This year’s Youth 100 list unveils what attributes make brands attractive to 18- to-24 year-olds and uncovers some surprises in which companies top the group’s ‘most desired’.
Brands that make life easier, more fun or help to save money are highly rated by young people according to a new report by youth researchers Voxburner. YouTube tops this year’s Youth 100 list, followed by Amazon, Google, BBC and Ben & Jerry’s.
Many brands in the top 100 follow these three fundamental requirements and those that achieve one or more are higher up in the list, according to Luke Mitchell, head of insight at Voxburner. (see Methodology, below.)
Google is useful to young people almost every day, says Mitchell, while fashion and price-focused brand H&M (at 28) does well in terms of saving people money. Urban Outfitters, which is considered a ‘cool’ brand, does not offer the same value so appears outside of the top 100 at number 143.
“Brands with those two functions [being useful and saving people money] are fundamentally important to young people’s lives every day so they develop strong relationships with them,” says Mitchell.
The third characteristic that stands out is fun. Brands such as Ben & Jerry’s (ranking fifth), YouTube (number 1), BBC (ranking 4) and Channel 4 (number 10) all use a combination of entertainment and function to appeal to 18- to 24-year-olds.
Skype, Wikipedia and PayPal also appear in the top 20, highlighting the ‘utility’ aspect in the choice of brands that young people love.
PayPal director of UK marketing Alison Sagar explains that this age group is a core audience for it. “With young adults leading the charge for mobile adoption, they are a critical audience for us. The PayPal brand is about being an easier, faster and smarter way to pay any time, any place and on any device. We have been established online for a long time, and with our recent app update, customers can now use their mobile phone to pay on the high street, at places like PizzaExpress, Warehouse and Oasis.”
Having good content and ‘shareability’ can also make a brand desirable, contributing to why YouTube comes top, Mitchell says. “Every time you go to YouTube it’s for something brilliant, something funny, inspiring or creative, unlike Facebook where you might log in, scroll about and find nothing of interest.”
However, pre-roll advertising and nasty comments posted by internet ‘trolls’ on YouTube are disliked very much, according to the qualitative element of the research, which had a focus group of 30 people. YouTube announced in September that it will moderate these comments more closely.
Having great content has helped the BBC take fourth place. Despite the Savile scandal, it remains a trusted brand overall. Providing on-demand services as well as being a brand that people have grown up with also contribute.
Meanwhile, Starbucks has fallen nearly 40 places from 31 in 2012 to number 70. The coffee chain’s issues around tax avoidance means that young people judge the brand according to their own morals, says Mitchell. Costa Coffee, by contrast, ranks at number 35, [down from its ranking at number 14 last year], helped by the fact that it has more shops so it is easy to access.
However, respondents are not prepared to discount Amazon, despite it also being caught up in tax avoidance, as it climbs from being 9th in 2012 to number two in 2013.
This year, the research also includes the top brands that young people would like to work for and highlights the disparity between brands they love in the top 100 and those they would be happy to be employed by.
Apple tops the list of companies young people would most like to work for but in terms of its overall popularity as a brand, it is at number 18. Google is the second most favoured employer, followed by Topshop, the NHS and the BBC. However, Topshop comes at 82 in the list of the most popular brands, compared with the BBC in fourth place. The NHS is not on the list.
This section of the research is where social and digital factors become important, with media brands such as the BBC and Samsung (at 13 in the list of employers) creating exciting products which helps them to be seen as cutting edge.
Emily Cramp, managing director at Thinkhouse, which carried out the employer brand part of the research, says: “Apple has been voted the most admired brand in the world by Fortune magazine consecutively from 2008 to 2012 so it’s no surprise that it has landed the top spot as the brand this audience would most like to work for. It is seen as a market leader and risk taker, which makes it hugely exciting to this age group.
“The age group feels passionately about brands that, after playing a functional role, strive to be socially and digitally connected in day-to-day life. Media brands like Google and the BBC, tech brands like Samsung and lifestyle brands like Coca-Cola have evolved and are creating exciting products and entertaining content that this age group can relate to.”
Trends website BuzzFeed does not feature in either of the lists, in spite of it being content and social-media focused.
[The exclusion of] “BuzzFeed is the biggest shock, considering the high internet usage of young people as well as its content agenda.” says Mitchell. “The focus group had heard about the site so maybe its digestible content is also disposable; a quick laugh but leaves little long-term impact.”
Some industries, however, fail to either be popular with 18- to-24-year olds or be part of their employer consideration set. The travel industry does not feature, for example, although leisure brands such as Odeon, Ticketmaster and Alton Towers do.
Brands that receive a high ’no feeling’ score are also in danger of losing relevance or dropping out of the list next year suggests Mitchell. Andrex, Vue cinemas, Uncle Ben’s and the Post Office all have high no feeling scores, although they do feature in the top 100. Of those surveyed, 39 per cent say they have ‘no feeling’ about Durex and the figure is the same for Thorpe Park but they rank at 74 and 90, respectively.
Mitchell believes that impact and relevancy are both important aspects of the brands in the top 100 and suggests that those that do not appear or are low down in the list look at those coming out on top and how relevant they are to young people every day.
Focusing on being relevant, good value and fun is what successful brands in this list do well, and others may benefit from applying these qualities to reach the elusive youth.
The Youth 100 report, conducted by Voxburner in collaboration with partners Thinkhouse and The Student Room, asked more than 2,500 18- to-24-year olds to rate 250 brands according to whether they love, like, dislike, hate or have no feelings towards them.
The ‘like’ and ‘love’ scores are added together to create the top 100. This year’s report has a thousand more respondents than last year’s, including young people who are not in education, to ensure a broader mix of people.
The second part of the research looks at which companies young people would like to work for. More than 1,200 university students were surveyed by Thinkhouse and their answers are unprompted.