Of the 100 top Gen Z brands, 18 are also in my brand set. Only 6, however, could be remotely classified as favorites.
I must say this list is making me a bit skeptical about Gen Z (i.e. teens, for those of you not up on the latest demographic lingo). For example, Gen Z supposedly gravitate to brands that offer healthy eating and to companies taking bold stances on social issues.
Well not so fast! While a few of their favorites fall into those categories, the vast majority do not.
What almost all of the Top 100 brands do offer is:
- Strong social media presence, humor, relevant celebs and influencers
- Tasty, fun, snackable junk food
- Affordable/ A deal
- Useful and convenient!
Here’s the Gen Z Top 10 (those bolded are ones also in my brand set).
- #1: YouTube – Gen Z watches YouTube more than Netflix, Hulu, or cable. “The content on YouTube is so much more diverse and funny and relatable,” said one 16-year-old. “The stuff on TV is so outdated. I would watch Netflix, but I don’t have the money to sign up.”
- Doritos – engineered food!
- Oreos – popular for its weird flavors e.g. Swedish fish
- Hershey’s – going after Gen Z using Facebook (doesn’t sound like the smartest move)
- Cheetos – their food mashups are on-point!
- Nike – the top sneaker company in the US. and for Gen Z, excellent move to support/align themselves with Colin Kaepernick.
- Sour Patch Kids – they’re working on turning The Sour Patch Kid into a celebrity on Snapchat and YouTube (goodbye Facebook!)
- #10 – McDonald’s
Read on below for the remaining 11-100 and for my personal top 10. And just a heads-up, my personal top 10 does not include YouTube, Doritos or Oreos!
GEN Z TOP 11-19
- Apple – favorite tech brand with 90% of Gen Z claiming to have an iPhone?
- Kraft Mac & Cheese – their childhood favorite, made healthy with the removal of artificial colors/flavors in 2015
- Gatorade – top brand in sports drinks
- Taco Bell – Strong social media game (and, btw, just voted #1 Mexican restaurant in America)
- Axe – Its ad strategy appeals to social conscious Gen Z by tackling issues like toxic masculinity and how sexism hurts men (really?)
- Snickers – 80% of Gen Z have purchased
GEN Z TOP 20-29
- Chick-fil-A – the “coolest” fast-food, it’s the favorite restaurant of upper-income teens, and second for average-income teens.
- Coca Cola – new cans and celeb endorsements
- Snapchat – 45% say Snapchat is their social media platform of choice, though they’ve been moving away from the app to Instagram recently.
- Chips Ahoy – 80% have bought
- Subway – healthy?
- Kit Kat
- Instagram – Moving ahead of Snapchat in popularity
- Little Debbie – low-cost snack appeals to frugal Gen Z. The brand also has a strong social media presence.
- Bath & Body Works
- Goldfish – involved with 2 causes Gen Z care about: LGBT rights and organic food?
GEN Z TOP 30-39
- Facebook – they use the messenger app (and stay on Facebook primarily to stay in touch with older users/family etc.)
- Capri Sun – healthy? Sponsorship with John Legend?
- Wendy’s – healthy?
- Breyers Ice Cream – social media influencers and sustainability
- Adidas – Gen Zs are in love with Adidas’ street-style aesthetic. Its Stan Smith line cemented Adidas’ ranking as one of Gen Z’s favorite sneaker brands.
- Under Armour – the brand of underdogs
GEN Z TOP 40-49
- Dunkin Donuts – partners with social media influencers like Logan Paul (still??)
- Mountain Dew – humorous ads
- Cover Girl – a slew of new “authentically diverse” Cover Girls appeal to socially conscious Gen Z’s e.g. Ayesha Curry, Issa Rae, and Katy Perry.
- Converse – avoiding big name stars and going with smaller, more iconic names
- Nintendo – major product success stories with Switch and Pokemon Go
- Vans – popular for its 90’s styles
- Dairy Queen – cheap meal deals, and upping the quality of its Blizzard
- Lunchables – bigger portions?
- Dove – brand messaging for all size women
GEN Z TOP 50-59
- Old Navy – sponsored videos, like the My Squad Contest gives teens the chance to compete to meet their favorite internet celebrities.
- DiGiorno – facial-recognition software and YouTube celebrities
- Pillsbury – two-thirds have bought
- Jordan sneakers
- Hot Pockets – targets men age 18 to 34 (Gen Z tops out at 21) with ads focusing on gaming, music, and sports. Partners with influential online gamers.
