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Our Most Clicked Article of 2014: Who Do Millennials Trust?

This week, we’re continuing our look back at 2014, and giving you a look at the  last 12 months for the trends, insights, and takeaways we think you should remember for 2015. Today, we’re taking note of the information that you told us was important, and presenting our most clicked on article of 2014: Who Do Millennials Trust?  

Despite evidence that Millennials overall trust less than previous generations, “trust no one” hasn’t quite become their mantra. When we asked Millennials ages 14-32 if there are any brands that they can really trust, 73% said yes—an unexpected majority of brand trusters in a group that has become known for their skepticism of institutions.

Interestingly, some of the differences between younger and older Millennials might be affecting their trust levels, as 75% of Millennials over 18-year-old said there was a brand they could trust, compared to 68% of Millennials under 18. As younger Millennials were raised during the recession, they tend to be more pragmatic and less optimistic than older Millennials, and this lower trust level could stem from that background.
Of course, the fact that they say there is a brand they can trust does not mean that their trust isn’t tough to earn and easy to lose. They are still a group that is quick to react when they learn a brand is not meeting their expectations, and are often suspicious of the motives of companies. Meanwhile, a brand’s reputation can be contentious: even those brands that have earned the trust of some made the list of untrusted brands. 

So who do they trust? When we asked that 73% to tell us the brand they trust the most, tech brands dominated the top of the list:
Apple, Samsung, Google, and Nike (which for many is a blend of an attire and tech brand thanks to their pioneering fitness tracking technology) all rose to the top of the list of 20 most trusted brands. 12% of respondents who say there is a brand they can trust named Apple as that brand, double the amount of Nike, which was the second most trusted brand at 6%. Tech brands’ dominance of the most trusted list aligns with the generation’s reliance on their devices, but also shows that it might be brands that make the products they use every day that they feel they need to trust the most. Chipotle and Trader Joe’s were the only food-related brands to make the list, revealing Millennials’ love affair with local, fresh, and organic food. The three beauty brands mentioned follow a similar theme, with Aveeno, Dove, and LUSH all focusing on natural, authentic, nurturing ingredients and messaging. A look at the brands that they told us they trust the least reveals some interesting patterns:

Five of the top 20 most trusted and least trusted brands overlap, showing the inconsistent reputation a brand can have with the generation. In fact, the top two most trusted brands were also some of the top named as least trusted, with Apple topping the least trusted list and being named by 8%. The seemingly divisive feeling about the brand reveals that, despite their reputation for adoring all things Mac-related, the brand is not safe from having the generation turn their backs. Some Millennials see any brand that has become that big as a target for mistrust. As one respondent said, “Companies can be trustworthy when they are small and local. But once they are big enough to become a brand, it is almost impossible that there isn’t corruption of some kind in the company.”
The rest of the least trusted list shows that Millennial tastes are dictated by their trust levels. McDonald’s, which has had trouble attracting the generation, was named often, and is a clear contrast to the most trusted food brands. Abercombie & Fitch, which has lost a lot of ground with Millennials in the past few years, is one of just four retailers mentioned.   
While gaining the trust of Millennials is no easy feat, it’s clear that there is a pay off. Their most trusted brands are those that they are spending money on. Lose their trust and you lose their market.