted 19% here, ahead of apparel on 18%.

Overall, 83% of the sample agreed they would pay a premium for products where companies are seen as prioritising the customer. Almost 20% were prepared to meet a price that was at least 50% higher in such cases.

An additional 85% of consumers stated it was important to trade with organisations that prompted "strong emotions", a figure peaking among 18–24 year olds.

Apple, the electronics giant, led the charts in this area. Completing the top five were, Amazon, the ecommerce pioneer, Walmart and Costco, the retailers, and Southwest Airlines, the air carrier.

Chick-Fil-A, the restaurant chain, claimed sixth, in front of Toyota, the automaker, Nordstrom, the high-end goods chain, Starbucks, the coffee chain, and Ford, another car marque.

"Breakout brands don't challenge their competitors," said Christine Barney, CEO of rbb Public Relations. "They challenge their employees and leaders to make life easier [and] better for their customers, which create the kind of strong emotional bonds that inspire repeat purchases and loyalty."

Taking the example of Walmart, the study found that just 33% of its customers regarded positive emotions as a "very important" part of a relationship with a company.

Such a total compared with the rating of 46% registered among people who never shopped at Walmart stores, reflecting the fact price is the key consideration for the firm's clientele.

Turning to social media, 25% of interviewees believed corporations should communicate via this route, and the analysis suggested "the landscape is still changing".

"Breakout brands have communication in their souls," Barney added. "They build incredibly rich feedback loops that keep the company in touch with customers' needs today and tomorrow."

Data sourced from rbb Public Relations/MediaPost; additional content by Warc staff