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Gen Z & Millennials Think These Are 20 of the Most Innovative Brands

With young consumers, disruptors and experimenters rise to the top. What brands do 13-36-year-olds see as the most innovative? We looked to our brand tracker to find out…

One major takeaway from our new YPulse Brand Report was that to stay on top with young consumers, constant innovation is required. It’s the big name brands that constantly offer something new that stay in young consumers’ favor—and major disruptors rise to the top. Innovation is important to Gen Z and Millennials, who are always on the lookout for something different. (Three quarters of 13-34-year-olds tell us brands should always try new things, even if they’re not certain they will work, and 72% also say they’re always looking for new products to try.) Just look at the indie beauty brands winning with young consumers as one example. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna has only been around since 2017, but ranks highest as a beauty brand that young females pay attention to. That high standing is certainly related to the fact that YPulse respondents score it as the most innovative Health and Beauty brand overall. It was named among Fast Company’s “most innovative companies” for 2018 on the strength of Fenty Beauty YouTube tutorials, which earned 132 million views in a single month.

Innovation can lead to major payoff for brands—so being perceived as an innovative brand can be vital to your standing with young consumers. YPulse’s continuous brand tracking survey, which measures the perceptions of 13-39-year-old consumers across 400+ brands and 81,000 interviews annually, measures young consumers’ perceptions of brands across industries—including what brands they think are innovative. We compared their responses across industries to see who rises to the top:

Their Most Innovative Brands
      1. Apple
      2. Savage x Fenty
      3. Nike
      4. Amazon
      5. Google
      6. PlayStation
      7. Impossible Burger
      8. Dollar Shave Club
      9. Xbox
      10. Amazon Prime Video
      11. Hello Fresh
      12. Thinx
      13. Fenty Beauty
      14. Lush
      15. Under Armour
      16. Blue Apron
      17. Netflix
      18. Starbucks
      19. Samsung
      20. YouTube

*YPulse’s youth brand tracker measures young consumers’ relationships with a brand based on a weighted 6-point scale, ranging from “Never heard of this brand” to “This brand is one of my favorites.” We also ask respondents “Which of the following are INNOVATIVE?” These are the top brands that were rated as innovative within their industries, among those who are aware of the brand. The brands on this list are among the over 400 brands included in the brand tracker as of 5/8/2019. Rankings are subject to change as more brands are added and removed.

Though its signature product isn’t selling as it once was, young consumers still see Apple as the top innovative brand. Products like the Apple Watch and Airpods have become the new symbols of high-tech status, and the brand is working to shore up their innovation reputation elsewhere as well. According to Kidscreen, big announcements from Apple could shake up both the streaming and gaming worlds this year. Apple TV+ will bundle cable and streaming subscriptions for the Post-TV Gen, while sprinkling in original programming of their own. And to take on the lucrative gaming industry, subscriptions to the new Apple Arcade will give players access to “exclusive, original games” developed by the likes of Disney and LEGO.

For those wondering how Savage x Fenty is beating out some other big names, part of the answer is just how well it’s scoring as an innovative brand within its own industry (intimates). When young consumers are asked about what brands are innovative, those brands are compared to others from within the same industry. (This creates more fair competition and accounts for any industry biases due to associations with certain attributes.) When comparing scores across industries, category leaders will appear toward the top. If an industry only has a handful of strong brands, those numbers will appear higher than brands rated in a more competitive industry—you’ll notice that only one other intimates brand, Thinx, appears on this top 20 ranking, and it’s another major disruptor. Savage x Fenty has made an impression on young consumers with a subscription model, commitment to diversity, and, of course, Rihanna at the helm.

Looking at the rest of the ranking, the number of tech brands (Google, PlayStation, Xbox) and industry challengers (Dollar Shave Club, Hello Fresh, Blue Apron) aren’t surprising. But one buzzy name stands out from the pack. While food brands are rare on the list, The Impossible Burger ranks as the number seven innovative brand. The plant-based product is turning up on more and more mainstream menus—including, most recently, Burger King’s. Vegan foods were second on the ranking of food trends that Gen Z and Millennials want to try, showing that even those who aren’t eating a meat-free diet all the time are increasingly interested in dabbling in non-meat meals. Ad Age reports that it’s flexitarians, not vegans, who are driving the fake meat trend, and they’ve helped drive fake meat sales to $1.4 billion last year. The Impossible Burger is the poster brand for this trend, and young consumers’ perception of the product as innovative is certainly helping their rise.

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.