We asked Gen Z which brands they loved in 2017, from fast food to tech companies (and more). Find out all their favorites below…
Over the course of 2017, we survey 13-17-year-olds on a huge range of topics—covering everything from tech to beauty. Ypulse’s monthly surveys (available in full to our Gold subscribers) keep tabs on their behaviors and preferences—including their favorite brands and people. This year, we asked them all about which companies have caught their attention, what brands they want to buy, who they rank as their top celebrities, and more. Here’s your exclusive look at the list of who won out with Gen Z in 2017:
Nike topped the list of clothing brands Gen Z love for the second year running. Athleisure is still an obsession for many young consumers, who are prioritizing comfort—though Nike was the only athletic brand that made their top five. But comfort isn’t the only thing that makes Nike a favorite. It also landed at the top of the list of non-tech brands Gen Z finds the most innovative, and interestingly, the reasons that young consumers named the brand were similar to the reasons they see Apple or Samsung as innovative: newness and constant improvement. Innovative marketing, like a recent NYC popup that made a MediaPost headline, along with a consistently strong social media presence can’t hurt the brand either.
Teens continue to name Apple as their favorite tech brand year over year. Young consumers described Apple as “innovative” over and over, and brought up the brand’s reliability, ease of use, and sleek designs as some reasons they rule the world of tech when it comes to brand favorability and recognition. Not only is Apple Gen Z’s favorite tech brand, but it’s also the luxury brand they most want to own—and the only tech brand that made their top five list in this category, beating out car and apparel brands.
Axe won the most votes for teens’ favorite personal care brands, even though Dove was the favorite for 13-34-year-olds overall. However, votes came in close with last year’s favorite Dove tying with drugstore cosmetic brands Elf and Covergirl. Axe may be winning with teens because of their efforts to tone down their over-sexualized marketing by leaving machismo behind and embracing the gender blur.
Gen Z teens’ favorite brand in the snack aisle (and the whole grocery store) is Doritos. Maybe it’s their outrageous advertising (which is returning to the Super Bowl this year), a marketing move that makes sense considering male teens propelled them to the top of our poll. After Doritos, Kellogg’s was the next closest contender. So while the cereal industry may be past its heyday of adorning the breakfast table day in and day out, cereal may still be a go-to snack and sometimes breakfast for teens.
Speaking of unhealthy foods teens like to indulge in…right around Halloween, we checked in with 13-17-year-olds on their candy preferences—and Reese’s was the favorite by a large margin. The popular peanut butter chocolate combo beat out Skittles, Snickers, KitKat, and Twix (in that order). Overall, the common theme for the top five was chocolate, but surprisingly “Chocolate” on its own didn’t make the cut. Branding must mean something to this young demo, as well-known brands won out overall.
Though independent, local restaurants are really teens’ favorite places to sit down for a meal, Olive Garden was their top-ranked chain. Many chain restaurants have struggled this year to appeal to young consumers that value unique one-offs, introducing menu items they think might appeal (Sriracha and such) in addition to upping their social media game (and offering more alcohol options for slightly older demos). According to SFGate though, Darden Restaurants’ CEO said this year that Olive Garden over-indexes on Millennial consumers, and it seems teens are turning to the not-so-local Italian restaurant, too.
McDonald’s barely beat out Chick-Fil-A to be Gen Z’s fast food favorite. But with few responses separating the contenders, it’s fairer to tally this up as a tie. The two brands are far and away the favorites, with roughly double the mentions of the third top pick, Taco Bell. McDonald’s has made themselves top-of-mind this year for young consumers by bringing back the dollar menu and through stunts like the Rick and Morty Szechuan sauce release—though the latter didn’t pan out so well…maybe all press is good press? Either way, the fast food giant continues to appeal to young consumers, showing that they’re not always seeking out healthy options.
The clear favorite for all demos to get their caffeine fix was Starbucks. And though more Millennials are drinking coffee, over one in five 13-17-year-olds told us they already drink coffee in a typical week. It’s been a big year for the brand, and they’ve gone way beyond their Pumpkin Spice Latte by introducing Instagrammable Frappuccinos galore. They started by hopping on the unicorn foods trend with their Unicorn Frappuccino but since then, Zombie Frappuccinos and Christmas Frappuccinos have also made headlines—putting them at the top of social feeds, and young consumers’ minds.
