11/11/2013 08:17 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Top 100 Most Loved Brands: New Study

What drives our attachment to brands? The simple answer is emotion. Silly answer? Not when you look deeply at brands such as Walt Disney, Yahoo, Google, Sony and Nestlé.

The marketing industry has always striven to give consumers a happier impression of companies, and intuitively we've always known this helps a company's business outcomes as much as other key operational elements. But, there has been scant research to quantifiably show the business results that a strong attachment to a brand can bring. Now there is strong research supporting what the industry has been saying all along - when it comes to corporate brands, emotions matter.

A new extensive study by APCO Worldwide, which bought creative ad agency StrawberryFrog last year, has quantifiably demonstrated the effects of consumer emotion on brands and determined what makes some the most-loved companies in the world. After asking tens of thousands of consumers around the world and years of research in refining its Emotional Linking model, APCO was able to quantifiably demonstrate the emotional attachment people have towards these brands. Indeed, this research demonstrates that the emotional attachment consumers have with corporate brands drives up to 60 percent of their purchasing decisions.

This culminated recently in the Top 100 Most Loved list announced by APCO that got quite a bit of attention. Rounding out the top 10 after Walt Disney, Yahoo! and Google are are Sony, Nestle, French retailer Auchan, Netflix, Whole Foods, Apple and Lowe's.

Four particularly intriguing findings from the study include:
• PepsiCo (No. 17) trails Coca-Cola (No. 14), but not by as much as one might expect;
• Six of the top 25 brands were born from the Internet;
• Whole Foods (No. 8) is more than 60 spots ahead of McDonald's;
• Some B2B companies, such as IBM, rank well ahead of many well-known business-to-consumer companies

At StrawberryFrog, prioritizing the emotional attachment consumers feel toward brands has been a key component of the founding principle of Karin Drakenberg and mine back in 1999 - namely to build cultural movements for brands. We feel an emotional link to a brand, often based on how well the brand idea aligns with an idea on the rise in culture. Simply put, brands that do this are more relevant and meaningful, and we take it upon ourselves to love them above others.

For example, working with my colleague Kavya Peerbhoy for one of our clients, the European Wax Center one of the fastest growing service brands in the country, we have worked very closely with the company's management on building emotions around the brand by "celebrating gorgeous skin for everyone in a more modern , more vibrant more contagious way," Kavya says. EWC knows their guests very well. They've taught us what's important for the guest. And together, we have found a powerful way to distinguish the brand with values, accumulated know-how and emotional impact.

This strategy is more than the firm's preference: it's good business with proven results. This approach to their branding has helped the company to grow quickly. Indeed, Inc. Magazine named it best franchisee company in the country three years running. With the Most Loved Companies, we see similar results. To build the better brand, and ultimately the better company, an emotional link is needed.