A ranking of Gen-Yers’ favorite brands from Outlaw Consulting, a creative research firm in San Francisco that follows the habits of 21- to 27-year-olds, indicates what this generation represents: young, environmentally conscious consumers who may like fashion — but love a good bargain even more. The firm asked respondents which companies they trusted and respected most. Outlaw argues these brands represent the generation’s trends — “clean + simplicity = hip” and “dorky is the new cool,” while brands such as Apple show that Gen-Yers love reinvention. “These are the top brands whose values align with those of the generation — in their core philosophy, they really get what youth is about, and therefore are viewed by Gen-Yers as authentic and real, in terms of who they are and what they’re trying to achieve,” said Barbara Bylenga, Outlaw’s president.
Percentage of respondents who strongly agreed this was a more respectable brand than others: 60.9
Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple reigns supreme in the eyes of those surveyed, especially because of its simplicity. “Simplicity is more than just an issue of convenience or design,” said the report. “It actually delivers hipness to a brand. A company that is inconvenient or confusing, uses overdesigned imagery or provides too many choices is more than just annoying — it is seen as out of touch and ‘corporate.'” Respondents also pointed to the brand’s clean image — Apple’s products are stripped-down, with very little adornments. “Apple’s computers and iPods are so clean and simple and easy to use,” said one respondent. “No excess.”
The grocery chain started in 1958 as a small convenience store chain, and today there are 250 locations across the country. Trader Joe’s is known for placing hard-to-find, great-tasting foods on its shelves — all at low prices. “Some of [this generation’s] favorite brands aren’t cool at all — in fact, some of them are downright dorky,” said the report. One respondent commented on the Monrovia, Calif.-based company’s image, “They wear these tacky Hawaiian shirts and publish that ridiculous newsletter. But it’s their own style. And it’s so much more inviting than the normal rigid grocery store.”
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The company may have had a series of weather-related mishaps over the winter months, but Jet Blue’s recent skids on the runway haven’t dampened its brand image — at least not to this generation. Said one respondent regarding the Forest Hills, N.Y.-based airline: “Jet Blue is a brand that is described as quirky and unique.” The firm has attracted its fans by offering such perks as ample leg room, consistently low fares and in-flight movies on its new fleet of planes. Jet Blue also has created an extensive “Customer Bill of Rights,” which declares, for example, that travelers will be notified of delays and cancellations prior to departure, and they will be refunded in the event of a cancellation.
With its home base in Irvine, Calif., In-N-Out Burger is another brand that appeals to Gen-Yers because of its “dorky is the new cool” factor. “In-N-Out dresses employees in seriously dorky uniforms, but it’s all part of the brand’s one-of-a-kind identity,” said the report. “They’re loved precisely because they don’t fit into our conventions of what’s hip,” said one respondent. The burger chain operates differently from its competitors: Food is made to order (rather than precooked), expansion is intentionally slow (to keep its very loyal customer base) and wages are much higher than both federal and state minimums.
BEN & JERRY’S
Tapping into Gen-Yers’ sweet teeth has earned Ben & Jerry’s a spot in the top 12. Known for its colorful and cartoon-like marketing, advertising and packaging, the brand also has been outspoken about the environment. Its range of oddly named, yet delicious flavors, such as Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey, Half Baked and Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz, undoubtedly have attracted this generation, as well. The ice cream maker’s corporate headquarters in South Burlington, Vt., is the number-one tourist attraction in the state.
WHOLE FOODS MARKET
Whole Foods Market is considered to be the world’s leading retailer of natural and organic foods — so it only makes sense the food retailer would appeal to eco-conscious and health-conscious Gen-Yers, even if its high prices have earned it the nickname of “Whole Paycheck” (an image it is trying to counteract with lower-priced products). With 196 stores in North America and the U.K., the company, headquartered in Austin, Tex., was named one of the 100 best companies to work for in 2007 by Fortune magazine.
“Adidas has old-school authenticity that will never die,” noted the report. Young hipsters may be interested in checking out the “Originals Store” at adidas.com, which features older and classic looks from the German brand. Adidas also has been given a major injection of designer cred via its linkup with Stella McCartney. Products in her collection include the a3 Flyride 3 sneakers, the Seed Pearl Messenger Bag and the white A-line Tennis Dress.
“Not every brand can pull off the gritty sexiness of an American Apparel ad,” said the report. The Los Angeles-based retailer of casual apparel also has tapped into an ideal marketing tool: its own employees. Several respondents told Outlaw their respect for the brand stemmed from the fact that they have friends who work there and love their jobs. “These companies have created a powerful kind of advertising through their employees,” said the report.
From colorful KitchenAid appliances to the trendiest Proenza Schouler minidress, there is something for every Gen-Yer here. Target’s “Expect More, Pay Less” tag line suggests trendy, fashionable consumers can get their money’s worth at the mass merchant with designer names in every department — from Isaac Mizrahi, Liz Lange and Mossimo in apparel to Michael Graves and Thomas O’Brien in home decor. The “simplicity + clean = hip” trend applies to the stores, as well, reflected in their bright and clean layouts.
Creating exclusive fashion collections with designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Viktor & Rolf and celebrities like Madonna and Kylie Minogue has clearly kept Sweden-based H&M on Gen-Yers’ fashion radars. The retailer sells fashionable clothes at affordable prices, which makes this price-conscious age group an ideal target. Today there are approximately 1,400 H&M stores in 28 countries — its most recent opening, a new four-story shop in Shanghai’s shopping district of Lu Wan, was unveiled last week.
On Teenperformer.com, a site devoted to Gen-Yers, one 18-year-old female entered Levi’s as the brand to beat on the “favorite clothing” message board. She wrote, “I basically live in my boot-cut Levi’s jeans, cropped sweatshirts and baby Ts, depending on the weather, of course. Levi’s jeans are the best.” The iconic San Francisco-based denim brand may have had its struggles in recent years, but it continues to reinvent itself. Hot items available for female Gen-Yers include the 501 Boyfriend Cut Jeans, Superlow Boot Cut 518 Jeans and the Fleece Oversized Zip Hoodie.
Haven’t we all wanted to own a Volkswagen Bus or Beetle at some point in our lives? These days, students and Gen-Yers also are driving everything from Jettas to Passats to Rabbits. Over the past several years, Volkswagen of America has implemented several different marketing initiatives focusing on the college market. For example, in the fall of 2000, the brand created a program titled “The Major Motion Picture Show,” which was designed specifically to connect the Volkswagen brand with college students.