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Youth Brand
Affinity Tracker

UK Edition

US Edition

Each quarter, we analyze the performance of leading brands in 10 of the sectors most important to Gen Z consumers.

To compile the Youth Brand Affinity Tracker, we look at four key metrics:

  • Brand Visibility
  • Brand Engagement
  • Purchase Intent
  • Brand Advocacy

Discover the top Gen Z brands in your sector

  • Overview
  • Fashion
  • Sports & Athleisure
  • Tech & Mobile
  • Entertainment
  • Restaurants & Takeout
  • Food & Drink
  • Grocery
  • Retail
  • Health & Beauty
  • Travel

Unlock the latest results

Complete your details to reveal the standings this quarter, access exclusive sector insights and see which brands are winning with Gen Z right now.

Unlock the latest results

Complete your details to reveal the standings this quarter, access exclusive sector insights and see which brands are winning with Gen Z right now.

Fashion

We polled over 1,000 young people to find out which fashion brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

There are some interesting movements this quarter in the fashion sector as Forever 21 takes the top spot after losing out to Old Navy in Q1. Having launched in the ‘80s and seen massive growth in the 90s and 2000s, Forever 21 has faced the challenge of remaining relevant to each new generation of young consumers. They’ve achieved this by focusing their marketing and products on the youth demographic exclusively, demonstrating loyalty to their target audience.

Examples of this include their partnerships with brands such as Juicy Couture, which not only taps into the nostalgic 2000s fashion trend, but also makes a higher end brand more affordable for young shoppers. The most expensive item in their new collaborative collection is $39.99.

In 2020, Forever 21 took their commitment to Gen Z a step further by launching their student program with Student Beans, offering a year-round 15% discount on online purchases, only available to verified students.

Another trend to take note of in the fashion sector is the growth of ecommerce. We’ve recently seen a changing of the guard, as this is the second quarter in a row where Chinese online retailer Shein has outperformed their American counterpart, Fashion Nova. Shein ranks lowest in this sector in terms of brand recognition, but makes up for it in other metrics (brand engagement and purchase intent) and ends up sixth overall. This combination of results is the sign of a brand on the rise, and one that Gen Z has fully embraced. Of those who have heard of Shein, an impressive 48% plan to make a purchase this quarter – significantly higher than the equivalent stat for any other fashion brand.

Leaderboard:

Fashion leaderboard Q2 2021

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Forever 21 84% 39% 33% 41% 95
2= Old Navy 88% 36% 30% 38% 88
2= Victoria's Secret 87% 34% 30% 40% 88
4 American Eagle/Aerie 79% 31% 29% 37% 60
5 H&M 79% 29% 27% 34% 58
6 Shein 59% 34% 30% 33% 50
7 Hollister 77% 26% 25% 32% 40
8= Fashion Nova 69% 23% 22% 28% 28
8= Gap 79% 29% 19% 25% 28
10 Urban Outfitters 68% 20% 18% 29% 18

Fashion – Retail

We polled over 500 young people to find out which in-store fashion brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

As one of Gen Z’s most beloved brands across all sectors, it’s no surprise to see Nike at the top here. Despite gyms being closed and sports events cancelled, Nike’s sales have remained strong throughout the pandemic, as health-conscious consumers turn their attention to home fitness and solo activities such as running.

A recent survey of Student Beans users revealed that 89% want to improve their fitness in 2021. What better way to incentivise themselves to get back into a fitness routine than to splash out on some stylish yoga pants or a cool new pair of trainers?

This quarter, Nike leapt ahead of our Q4 winner in this category, Primark. As one of the few remaining in-store-only fashion brands, the current lockdown means sales are not just reduced but non-existent for Primark in England, Scotland and Wales. While the retailer made the most of the festive season, opening some stores 24 hours a day in December, they have predicted lockdown will result in a £1bn loss. With store closures naturally impacting their brand engagement and purchase intent scores, we’re intrigued to see whether Primark will reclaim its crown once lockdown ends.

Elsewhere in the chart, it’s been a strong quarter for Adidas, which moved up from no.5 to no.3. The sportswear brand is particularly strong on the brand advocacy metric, perceived as both cool and good quality. Partnerships with superstars such as Beyoncé and Kanye West help Adidas to remain relevant and enable them to charge premium prices for their most sought-after, limited edition products, even though their customer base is relatively young. They provide a useful case study for brands who want their products to be front of mind when Gen Z consumers are ready to splash out on a special treat.

Leaderboard:

Fashion retail leaderboard UK 2021 Q1

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Nike 96% 52% 46% 57% 93
2 Primark 95% 53% 47% 52% 90
3 Adidas 97% 42% 36% 53% 83
4 JD Sports 93% 46% 38% 48% 73
5 H&M 92% 37% 32% 43% 55
6 Sports Direct 94% 32% 27% 38% 50
7 New Look 88% 35% 27% 39% 43
8 Topshop/Topman 87% 30% 25% 37% 24
9 Zara 83% 29% 25% 37% 21
10 Next 92% 28% 21% 34% 20

Sports & Athleisure

We polled over 1,000 young people to find out which sports and athleisure brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

Perhaps the most beloved Gen Z brand across all categories, Nike consistently scores high across all the metrics we track. Their strong purchase intent is particularly impressive considering their products are at the higher end of what Gen Z will typically consider paying for clothes and shoes, and their brand advocacy score shows a real affection for the brand and an affinity with its values.

One of those values Nike is known for is sustainability, and they’ve recently launched an intriguing new project that could be seen as a response to the rise of sneaker resale apps like StockX and GOAT. Nike Refurbished is described by the company as their latest “circular consumer offering.” Customers are now able to return old Nike shoes to 15 of their stores across the US, in order for those shoes to be recycled and resold as brand new sneakers. This is part of Nike’s broader Move To Zero initiative, which involves documenting their journey to zero carbon and zero waste, appealing to young consumers’ desire for environmental action and greater transparency from brands.

