Monday, April 23, 2007

Gen Y-ers Like Our Brands Simple

This survey by a marketing group found that "Gen Y-ers" (those born after 1978, in this arbitrary definition) prefer brands that are simple and straightforward. And I have to say, the brands on that list with which I'm familiar are my preferred brands. In fact, they list all of the national brands about which I feel actively positive, including the top three: Apple, Trader Joe's, and JetBlue (further down the list are other brands I like, including Ben & Jerry's, Whole Foods, Target, and Converse). The only brand on the list I actively dislike is American Apparel, which I loathe for its skeezy sex ads (and for its skeezy CEO) (not to mention its inability to conceive of women over a size 10). I'm not that familiar with Red Stripe beer, but I admit I do find the "Hooray, beer!" ads charming, and for pretty much the reasons the survey describes: the branding isn't too elaborate or aspirational; it's just beer (hooray, beer!) without any bells and whistles. None of the classic advertising "You'll sleep with this hot babe and earn the respect of your peers if you drink our nasty beer!" gambits.

This is really interesting to me. What is it that attracts me (and my generation) to these companies? For me, there's a certain transparency to all of them--the "qualities" of the brand (i.e. the way the brand characterizes itself) are associated with the qualities (and quality) of its products, and none of them are known for terrible customer service or complicated corporate procedure. Some of them are also explicitly "in touch with the youth"--i.e. Ben & Jerry's new Colbert Report-themed flavor and the weirdo lower-cased ramblings on Vitamin Water bottles--and that counts for something, too. Mostly, though, I really do think all of these companies sell good products, generally maintain higher-than-average levels of corporate responsibility, and don't gussy it up too much.

I wonder if this apparent preference will drive future trends in branding and corporate policy--if it does, I'm cautiously optimistic that the effects will be positive ones.


Dasha said...

Maybe its because we are exposed to so much branding and advertising and the total effect is such a jumble that when we see something simple and streightforward, we breathe a sigh of relief.

3 Things About Money said...

I'm not gen-y but those are most of my favorite brands as well. I have to agree with dasha. In a world of deceit, sleaze, and sleight of minds, I think we just crave the characteristics of transparency, truth, and simplicity.

Alex said...

The following phrase gave me pause: "Outlaw surveyed 100 of what it calls its 'most forward trendsetter panelists'". I wonder what their critera was for that. I am a gen-y-er, and I do like most of the brands listed. I agree with you on American Apparel though. In addition to the skanky ads and cheap(ly made) clothing, I'm suspicious of any place that tries to tell me that I'm a L (I'm a size 2, for pete's sake. Come on now).

Anonymous said...

I am just a few years older than Gen-Y and I don't trust any company/brand particularly. If they try to make themselves look transparent and trustworthy, it's because they think that consumers will go for it and that will affect profits.

I'd rather not be on this consumerist wagon actually. I chooose not to define myself by the brands I use. I don't wear clothing with a visible logo. I would buy all of my clothes at thrift stores if it wasn't so hard to find plus-size clothes there. I have started learning to sew instead. When possible I like to buy local, not from a chain. I like to buy produce at the farmer's market and grains/beans/etc at a local, independent natural foods store. When I finally decided to buy an MP3 player (and I don't usually buy many electronics -- I don't even have a cell phone), I deliberately chose not to buy an iPod because I don't like how hyped it is and how everyone has one.