- Kool-Aid – uses Snapchat filters to promote new products, a GIF keyboard, and partnerships with YouTube celebrities.
- Eggo – When “Stranger Things” started featuring the brand in 2016, Eggo seized the opportunity with Halloween costumes, new recipes and a Google Chrome extension.
- Ben & Jerry’s – big in social activism. Its YouTube channel features videos discussing climate change and how the company sources ingredients.
- Pizza Hut – delivers beer along with pizza?
GEN Z TOP 60-69
- Marvel – especially appealing to Gen Z — the most diverse generation in US history. Its afro-futuristic “Black Panther” is one of the highest-grossing films ever.
- E.L.F. Cosmetics – “microinfluencers.”
- Powerade – because it’s good for you?
- Slim Jims – it’s gone upscale, made from grass-fed beef or in flavors like Thai Style Chili.
- Old Spice – wacky, viral ads
- Dr. Pepper – two-thirds have purchased
- Levi’s – stretchier pants?
- Sprite – strong Snapchat game and healthy??
- Heinz Ketchup
- Totino’s – partnering with irreverent comedians?
GEN Z TOP 70-79
- Burger King – winning with food mash-ups — including its deep-fried concoction of mac ‘n’ cheese covered in Cheetos dust.
- North Face – focuses on socially responsible marketing strategies that emphasize its investment in women’s empowerment and environmentalism
- Maybelline – skilled at social engagement and influencers like Gigi Hadid, also educational posts.
- Domino’s Pizza – top-notch marketing, order using emojis, self-driving pizza delivery cars and a program for paving potholes across America.
- Ulta – Gen Z women spend more on beauty than apparel.
- Beats by Dre – celebrity marketing with Pharrell, Nicki Minaj, and Dr. Dre.
- Spotify – 60% say its their most used music app for its playlists, freemium model, and huge selection of music.
- Honey Nut Cheerios – sponsors gaming publications e.g. Kotaku
GEN Z TOP 80-89
- American Eagle – owes its popularity to lingerie line Aerie which Gen Z apparently sees as a sign of female empowerment (ads aren’t retouched). Also partners with activism influencers.
- Sephora – Gen Z beauty spending jumped 18% (vs. 2% increase in overall spending)
- Degree – celebrates diverse cultures, music, and dance in its advertising
- Twitter – apparently more popular with Gen Z than among millennials and Gen X?
- Hot Topic – Fashion trends have become more gothic and punk and they stock lots of plaid, band tees, and other 90’s gear.
- Clean & Clear – acne?
- Kohl’s – discount options are especially appealing?
- Butterfinger – 60% have bought
- Sonic Drive-In
- Samsung – one of the most talked about brands online due to its partnership with Instagram and YouTube influencers
GEN Z TOP 90-100
- Jif – teamed up with Hilary Duff
- Buffalo Wild Wings – you can customize with different sauces
- Toaster Strudel – high protein?
- EOS – Founded in 2009, targets influencers and celebrities vs. traditional PR
- Panera – fresh and customizable and has a delivery option
- Microsoft – 44% of Gen Z’s say it’s an “innovative” brand
- Dick’s Sporting Goods – shares values with socially minded Gen Z when it announced it would no longer be selling AR-15 assault rifles. (HOWEVER, sales down significantly after making this move.)
- Planters – considered a healthy choice by Gen Z?
- Hulu – only 2% of Gen Zs rely on cable
And here’s my Top 10 (not in any particular order). However, these are all brands/services that are in heavy rotation in my life:
- Soho House
- Wallaby Yogurt, tied with Greecologies yogurt
- Vans Sneakers
- YMCA (my local gym)
- Apple – phone and laptop
- Amazon, tied with Jet
- Bloomberg Media (TV and Podcasts)
- Whole Foods – you’ve all heard me complain incessantly about how it’s going downhill, nevertheless I shop there at least 3 or 4 times per week
What I find most interesting about a study like this, is the disconnect between what we “say” we value vs. what we actually do e.g. Gen Z claims to eat healthy but all the top brands fall squarely into junk food territory.
At the end of the day, most consumers (no matter their age), want products/services that make their lives better, more fun, easier. Convenience and price round out the top 5 priorities. Everything else is window dressing.