Nike’s top competitor Adidas has also been contributing to the sustainability movement in the sportswear industry, recently launching their first pair of trainers using mycelium leather, a vegan alternative to traditional leather which is essentially made by growing a certain type of mushroom. The shoes, part of Adidas’ popular Stan Smith franchise, launched to a positive reaction from sneakerheads and environmental advocates alike in April. Adidas are the latest brand to use mycelium leather in a new product, following in the footsteps of Lululemon, which also features in our sports and athleisure top 10.

Leaderboard:

Sports Leaderboard Q2 2021 US

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Nike 93% 58% 50% 61% 100
2 Adidas 89% 37% 35% 50% 88
3 Vans 88% 39% 34% 50% 83
4 Converse 83% 29% 28% 41% 63
5 Foot Locker 83% 31% 27% 34% 60
6 Under Armour 79% 28% 23% 35% 50
7 Puma 84% 21% 17% 27% 41
8 The North Face 71% 20% 19% 31% 35
9 Finish Line 49% 19% 17% 21% 19
10 Lululemon 50% 15% 11% 19% 13

Fashion – Ecommerce

We polled over 500 young people to find out which online fashion brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

Retaining their place at the top in our ecommerce top 10, and placing first across all of our metrics, it has been a great quarter for ASOS. The 20-year-old business made the news recently when it purchased Topshop, the iconic retailer that has been a staple of British high streets since the 1960s. This reflects a changing of the guard as young consumers shift their fashion spending habits online, with lockdown losses unfortunately resulting in the closure of all of Topshop’s physical stores. However, a purchase by ASOS feels like a natural fit, as the ecommerce business has already stocked Topshop products for years, and as our research shows, has the attention of the new generation that Topshop sadly failed to engage.

In second place once again is Boohoo, another digital-first business that has demonstrated their power in the market and ambitious future plans by purchasing several struggling high street brands, including Dorothy Perkins and Burton.

As with ASOS’s Topshop and Miss Selfridge acquisition, Boohoo only wanted the brand names and their online businesses, declining to purchase the physical stores. This move not only pushes more spending online, but reshapes the fashion industry as in-store retail jobs decrease, while new opportunities emerge in the fast-growing ecommerce sector.

Close behind Boohoo is their sister brand, PrettyLittleThing, which performs particularly well considering they only stock women’s clothing. 55% of females have engaged with the brand in the past three months, higher than their sister brand, Boohoo. However, Boohoo is still slightly ahead with females in terms of purchase intent, with 44% planning to shop there, compared to 43% for PrettyLittleThing. Between these two brands and Nasty Gal, the Boohoo Group now owns three of the top 10 online fashion stores, making them an immensely powerful industry force.

Leaderboard:

Fashion ecommerce leaderboard UK 2021 Q1

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 ASOS 88% 48% 42% 46% 100
2 Boohoo / Boohoo Man 83% 38% 33% 39% 90
3 Pretty Little Thing 81% 37% 30% 35% 80
4 Depop 74% 31% 29% 34% 65
5 Shein 68% 32% 28% 31% 58
6 Gymshark 77% 23% 19% 29% 50
7 Missguided 73% 25% 22% 27% 48
8 StockX 40% 17% 16% 20% 25
9 Nasty Gal 56% 15% 15% 19% 23
10 Zalando 40% 10% 10% 9% 13

Tech & Mobile

We polled over 1,000 young people to find out which tech & mobile brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

Last quarter there was a tie at the top in the tech and mobile category, but in Q2 Apple have regained their lead ahead of Google. April was a big month for Apple with their first ‘Special Event’ of 2021, which they used to announce new products, from the purple iPhone 12 to the upgraded iMac and the futuristic new AirTags. An impressive 45% of those we surveyed are planning to spend money on Apple products – across their devices, accessories, subscriptions and more – in the next three months alone.

As the manufacturer of the smartphone used by 85% of Student Beans users, it’s no surprise to see Apple scoring highly across all metrics here. Gen Z’s loyalty to this brand and its products is connected to the deeply personal relationship they have with their devices, which have been a lifeline during the pandemic, and are increasingly playing a role in more and more elements of their lives. In a recent survey, we learned that students prefer to use an app for the majority of their online activities, including entertainment, banking, dating and socializing.

Apple, Google and Microsoft have also played very personal roles in the lives of young people over the past year by providing the software they’ve relied on to power their education and work while studying and working remotely. Tools like Teams and Google Meet are now used daily by young people, and all three of the tech superbrands offer discounts to students and educational institutions. This not only serves to support young people but to introduce them to these brands at a time in life when they are determining which brands they prefer, trust and will stay loyal to as they reach adulthood.

Leaderboard:

Tech leaderboard Q2 2021 in the US

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Apple 94% 57% 45% 56% 98
2 Google 92% 57% 37% 51% 93
3 Microsoft 90% 37% 29% 39% 73
4 Best Buy 88% 35% 31% 40% 65
5 Samsung 91% 33% 24% 37% 56
6 T-mobile 89% 33% 27% 34% 53
7 Verizon 90% 30% 24% 32% 39
8 AT&T 90% 31% 23% 31% 38
9 Sony 87% 27% 24% 31% 28
10 Xfinity 76% 26% 22% 25% 10

Tech & Mobile

We polled over 500 young people to find out which tech and mobile brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

This quarter, our previous tech and mobile winner Apple retains the top spot, but Google is close behind, rising from no.4 to no.2. Both brands reached impressive milestones in 2020, with Apple receiving a historic $2 trillion valuation, and Google passing the $1 trillion mark.

