- Generation Zs were born after 1997.
- They prefer brands that are healthy, socially-conscious, and connected with influencers on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.
- But many of their favorite brands are shared by older generations, too.
Millennials, move aside. There’s a new generation advertisers are vying to reach: Generation Z.
Gen Zs are Americans born after 1997, and their short lives have been already been marked by the advent of mobile technology, social upheaval, and the Great Recession.
Ypulse, a New York-based youth marketing firm, interviewed 8,494 Gen Z consumers on 332 brands this year for its Ybrands survey. Then, the firm ranked those brands based on the consumers’ awareness, past purchase, and loyalty, as well as their perceived personality and influence.
Bobby Calise, vice president of Ybrands, said these brands won over Gen Z because of their ability to convince young adults of their coolness and momentum.
More unique to Gen Z, Calise said, is their preference to buy from brands with expressed stances on social causes.
“In the past, brands might have considered playing it safe for fear of alienating some of its customer base,” Calise told Business Insider. “But in today’s social and political climate, it’s arguably riskier not to take a risk – even if it’s a calculated one – when it comes to brands taking stands.”
Ypulse shared the final ranking with Business Insider. Here are the top 100 brands that Gen Z adore:
Why it’s popular: KFC launched a plan in 2015 to boost quality across its US restaurants – revamping the menu, retraining employees, and remodeling. That venture focused not on making KFC a health food magnate, but on its core business of quality fried chicken.
Why it’s popular: While there are plenty of new competitors in the peanut butter market, Jif still has the largest brand share. The brand also has created new snacks and partnered with Hilary Duff on its natural peanut butter line.
98. Buffalo Wild Wings
Why it’s popular: While millennials and Gen Zs alike don’t frequent fast casual chains, Buffalo Wild Wings has a different take on dining out by allowing patrons to customize their meal with different sauces.
97. Toaster Strudel
Why it’s popular: Pillsbury Toaster Strudel has long been popular as a convenient breakfast choice. The company also recently launched Toaster Scrambles as a high-protein, savory option.
Why it’s popular: According to YPulse, Hi-C has near-universal brand awareness among Gen Z, and more than half of them have bought it in the past.
Why it’s popular: Founded in 2009, EOS has become a popular brand among younger clientele in part thanks to its strategy of targeting influencers and celebrities rather than going with traditional publicity routes.
94. Panera Bread
Why it’s popular: Panera has become popular among Gen Z for its “fresh and customizable options.” It also has shifted its focus in recent years to off-site business, with a delivery option that’s “dominating” fast casual.
Why it’s popular: While Microsoft has been outshined by Apple and Samsung when it comes to cell phones and computers, YPulse said nearly half of Gen Zs have bought a Microsoft product. And 44% of Gen Zs said Microsoft is “innovative.”
92. Dick’s Sporting Goods
Why it’s popular: Athleisure brands like Nike and Adidas dominate teens’ apparel preferences. Dick’s established that it could share values with socially-minded Gen Z when it announced it would no longer be selling AR-15 assault rifles earlier this year.
Why it’s popular: Gen Zs prefer healthy choices, and Planters is the top brand for snacking nuts – a category that includes almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans.
Why it’s popular: Streaming options are becoming increasingly common among Gen Zs; only 2% told Business Insider that they rely on cable for most of their television watching. While Netflix remains more popular overall, Hulu has original programming like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “All Night.”
Why it’s popular: Gen Z women spend more on beauty than apparel, according to Piper Jaffray’s semiannual survey. While teen spending is overall up 2% year-over-year in 2018, beauty spending jumped 18%. Sephora was the top beauty destination.
Why it’s popular: In 2016, Business Insider found that today’s teens actually like Twitter more than their millennial or Gen X cohorts. “I get to talk to my friends and see interesting things about shows or bands I like, or see funny memes,” one 14-year-old told Business Insider.
86. Hot Topic
Why it’s popular: It might seem like a relic of the 90s, but Hot Topic has maintained popularity with the younger crowd as fashion trends become more gothic and punk. Hot Topic stocks plenty of plaid, band tees, and other gear evocative of the 90s.
85. Clean & Clear
Why it’s popular: While trendier skincare options like Mario Badescu and COSRX have moved into the market, Clean & Clear remains beloved by those who are suffering from acne or breakouts.
