Millennials’ Top 20 Favorite Brands

It’s free content week! We're counting down our five most popular articles of 2015 so far, and giving all our readers access to them. Here is the 2nd most clicked, originally published January 15th, 2015—we hope you enjoy!

We asked Millennials to tell us their favorite brands, and culled their quantitative responses into a top 20 list that reflects this generation's tastes, values, and needs. We're diving deep into what made their top 20 and why.

Our most clicked article of 2014 was our dive into the brands that Millennials trust. Today, we’re going straight to the big question and showing you the top 20 companies that surfaced when we asked 13-32-year-olds to tell us what their favorite brand is. This is a qualitative look at the question, which we left open-ended, and narrowed down to their top 20 responses to glean insight on the brands that are appealing to this generation, and those that aren’t making the list.

When asking about favorite brands, it’s important to keep in mind that the responses will include those that are top of mind, those that are used most often, and those that are actually viewed in a positive light. That being said, clearly the list of top 20 brands can tell us plenty about young consumers’ tastes:

Apple, Nike, and TOMS were the top three favorite brands, in that order. Apple’s position at the top is not a surprise. Despite the standing slip they took at one point in 2014, they remain the brand that Millennials use most, have top of mind, and have positive feelings for. The top brands also reflects this generation's tech-mindedness, with three of the top five brands in the tech category: Apple, Samsung, and Google. If Nike is included as a tech brand (think Nike Plus, etc.) that makes a full four out of five. Tech brands' high ranking echoes their position in the most trusted brand list, and again these tech brands’ dominance aligns with the generation’s reliance on their devices. But it also shows that those brands they see as innovative and quality are highly esteemed. Innovative was a word that came up again and again with these brands: a 16-year-old male named Samsung because “They are very innovative and try to push forward with technology,” and one 24-year-old female chose Apple because they are “constantly innovative.”

In the same survey, we also asked respondents to choose the aspects that makes them want to buy from a brand. 66% told us they chose to buy from brands that have a positive message, and 54% chose to buy from brands that make them feel good about themselves. These qualities are clearly possessed by the top brands listed. One 21-year-old male said of Apple: “They have good products and I feel good buying from them,” and a 31-year-old female told us Victoria’s Secret “[m]akes me feel good about myself.”

Overall open-end responses for favorite brand were incredibly fragmented, reflecting niche brands, more independent companies, celebrities, and more designer labels. Of course, not included in this top 20 are the many Millennials who told us they don’t have a favorite brand. A good amount of these respondents let us know that as long as a product was ethical, or good for the environment, they would buy it. One 25-year-old female said, “Anything reusable and good for the environment,” while a 23-year-old male told us, “I like any that are environmentally friendly.” This preference for brands (even if they won’t name any specific one) that make a positive impact in the world is clearly reflected in the top 20. TOMS, Google, Lush, Dove and Coca-Cola were all given kudos from respondents who named them as a favorite for making a difference and giving back. A 29-year-old female told us she chose TOMS because she "can feel good about making a purchase from them. They use responsibly-sourced material, fair-wage labor and give back to communities.”

The fashion brands who made the top 20 reflect two of Millennials’ desired brand qualities: affordability and quality. While Levi’s and J.Crew made the list for their quality products and style, those who named Forever 21 were more likely to mention low prices and budget.

Of course, the categories of brands that didn’t make the top 20 also speaks volumes about these consumers: no car or food companies managed to crack the list.  

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The Newsfeed

“As a graphic designer, without the arts being available to me in school I would have been lost as a child and where to take my career path. The fact that schools are cutting art programs is heartbreaking.”—Female, 24, NJ

Applebee’s is putting down the sriracha and giving up on trying to appeal to Millennials. The brand has decided their newer menu items—like a “triple pork bonanza” sandwich—and attempt at a “modern bar and grill” reinvention has “alienate[d]” Boomers and Gen Xers. They’re shutting down more than 130 restaurants and bringing back initiatives from before their attempted “pendulum swing towards millennials,” all-you-can-eat specials and 2-for-$20 deals. Other brands are creating new spin off chains to appeal to fast-casual lovingMillennials, that “[lack] the associated baggage of the old.” (Inc, NPR)

Adults-only ball pits, bouncy houses, and giant slides are sweeping the U.K. Millennials seeking a break from adulthood are flocking to places like Wacky World’s “massive bouncy-castle obstacle course,” which started out as a children’s event. The founder received so many requests that now every event has an 18-and-over slot, and has expanded to 19 cities. This “trend for arrested development activities” is caused by nostalgia, but the influx of marketing and branding leveraging the emotion could be popularizing these playgrounds for adults. (The Guardian)

Facebook is responding to the trend of asking for birthday charitable donations by integrating it right into the platform. Users in the U.S. can now trade in all the “HBD”s they get on Facebook for donations to the cause of their choice: well-wishers will be notified of the birthday along with the selected non-profit, and get the chance to donate. Facebook will ask users which charity they wish to dedicate their day to two weeks in advance, allowing them to choose from 750,000 organizations. (TNW)

Appear Here is the Airbnb of pop-up shops, giving brands their perfect temporary store for the new era of retail. The company finds short term retail space, and has worked with big-name brands like Nike and Net-a-Porter to open “experimental activations” or “test new products.” As brick-and-mortar continues to suffer and long-term stores close, Appear Here says physical retail is still needed, but to “tell a story.” The pop-up industry was valued at $50 billion in 2015, and provides a more low-risk, flexible option to avoid the retail wasteland. (Glossy)

Millennials & Gen Z are turning a profit online and on mobile by re-selling their retail. Thredup, Poshmark, and Depop are just a few of the most popular brands cashing in on the resale economy’s $18 billion market, and some shoppers say they are making $300 a week on the platforms. Some are also using social to sell, often in conjunction with apps or sites, including Snapchat, Facebook Groups, and Instagram. College students on a budget are reportedly especially drawn to resale, thanks to convenience, value, and access to luxury at a lower price. (FN)

“Adult means being entirely independent. I pay my own bills, make all decisions in my life, and feel very in control.”—Male, 20, NY

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