Microsoft is the only other tech company in the trillionaires club, but our data shows that Gen Z don’t rate it as highly, and is much less likely to recommend it to their friends – an issue Microsoft will need to overcome to achieve longevity with the next generation of consumers and business leaders. Microsoft’s ties to the gaming community, thanks to the Xbox, should be key to its Gen Z growth strategy.

Tech and mobile is one of the sectors where young people tell us they prefer to shop online rather than in-person, so it’s promising to see Currys PC World standing strong in our top five. For more expensive purchases, many young consumers say they like to see the product in person. They take these bigger investments seriously, wanting to ensure they get good value for money and make a fully informed purchasing decision.

Currys PC World’s continued popularity, even during the national lockdown, shows their established, trusted brand name has helped them pick up a large portion of online tech spending, even while competing with the might of Amazon. In previous Gen Z research, we’ve found that young shoppers are more likely to trust an online store if they recognise the brand from their physical outlets. We’ll be intrigued to see whether Currys and the other in-store brand in our list, Carphone Warehouse, see a boost in our Q2 survey if physical stores are allowed to open by that time.

Leaderboard:

Tech leaderboard UK 2021 Q1

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Apple 95% 59% 42% 62% 95
2 Google 97% 56% 27% 51% 93
3 Microsoft 96% 43% 23% 40% 75
4 Currys PC World 94% 34% 26% 40% 70
5 Sky 93% 40% 23% 35% 63
6 Samsung 94% 27% 18% 35% 55
7 O2 93% 23% 18% 29% 33
8 BT 92% 26% 17% 30% 30
9 EE 92% 26% 18% 29% 28
10 Carphone Warehouse 88% 13% 13% 21% 10

Entertainment

We polled over 1,000 young people to find out which entertainment brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

Streaming platforms have experienced a boom during the pandemic, and this trend is reflected in our user insights, which show that 53% of students have signed up to a new movie or TV streaming service since the onset of COVID-19, and 33% a new music streaming service. This has undoubtedly been amplified by the emergence of new services just before or during the pandemic, particularly Disney+ and HBO Max. Students are not just looking for more choice, but actively spending more time with these services: 52% of students told us their video streaming hours had increased, and 34% were watching as much as ever.

This is good news for the streaming sector, as it shows willingness among young consumers to subscribe to multiple platforms, and to pay for content despite the wide availability of free options such as YouTube and Spotify’s ad-supported offerings. TikTok was not included in our Youth Brand Affinity survey because it doesn’t have a paid offering, but YouTube and Netflix have made clear that they see the social video app as a key competitor. Netflix launched the Fast Laughs app, which features a TikTok-style feed of funny moments from Netflix shows and movies, while YouTube launched their short video feed, simply titled Shorts.

As out-of-home entertainment options like live music, theater and sports resume this summer, home entertainment brands like those in our list will face a challenge to retain the new customers who justified the monthly fee as a treat while they’re stuck at home. Now they’ll be competing for Gen Z’s entertainment budget against a wider array of exciting options, as well as their direct competitors, meaning the pressure will be on to provide the most unmissable viral hits. We’re looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

Leaderboard:

Entertainment brand leaderboard 2021 Q2 - US

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 YouTube 95% 76% 41% 67% 98
2 Netflix 95% 71% 54% 66% 93
3 Spotify 92% 56% 37% 53% 75
4= Disney+ 89% 53% 39% 53% 60
4= Hulu 91% 50% 35% 49% 60
6 Playstation 92% 41% 31% 43% 58
7 Xbox 91% 38% 30% 38% 38
8 Nintendo 90% 37% 29% 43% 33
9 GameStop 90% 30% 28% 38% 25
10 Apple Music 88% 34% 27% 36% 13

Entertainment

We polled over 500 young people to find out which entertainment brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

In a closely run race, YouTube beats Netflix on brand engagement, while Netflix wins on purchase intent and brand advocacy, therefore taking the top spot overall. The combination of lockdown and a cold, snowy winter means Brits have been binge-watching Netflix more than ever, generating huge recent hits such as Bridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit. The new film in the teen series To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before has also been a big winner with Gen Z viewers.

While the stereotype of Gen Z is that they’re constantly on Instagram and TikTok, our research consistently shows that YouTube has a larger audience within this demographic. Our latest Student Shopping Report reveals that 82% of UK 16-24s use YouTube at least once a month. This means it’s not only a powerful marketing tool for brands, but it’s also a contender in the VOD space. It’s rarely mentioned in the same breath as Netflix, Disney+ and Now TV, but YouTube’s premium video and music service passed 20 million subscribers in 2020, and the brand’s place in the hearts of Gen Z means it shouldn’t be underestimated.

Gaming remains a key category within entertainment, with 54% of students stating that they’ve spent more time playing console or computer games during the pandemic, while 52% have spent more time on mobile games. The new Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X/S were at the top of many young people’s 2020 Christmas wishlists, and are still tough to get hold of even months after their November release.

Leaderboard:

UK Entertainment leaderboard 2021 q1

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Netflix 97% 76% 59% 70% 98
2 YouTube 96% 78% 40% 67% 90
3 Spotify 96% 64% 48% 61% 83
4 Disney+ 93% 47% 34% 48% 64
5 PlayStation 95% 38% 27% 42% 60
6 Xbox 94% 38% 24% 38% 55
7 Nintendo 93% 29% 20% 36% 36
8 Apple Music 91% 31% 23% 31% 35
9 Now TV 86% 25% 19% 26% 16
10 Game 82% 21% 19% 29% 14

Restaurants & Takeout

We polled over 1,000 young people to find out which restaurants and takeout brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

McDonald’s retains its place at the top this quarter, which is no surprise as their marketing team continues to prove they understand exactly what young consumers want. After successful collaborations with Travis Scott and J Balvin, McDonald’s just announced a partnership with another music act beloved by Gen Z: K-Pop boyband BTS. The BTS Meal will consist of chicken nuggets, fries and a Coke, with a fitting twist – sweet chilli and cajun sauces that are popular at McDonald’s’ South Korean outlets, available for the first time in the US. The promotion will no doubt be trending on every social media platform when it launches in 50 countries in May and June.

