2022 was a busy year for brands and young consumers. YPulse’s Shopping and Retail report data shows shopping in-store once again became Gen Z and Millennials preferred shopping method (though they’ll always be online shoppers, too). But inflation, and the fear of a recession, took a toll on their finances and they were looking to brands to help them get through heavy spending seasons without breaking budgets. Brands tapped into the kind of marketing young people love most, which often meant being personal in their social media ads and leaning into the metaverse. And the brands who listened to these gens’ changing needs and preferences ultimately came out on top.
YPulse’s Brand Tracker tracks the overall youth affinity for over 200 brands in North America (and even more in Western Europe) with data from 20 unique diagnostics, all rolled into a YScore+, which Pro users can access any time. Based on weekly data from our brand tracker over the course of the year, our Biggest YScore+ Rises and Falls of 2022 Special Report digs into how brands gained or lost affinity from 13-39-year-olds in 2022. But these are the brands who are going into 2023 with the highest YScore+ for Gen Z and Millennials:
Social media brands rank higher with Gen Z
Yes, Gen Z and Millennials both love social media, but when it comes to their top scoring brands across all industries, social media ranks higher with the younger gen. And of course, it’s their two favorite video content platforms taking top spots: YouTube and TikTok. While YouTube ranks in fourth for Millennials, it’s Gen Z’s number one brand, just as it was last year. YPulse’s Social Media Monitor report shows YouTube is the platform Gen Z uses most often, but TikTok follows closely behind, which keeps their affinity ever growing closer.
But it’s important to note that these two brands are social media platforms that aren’t really that “social” and are more for individual entertainment. And though our Media Consumption Monitor shows short and long form video content are closely competing for Gen Z’s favorite, these two apps have made it a point to offer both, heightening the competition between them. YouTube implemented the TikTok-like YouTube Shorts function, and TikTok extended their video length options to 10 minutes and recently began test-running a horizontal screen mode to watch longer content. It’s also of note that while these entertainment brands are in their top five, streaming entertainment giant Netflix falls lower on the list—another sign that social media videos are coming for traditional entertainment with Gen Z in charge.
Millennials’ favorite brands are the ones they shop with
Millennials’ top two favorite brands are ones that drive their love for shopping—especially online. Our Shopping and Retail report data shows 57% of Millennials say they regularly shop on Amazon, and when it comes to clothing, Amazon is both gens’ favorite place to shop, online or off. As YPulse’s Mass Merch Mentality trend report shows, Millennials favor Amazon’s huge online catalog for the variety and price-worthiness for every product they could possibly need being all in one place (with two-day shipping as a bonus).
PayPal goes hand-in-hand with their online shopping, and our Decoding Brand Affinity report shows it’s a top brand young people consider trustworthy, likely in part to the security of its financial transactions. With their plethora of financial services including personal peer-to-peer payments, business payment solutions, and more, it’s the app that brands utilize for secure online payments, and since it’s an introduction to the market, the fintech app continues to evolve with growing generations. For example, the need for ways to pay others is increasing as young consumers age into more financial responsibility, and PayPal makes it possible to do this, but unlike Venmo, PayPal is more focused on business-oriented P2P payments. Millennials are more likely to use P2P apps to pay for goods and services, which is likely why they have higher affinity for PayPal than Gen Z.
New brands to the ranking appeal to young consumers’ changing interests
Though there are, of course, some brands young people are highly loyal to that make their top rankings year after year, a few new brands rose into their top 10 this year through targeting their changing interests and needs. In a significant move, Cash App rose into number seven on Gen Z’s list showing how finance brands are of growing importance to this gen as they age into spending their own money. The brand is making major Gen Z-focused strides and their efforts have landed them the top spot on the list of “The Biggest YScore+ Risers of 2022.” A major part of their success has to do with the app’s “do it for the culture” approach to ads—relating to Gen Z through representation, celebrities, and pop culture. But it’s not only their entertaining marketing that is driving Gen Z’s affinity to the brand, the product itself is catered toward this young, mobile-first generation. Not only does the peer-to-peer app allow users to pay each other, buy things, and even pay bills—they reward them for doing so. Cash App also offers exclusive discounts when users purchase with Cash App’s “Cash Card,” a debit card linked to a users Cash App account (which is now available to 13-year-olds). Doritos also broke into Gen Z’s top 10, likely as a result of their Gen Z focused marketing this past year: in addition to their Stranger Things collab concert, they held multiple social media challenges, even waded into the metaverse with them.