In the fight for teens’ favor, Snapchat is beating long-time rival Instagram and parent company Facebook. It seems Snapchat’s users are devoted to the app—despite recent drops in revenue that had stockholders sweating. It was also at the top of Gen Z’s list of apps they can’t live without, and one teen told us, “I constantly use Snapchat and I love updating my friends on what I’m doing.” Staying connected with friends was a common refrain for why they use the app as often as they do. And, yes, they seem to be using Snapchat a lot. Don’t believe us? Believe this 16-year-old: “I use it every day and it’s the thing I use most.”
Amazon had no problem taking the top spot for all demos when it came to online shopping in 2017—no other retailer even came close for teens. Most cited the convenience of Prime and two-day shipping as major reasons for spending their time (and money) on the site. The website’s easy-to-navigate interface paired with the huge selection and low price points also played into their preferences for the retail giant. This year, Amazon continued to expand its presence, competing with meal kit subscriptions, streaming services, and more—so we’ll see just how many industries are impacted in the coming years by this as-of-yet online-only shopping favorite.
If teens have to log off and shop in-person, they prefer to shop at Walmart. However, the competition was a close race with Target, and though customers mentioned the low prices and convenience of Walmart stores, they also often mentioned making a concession in either quality or customer service. For instance, one respondent told us, “Location and price. Both important enough to deal with the lack of customer service.” However, some seem to genuinely love the shopping stalwart, saying things like “I love to just walk the [a]isles to see what I can get.”
The Walking Dead is Gen Z’s current favorite show, despite older demos’ continued preference for Game of Thrones. In fact, the fantastical show doesn’t crack the top five for 13-17-year-olds who prefer cartoons like Stephen Universe and Rick and Morty, as well as supernatural content like Stranger Things and, yes, Supernatural. Why do young viewers continue to love the post-apocalyptic show year over year? Well, while some seem to be drawn to shows about the world ending in general, many say they’ve been too addicted for too long to give the show up without finding out what happens to their favorite zombie-fighting characters.
LeBron took the top spot for Gen Z’s favorite athlete for the second year, showing a shift from Steph Curry’s number one ranking in 2016—the two have been duking it out on our list for four years now as the top two contenders. Why do young sports fans favor James? Most mention that he’s the “GOAT” (Greatest of All Time) in one way or another, but some also brought up his humble attitude. So it’s a combination of talent and personality that propelled him to the top of their list. Fans had similar reasons for picking Curry though, so we may continue to see these two at the top in years to come.
Taylor Swift may have a reputation for winning this the last two years in a row, but Rihanna & Beyoncé stole her crown for 2017. Rihanna has been in the spotlight for more reasons than her music this year—she even went viral for her inclusive makeup line, Fenty Beauty, which put the beauty industry on blast for their lack of diverse options. She’s become more than a musician with her makeup endeavor, hence why she’s teens’ favorite all-around celebrity this year.
Last year, Taylor Swift took both the top spot for favorite celebrity and musician, but this year both had new number ones. But Beyoncé is no newcomer to music, and her Beybies (the name of her Next Level Fandom) have helped propel her to the top of the charts, all while she welcomed two twins into the world. Her pregnancy may have something to do with her popularity this year, too, because her announcement photo on Instagram broke the internet—and broke the record for most likes on the platform. Fans aren’t only obsessed with her music, but her personal life, too.
It doesn’t seem fair to only ask about traditional celebrities when so much of teens’ time is spent online—especially on YouTube. Despite the negative press he received in 2017, Pewdiepie still won this fight for internet fame. The notorious gamer won either in spite of or because of his headlines—because whether teens stayed by his side or turned on him, it surely kept him top-of-mind. However, we do know there’s still a lot of love for Pewdiepie, just judging from what this 17-year-old had to say about why he resonates: “He is comedic, entertaining, and genuine.”
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