Elsewhere in our top 10, Starbucks saw a strong 16% uplift in their Youth Affinity Score this quarter. Starbucks appealed to ethically conscious young consumers recently with April’s Earth Month campaign. They began offering oat milk in-store for the first time, which was such a hit that they’d run out within weeks. However, vegan charity PETA accused the business of “greenwashing” as it charges more for the dairy-free product than cow’s milk, which has a far greater carbon footprint. The learning here is to ensure that senior leadership are on board and willing to commit to the necessary changes before making such a public, marketing-led statement.

Another brand moving up in our chart this quarter is Subway, which is actually America’s largest fast food chain by number of outlets. However, after closing more stores than any rival in 2020, the brand has clearly been hit by reduced footfall in business and shopping areas during the pandemic. They are fighting back with special offers, like a bargain $10 for two footlong sandwiches and bringing back popular fillings, rotisserie chicken and roast beef.

Leaderboard:

Restaurants & Takeout Brand Leaderboard Q2 2021 in the US

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 McDonald's 93% 62% 54% 48% 95
2 Starbucks 91% 48% 44% 51% 80
3 Chick-Fil-A 91% 49% 46% 53% 78
4 Subway 91% 41% 39% 47% 60
5 Wendy's 91% 43% 38% 44% 58
6= Dunkin' Donuts 91% 40% 39% 46% 53
6= Taco Bell 91% 44% 39% 42% 53
8 Burger King 92% 40% 36% 36% 40
9 Pizza Hut 90% 37% 32% 41% 20
10 Chipotle 86% 34% 33% 40% 15

Restaurants & Takeaway

We polled over 500 young people to find out which restaurant and takeaway brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

The past year has been tough for the restaurant industry, but McDonald’s continues to thrive. While restaurants are closing around the country, a recent McDonald’s earnings call revealed they plan to open 1300 new locations around the world this year. They have weathered the pandemic thanks to their pre-existing takeaway, drive-thru, and delivery options, putting them ahead of the game when other restaurants were forced to adapt to changed customer needs with little notice.

Restaurant chains are in a stronger position during the current UK lockdown compared to the first lockdown last spring, as restrictions are less stringent, with takeaways allowed as well as delivery. They’re also much more prepared, which means this time they can take advantage of the fact that takeaway meals are one of the few treats accessible to consumers at this time – a luxury that most people are spending more than ever on during the pandemic.

The rise of food delivery apps has also encouraged this trend. As of January 2021, 63% of 16-24s had ordered from a restaurant online, and 31% of those had done so for the first time during the pandemic.

Nando’s and Wagamama, the brands on our list that would normally depend on customers enjoying a sit-down meal within the restaurant, are relying on revenue from delivery and collection to survive. This means using their marketing channels and budget to raise awareness of their delivery offering, as well as strengthening their relationships with their target audience to ensure they’ll be excited to return to eating in post-pandemic. For Nando’s, recent initiatives include sharing celebrities’ Nando’s orders, and releasing their own Instagram sticker collection.

Leaderboard:

UK Restaurants & Takeout leaderboard 2021 q1

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 McDonald's 96% 74% 66% 65% 90
2 KFC 96% 57% 51% 56% 86
3 Domino's 96% 49% 47% 50% 74
4 Greggs 94% 50% 43% 55% 63
5 Costa Coffee 96% 45% 40% 51% 59
6 Subway 95% 45% 43% 50% 55
7 Starbucks 96% 41% 36% 46% 46
8 Nando's 95% 39% 38% 54% 45
9 Krispy Kreme 87% 24% 25% 48% 23
10 Wagamama 75% 19% 20% 35% 10

Food & Drink

We polled over 1,000 young people to find out which food and drink brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

Food and drink was one of the sectors that saw the most disruption in our Youth Brand Affinity ranking this quarter. For the first time, Oreo takes the lead in our top 10, overtaking both Doritos and Coca-Cola. Hershey’s also moved up the ranks, overtaking Coca-Cola. This suggests that chocolate cravings have been strong this quarter, perhaps inspired by Easter – a key time in the retail calendar for Hershey’s in particular.

Research by the National Confectioners Association found that demand for comfort food, especially chocolate, increased during the pandemic, which brands like Hershey’s have benefited from. Hershey’s is also one of the food brands with the largest and most engaged social media following – an area that Oreo also performs very well in. Hershey’s utilized Pinterest, an underrated platform for reaching Gen Z, to tap into trends around Easter crafts and recipes. Oreo, meanwhile, has leant on partnerships with brands ranging from the NBA to Krispy Kreme to engage a broad audience across their social channels. They also regularly interact with other brands to create a community feel, and assert themselves as part of the conversation rather than simply broadcasting their own marketing messages.

Doritos may have slipped to second place this quarter, but it does outperform Oreo on one important metric: brand engagement. Doritos has a clearly defined brand personality, which balances party vibes with a spicy risk factor – exemplified perfectly by the Doritos Roulette product, a fan favorite which was recently brought back. The pack contains a variety of chips, some of which are spicier than others, making for a fun game to play with friends now that in-person socializing is back on the cards.

Leaderboard:

Food & Drink Brand Leaderboard Q2 2021 in the US

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Oreo 93% 54% 53% 58% 98
2 Doritos 91% 57% 50% 56% 90
3 Hershey's 92% 53% 48% 54% 80
4 Coca-Cola 91% 54% 47% 52% 70
5= Lay's 87% 48% 47% 51% 53
5= Pepsi 91% 47% 43% 46% 53
7 Reese's 90% 47% 41% 49% 45
8= Ben & Jerry's 72% 28% 31% 44% 23
8= Nestlé 81% 31% 29% 39% 23
10 Red Bull 87% 27% 25% 33% 18

Food & Drink

We polled over 500 young people to find out which food and drink brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

Coca-Cola might not be the first brand you’d expect to be affected by the pandemic (you can still drink Coke at home, of course) but in fact, the business has had a tough year, as it relies more on out-of-home consumption than competitors such as Pepsi. However, as our research confirms, love for the product remains strong, so we can confidently expect revenues to bounce back as COVID restrictions are lifted.

We should also highlight the popularity of Cadbury’s, which may have placed second overall, but came out top in the brand advocacy metric, showing a real affection for the brand and their products among Gen Z. As a classic British brand that they’ve been enjoying since childhood, Cadbury’s has a comfort factor which makes it even more appealing during the stresses of the pandemic. They’ve also helped to make the weekly shop (the only weekly outing for many during lockdown) more fun by releasing new products to try, such as the Orange Twirl, initially limited edition but now widely available after social media hype turned into huge demand.

Another classic British brand, Walkers takes third place, rising from seventh last quarter. Remaining relevant is a challenge for a brand founded over 70 years ago, but they’ve taken a creative approach to achieving this, by forming partnerships with a range of restaurant brands beloved by young consumers. They recently launched a new Kentucky Fried Chicken flavour in collaboration with KFC, promoted with an advert featuring Gary Lineker dressed as the Colonel. This follows similar partnerships with Nando’s and Pizza Express, where they released crisps inspired by those restaurants’ most popular dishes.

Leaderboard:

UK Food and drink leaderboard 2021 q1

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Coca Cola 96% 66% 60% 61% 94
2 Cadbury's 92% 67% 60% 63% 80
3 Walkers 94% 60% 52% 57% 71
4 Oreo 96% 53% 47% 55% 60
5 Pepsi 96% 52% 48% 53% 59
6 Galaxy 96% 53% 45% 54% 53
7 Ben & Jerry's 93% 43% 45% 60% 40
8 Maltesers 92% 52% 46% 56% 40
9 Heinz 90% 51% 49% 45% 33
10 Red Bull 94% 36% 34% 40% 21

Grocery

We polled over 1,000 young people to find out which grocery brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

Walmart achieves a perfect score of 100 again this quarter, a feat only possible when a brand outperforms all competitors on every metric. It’s rare for a business in any sector to achieve such ubiquity, while still retaining the trust and loyalty that generates peer-to-peer recommendations (aka brand advocacy). Target, meanwhile, can’t match Walmart’s brand engagement or purchase intent since it has significantly fewer stores, but also deserves a mention here for ranking only 2% below Walmart on that important brand advocacy metric.

Walmart’s strength is that it offers unmatchable convenience, because although it sits within the grocery category, it’s so much more than a grocery store. Shoppers can pick up anything from a TV to a shower gel while doing their weekly grocery run. The appeal of convenience is usually associated with busy parents, but for teens and young adults whose lives are increasingly packed with school, work and other activities, a one-stop shop for everything on their “to buy” list is a strong proposition.

Despite an increase in young consumers trying out online grocery shopping during the pandemic, the majority are still shopping in-store at the moment. According to our 2020 US Student Shopping Report, 87% of students buy food and drink in-store, while only 35% spend money on this category online.

However, that segment may be small but it is growing, and Walmart is aware that they need to perfect their online offering to retain the loyalty of digital natives. They must move quickly, especially as ecommerce giant Amazon – one of the few brands as universally popular in our surveys as Walmart – is constantly strengthening its offering and promising new startups are regularly entering this space.

Leaderboard:

Grocery Brand Leaderboard in the US - Q2 2021

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Walmart 94% 70% 64% 59% 100
2 Target 92% 55% 51% 56% 90
3 7-Eleven 87% 38% 34% 38% 80
4 CostCo 78% 32% 29% 37% 70
5 Whole Foods Market 69% 22% 22% 29% 53
6= Aldi 59% 25% 21% 27% 45
6= Kroger 63% 24% 23% 26% 45
8 Trader Joe's 64% 19% 20% 26% 38
9 Publix 44% 16% 15% 22% 16
10 Safeway 44% 16% 17% 17% 14

Supermarkets

We polled over 500 young people to find out which supermarket brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

This quarter, we see little change at the top as the “big three” supermarkets retain their positions. However, it’s remarkable how little difference there is between the Youth Affinity Scores of Sainsbury’s and the budget supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl. In fact, both challenger brands outperformed Sainsbury’s on the brand advocacy metric, suggesting young consumers would prefer to shop there if they could. As Aldi and Lidl open more stores and grow their presence around the UK, they are likely to overtake within 2021.

A recent Which? report found Lidl and Aldi were the UK’s cheapest supermarkets with an average basket containing 19 essential grocery products costing £18.45. ASDA followed behind, with our winner Tesco in fourth place. Tesco’s strong position in our chart shows that cost is not the only factor determining purchasing decisions. Previous Student Beans research found that 16-24s who said Tesco was the grocery store they were most likely to shop at cited its quality and variety as the reasons behind their choice, as well as price. Plus, with close to 4,000 stores nationwide, it’s way ahead of the rest of the top five in terms of accessibility – only Co-op (no.6) has more stores.

Tesco has also been adapting their offering to better serve the needs and interests of younger consumers, for example widening their range of vegan food and alcohol-free drinks. Interest in these products soared during January 2021, driven by a larger number of people making Dry January and Veganuary pledges. The retailer revealed that demand for low and no alcohol spirits grew by over 50%, while sales of low and no wines increased by 40%, and sales of plant-based foods were 35% higher than they were in January 2020.

Leaderboard:

UK Supermarket brand leaderboard 2021 Q1

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Tesco 95% 68% 62% 60% 93
2 ASDA 96% 64% 56% 57% 89
3 Sainsbury's 96% 52% 43% 46% 74
4 Aldi 94% 52% 47% 51% 73
5 Lidl 96% 46% 41% 47% 70
6 Co-op 91% 47% 40% 39% 45
7 Iceland 93% 40% 32% 41% 39
8 Morrison's 93% 40% 34% 36% 39
9 Waitrose 85% 21% 19% 28% 18
10 Spar 75% 18% 20% 20% 13

Retail

We polled over 1,000 young people to find out which retail brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

Amazon retains its place at the top in the retail category this quarter, but interestingly, we have seen a small but noticeable decline in three of the metrics we track. Brand engagement dipped by 1%, purchase intent by 2%, and brand advocacy by a more significant 4%. The ecommerce giant has received negative press around alleged poor treatment of workers over the past few months. Could this be responsible for a decline in positive sentiment among Gen Z, a group that is known for its ethical values?

Ahead of last year’s presidential election, we asked Student Beans’ US users which issues would have an impact on their vote, and 55% said workers’ rights would be on their minds. Although issues such as education and healthcare were higher priority to young voters as a whole, more than half of this demographic could be swayed against a political candidate – and logically therefore also against a brand – based on workers’ rights. This emphasises the importance, not just for Amazon but any brand hoping to engage Gen Z, of ensuring your values are upheld throughout the business, from your social media profiles to the warehouse floor.

Elsewhere in this sector, another ecommerce brand had a very strong quarter. eBay overtook Bed Bath & Beyond to enter the top three, and saw a notable 3% growth on each of the brand engagement, purchase intent and brand advocacy metrics compared to Q1. eBay exemplifies the recommerce trend, which sees young consumers opting to buy second-hand and resell items with the aim both to get value for money and to protect the planet. eBay’s CEO recently announced plans to reposition the business with a focus on Gen Z and Millennial customers, and our research suggests this could be a very successful strategy.

Leaderboard:

Retail brand leaderboard Q2 2021 in the US

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Amazon 94% 69% 66% 64% 100
2 Home Depot 88% 37% 29% 39% 88
3 eBay 89% 34% 29% 36% 80
4 Bed Bath & Beyond 83% 30% 26% 39% 68
5 Macy's 87% 29% 26% 34% 60
6= JCPenney 86% 27% 23% 31% 38
6= Kohls 81% 27% 25% 31% 38
8 IKEA 81% 24% 24% 35% 33
9 TJ Maxx 76% 26% 24% 33% 28
10 Lowe's 82% 25% 26% 29% 20

Retail

We polled over 500 young people to find out which of the retail superstores resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

Amazon is entering 2021 with news of a new CEO, as founder Jeff Bezos takes a step back, and with high expectations for the year ahead after 2020 outperformed all of the business’ sales records. Amazon recently revealed that their UK sales grew by 51% last year – a staggering number considering they were already far ahead of any competitor. Amazon clearly benefited from a shift of spending from in-store to online during the pandemic, a fact proven particularly clearly when the ecommerce giant’s sales are compared to high street staple Marks & Spencer: UK customers spent twice as much at Amazon than they did at M&S last year.

While the ecommerce brands within this list had a successful 2020, the department stores, which were already struggling pre-COVID, need to prove their relevance to younger consumers in order to survive. Businesses such as M&S and John Lewis are under more pressure than ever to adapt to the needs of the digital native, as the spending power of Gen Z and Millennials increases and their custom becomes ever more crucial. The recent closure of all of Debenhams’ 124 physical stores after ecommerce business Boohoo chose to purchase only its online operation serves as a stark example of the fate they could face.

On a more positive note, both M&S and John Lewis, along with Argos, are among the brands who have strengthened their businesses by offering click and collect services. The option to collect online orders in-store while food shopping at M&S, Waitrose or Sainsbury’s enables these retailers to offer more competitive pricing by reducing delivery costs, and enables customers to collect purchases as their own convenience – both important factors impacting online purchasing decisions for Gen Z.

Leaderboard:

UK Retail brand leaderboard 2021 q1

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Amazon 96% 76% 66% 69% 100
2 eBay 94% 55% 45% 50% 85
3 Argos 94% 48% 34% 51% 79
4 IKEA 94% 36% 31% 52% 76
5 M&S 93% 35% 26% 38% 58
6 Wilko 85% 33% 28% 38% 48
7= WHSmith 90% 26% 22% 36% 35
7= Etsy 75% 30% 22% 37% 33
9 John Lewis 89% 23% 20% 35% 25
10 Very 79% 19% 14% 21% 13

Health & Beauty

We polled over 1,000 young people to find out which health and beauty brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

While Walgreens retains the top spot in our health and beauty sector chart this quarter, there is a change in the top three as Bath & Body Works overtakes CVS for the first time since we launched the Youth Brand Affinity Index.

Bath & Body Works has experienced impressive growth in the past few years, reporting a 50% increase in sales between 2015 and 2019. More recently, the brand has thrived during the pandemic as consumers look for affordable ways to treat themselves and relax during a stressful time. Not only does the retailer stock COVID-era essentials such as soap and hand sanitizer, but they also offer a range of products that make being stuck at home a bit more bearable, from scented candles to bubble bath. Bath and Body Works achieved 22% year-on-year growth in 2020, even despite some stores being closed or occupancy limits imposed due to local restrictions.

Looking at the brand advocacy metric, Walgreens and CVS are the two winners this quarter, which could be linked to their role in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. In a survey of Student Beans’ US users, we learned that 49% of them had at least had their first shot, and another 28% planned to get it. Only 10% had chosen not to get it, with 12% undecided and 1% ineligible for health reasons. This demonstrates a positive attitude and a generational eagerness to get their shots, but also shows there’s still a need to convince a certain sub-group of the value of vaccination, despite them not being as vulnerable to the virus as older groups.

Leaderboard:

Health & Beauty brand leaderboard for Q2 2021 in the US

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Walgreens 86% 45% 41% 41% 98
2 Bath & Body Works 86% 40% 38% 38% 88
3 CVS 84% 43% 39% 39% 85
4 Ulta Beauty 68% 30% 29% 29% 68
5 Sephora 69% 25% 25% 25% 63
6 L'Oreal 68% 23% 21% 21% 50
7 e.l.f Cosmetics 52% 22% 21% 21% 38
8 MAC 56% 16% 18% 18% 30
9 Rite Aid 52% 19% 16% 16% 23
10 Lush 47% 16% 15% 15% 10

Health & Beauty

We polled over 500 young people to find out which health and beauty brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

There’s no movement at the top in this category this quarter, with high street staples Boots and Superdrug standing strong. Their wide range of products makes them a one-stop shop for healthcare, cosmetics and much more, and they both offer a student discount, appealing to young shoppers who value convenience and price when making purchasing decisions.

Elsewhere in our top five, it’s no surprise to see two brands known for their ethical products and policies: The Body Shop and Lush. Our research has consistently shown that health and beauty is the sector where young people are most influenced by brand ethics, preferring to buy cruelty-free and vegan products wherever possible.

The brand advocacy score for Lush is particularly notable as it’s significantly higher than would be expected based on their scores on our other metrics, showing this is a brand young people really love. Just missing the top five is another brand that appeals to Gen Z’s ethics and health-conscious attitude, Holland & Barrett.

Health and beauty is a sector where our results show a distinct gender disparity that is worth noting. Brand engagement is significantly higher with females for all brands in our list except for shaving brand Gillette and the two fitness brands, MyProtein and Pure Gym, each of which males were much more likely to have engaged with in the past three months. Meanwhile, if viewing the results for females alone, Beauty Bay would rank in the top five for brand engagement, purchase intent and brand advocacy, demonstrating that the online cosmetics retailer is one to watch.

Leaderboard:

UK health and beauty brand leaderboard 2021 q1

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Boots 94% 55% 48% 53% 100
2 Superdrug 91% 51% 43% 50% 90
3 The Body Shop 85% 29% 26% 40% 80
4 Gillette 80% 24% 25% 31% 65
5 Lush 78% 27% 24% 39% 65
6 Holland & Barrett 77% 22% 18% 30% 43
7 Beauty Bay 56% 23% 19% 28% 40
8 MAC 74% 20% 16% 27% 30
9 Pure Gym 69% 18% 18% 26% 28
10 MyProtein 51% 17% 15% 23% 10

Travel

We polled over 1,000 young people to find out which travel brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

After an incredibly difficult year, during which even the biggest travel brands feared for their future, things are finally looking up for the sector, and we can see that reflected in our Brand Affinity Index this quarter.

Each of the airline brands and travel booking sites featured in our top 10 have seen a notable increase in the brand engagement, purchase intent and brand advocacy metrics compared to Q1. The first two of those were to be predicted as young people start to get the vaccine and finally feel safe booking air travel, whether that’s for a long-awaited vacation or a reunion with much-missed family and friends. However, the airlines will be particularly pleased to see the rise in their brand advocacy scores, as this shows young consumers trust these brands at a time when trust could not be more important.

Aside from the airlines, other brands associated with vacations have performed well this quarter. Each of the three travel booking sites featured, along with Airbnb, also saw an increase of several percentage points across the engagement, intent and advocacy metrics.

These results make a clear statement that young people are ready to spend on travel again, and have the confidence at last to invest in vacations and family visits, without worrying that the trip could be cancelled or feeling anxious about the associated health risks. For the travel sector, it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief and start planning for a fantastic second half of 2021.

Leaderboard:

Travel brand leaderboard for Q2 2021 in the US

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Uber 88% 34% 32% 45% 100
2 Lyft 77% 25% 23% 32% 88
3 Airbnb 71% 23% 22% 33% 78
4 American Airlines 75% 19% 21% 28% 70
5 Delta 71% 20% 18% 28% 60
6 United Airlines 72% 19% 17% 24% 53
7 Southwest Airlines 61% 19% 16% 24% 40
8= Booking.com 51% 17% 15% 22% 25
8= TripAdvisor 62% 16% 15% 21% 25
10 Expedia 54% 14% 13% 18% 13

Travel

We polled over 500 young people to find out which travel brands resonate most with them. Here you’ll find the results of our quarterly survey and our analysis of the latest trends in this sector. Get started by filtering the graphs by the metrics you’re most interested in.

Key Takeaways:

While older generations may still be getting accustomed to the idea of the sharing economy, our survey results prove that Gen Z is entirely comfortable with the concept. For the second quarter in a row, Uber takes the top spot in our travel top 10. Gaining consumer trust is the biggest challenge for Uber, along with other sharing economy businesses such as Airbnb, but they’ve clearly achieved that as they ranked higher than any other travel brand for brand advocacy, demonstrating that young people are happy to recommend them to a friend.

How brands have responded to the coronavirus pandemic has become an important factor in how they are perceived by Gen Z. At the end of 2020, Uber published some impressive stats summing up the ways they’ve given back to the communities where they operate. This has included providing 10 million free rides and deliveries of food to healthcare workers, seniors, and others in need, as part of their Move What Matters campaign. They also took action to protect their workers, allocating $50 million to purchase health and safety supplies for drivers and delivery people around the world.

We were unsurprised to discover that brand engagement and purchase intent increases with age across the travel sector, as young people become more independent as they head to university and join the workforce. Our brand new UK Student Shopping Report reveals that, prior to the pandemic, 90% of university students took at least one holiday per year, and we can confidently expect them to resume that behaviour in the future.

Leaderboard:

UK Travel leaderboard 2021 q1 brands

The top 3 brands that are winning with Gen Z in this sector, based on our Youth Affinity Score.

Full Results:

  Brand Name Brand visibility Brand engagement Purchase intent Brand advocacy Youth affinity score
1 Uber 95% 39% 42% 42% 100
2 Premier Inn 90% 25% 21% 37% 83
3 Booking.com 76% 28% 24% 34% 73
4 EasyJet 88% 22% 19% 32% 68
5 British Airways 90% 22% 17% 37% 66
6 Airbnb 75% 19% 18% 31% 46
7 Travelodge 85% 19% 17% 30% 41
8 National Express 73% 19% 17% 25% 36
9 RyanAir 83% 16% 13% 19% 23
10 TUI 69% 14% 13% 24% 15

Want to see your brand at the top of the chart next quarter?

Quarterly Commentary

Q2 2021

As we reach the third edition of our quarterly Youth Brand Affinity Tracker, we’re able to look back over the past six months and review how Gen Z’s relationships with brands across each of the sectors we track have changed. In some sectors, there are steadfast winners which have clearly achieved the all-important brand loyalty that every marketing team aspires to. In others, we can see the impact of the disruption caused by a year in quarantine, with challenger brands rising in front of our eyes, and some established names struggling to remain relevant.

One sector that shows particularly encouraging signs is travel, where brand engagement and intent have unsurprisingly been low over the previous two quarters. This time around, we’ve seen a notable increase across both those metrics for all brands associated with vacations and long distance travel, from airlines to travel booking sites. And even more interestingly, those brands also enjoyed a boost in brand advocacy, showing young consumers are ready to trust and recommend them again, as travel out of state becomes a more realistic possibility.

Elsewhere this quarter, we’ve seen new brands achieve the no.1 spot for the first time in the fashion and food & drink sectors. This shows that the industry leaders can be overtaken with a strong quarter of exciting products and engaging marketing that captivates the youth demographic.

Looking ahead to July 2021, when we’ll be conducting our next Brand Affinity survey, we’re looking forward to seeing whether these brands can stay strong at the top or whether previous winners could regain their crown.

Additionally, as students begin spending for Back to School season, which they typically do around July according to our research, we’re excited to see the impact of a surge in student shopping on our Q3 results.

Methodology

Youth Affinity data is gathered every quarter, using the independent research panel provider Cint to reach a nationally representative panel of 1,000 young people aged 16-24, in line with US census data. The Q2 survey took place in April 2021.

For each sector, we provided our respondents with a list of 10 leading brands. For each brand, they were asked:

  • Brand visibility: which brand names they were most aware of
  • Brand engagement: whether they had engaged with them in the past three months
  • Purchase intent: whether they expected to buy from them in the next three months
  • Brand advocacy: whether they would recommend them to a friend

These four metrics were combined to calculate a Youth Affinity Score for each brand, which we have used to create a ranking of the top 10 in each sector.

Quarterly Commentary

Q1 2021

In our first Youth Brand Affinity Index of 2021, we’re looking ahead at a year filled as much with uncertainty as with hope. For brands, it’s a time to be grateful for the glimpses of a return to normality, but also to reflect on which of the changes made in light of COVID-19 they might want to take with them into a post-pandemic future. This year, we’ll start to find out which industries will return straight back to their old ways, and which have been transformed forever.

The start of a new year brings new positivity, and after putting their plans on hold for much of 2020, Gen Z are excited to progress with their life goals and experience new things in 2021. Many are predicting that this year will see enthusiasm among young people to make up for the time they lost. This could include celebrating their renewed freedom by splashing out on purchases they couldn’t make while quarantining – a phenomenon that has been described as “revenge spending.” It has been suggested that this summer will mark the start of another Roaring Twenties, mirroring the era of mass consumerism and cultural experimentation that followed the First World War.

However, before we reach that promised era of positivity, it’s important for brands to remember that Gen Z is still experiencing a time of stress and anxiety. We mustn’t declare the pandemic over quite yet, even though vaccine rollout has begun. After all, as of February we are still seeing around 900 deaths per day caused by the virus in the UK. The time to offer support and sensitivity to young consumers hasn’t ended, and how your brand handles the situation will be remembered.

Within this tracker, we’ve highlighted the brands that are thriving as we enter 2021, those who have responded impressively to unprecedented circumstances and delivered what the 16-24 demographic is looking for. Compared to the previous quarter, we’ve seen brands rise and fall in every sector, with some surprising changes emerging in our data. Read on to find out which brands are winning with Gen Z, and which will need to adapt quickly to remain relevant to younger shoppers with more choice than ever before.

Methodology

Youth Affinity data is gathered every quarter, using the independent research panel provider Cint to reach a nationally representative panel of over 500 young people aged 16-24, in line with UK census data. The Q1 survey took place in January 2021.

For each sector, we provided our respondents with a list of 10 leading brands. For each brand, they were asked:

  • Brand visibility: which brand names they were most aware of
  • Brand engagement: whether they had engaged with them in the past three months
  • Purchase intent: whether they expected to buy from them in the next three months
  • Brand advocacy: whether they would recommend them to a friend

These four metrics were combined to calculate a Youth Affinity Score for each brand, which we have used to create a ranking of the top 10 in each sector.

Want to see your brand at the top of the chart next quarter?