Why it’s popular: While many big box retailers have suffered in recent years as shopping increasingly shifts online, Kohl’s have reported steady sales bumps. Kohl’s also features discount options, which is especially appealing for frugal Gen Zs.
Why it’s popular: Butterfinger is one of the top-selling candy bars across all age sectors, including Gen Z. Nearly 60% of Gen Zs have bought a Butterfinger, and almost half said they’ll buy it again.
82. American Eagle Outfitters
Why it’s popular: American Eagle has especially benefitted in recent years from its lingerie brand, Aerie. Aerie is on track to be a $1 billion business on its own. Much of Aerie’s success stems from a social brand of female empowerment, as it doesn’t retouch its ads and partners with influencers involved in activism.
81. Sonic Drive-In
Why it’s popular: Sonic recently revamped its marketing strategy, menus, and mobile ordering functions, and is experiencing bumps in its same-store sales.
Why it’s popular: The vast majority of teens report that they have an iPhone or want one as their next phone. But Samsung is still one of the most talked-about brands online by teens, thanks in part to its partnership with Instagram and YouTube influencers.
79. Burger King
Why it’s popular: Analysts say Burger King is winning over Gen Z with food mash-ups – including its Mac n’ Cheetos snack item, a deep-fried concoction of mac ‘n’ cheese covered in Cheetos dust.
Why it’s popular: Trident has the largest brand share of any chewing gum company in the US across age groups. Trident has maintained its relevancy by coming up with new gum shapes, flavors, and packaging.
77. The North Face
Why it’s popular: The outdoor company has a focus on socially-responsible marketing strategies that emphasize its investment in women’s empowerment, environmentalism, and other causes that Gen Zs care about.
Why it’s popular: Nesquick, which launched in 1948, might seem a bit too old-school for Gen Zs, but 57% of them said they’ve purchased it. Nesquick has been involved in innovative marketing strategies, such as their recent Milk Stop pop-up in Santa Monica.
Why it’s popular: Maybelline is skilled at racking up social engagement through collaborations with influencers like Gigi Hadid and educational posts.
74. Domino’s Pizza
Why it’s popular: Along with a strategy that revamped the quality of its pizza, Domino’s has a splashy marketing team – from allowing people to order with emojis to self-driving pizza delivery cars to paving potholes across America.
Why it’s popular: Gen Z women spend more on beauty than apparel. While Sephora has been the long-time standby for beauty products, Ulta offers a larger variety of products, including drugstore wares and high-end products.
72. Beats by Dre
Why it’s popular: Beats by Dre relies heavily on celebrity marketing, with partnerships via Pharrell, Nicki Minaj, and (obviously) Dr. Dre. Such endorsements especially important for reaching Gen Z, who look to social media and influencers for advice on what to buy.
Why it’s popular: A Business Insider survey of Gen Zs found that 60% of teens pick Spotify as their most-used music app. They said they like Spotify for its playlists, freemium model, and huge selection of music.
70. Honey Nut Cheerios
Why it’s popular: Honey Nut Cheerios has launched a variety of unusual marketing strategies that pick up on Gen Z’s hobbies and interests. The General Mills brand was the first to have a sponsored series with gaming publication Kotaku and, way back when, it got in on the Grumpy Cat meme.
69. E.L.F. Cosmetics
Why it’s popular: Like many brands that are popular among Gen Zs, E.L.F. has a dedicated strategy to build its following among social media influencers. But unlike the obvious route of trying to accumulate as many followers as possible, E.L.F. built a sizeable yet dedicated online community by creating relationships with “micro-influencers.”
Why it’s popular: Gen Zs prefer drinks that brand themselves as “good for you,” particularly ones that are “vitamin-enhanced” or performance-boosting.
67. Slim Jim
Why it’s popular: The jerky brand doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice for health-conscious Gen Zs, but Slim Jims have been going upscale. You can now buy Slim Jims made from grass-fed beef or in flavors like Thai Style Chili.
66. Old Spice
Why it’s popular: Old Spice has captured the online space with wacky, viral commercials.
65. Dr. Pepper
Why it’s popular: While some of Dr. Pepper’s marketing moves have been controversial, the brand also developed universally-appealing campaigns, like individualized soda labels. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Zs have purchased Dr. Pepper.
Why it’s popular: Marvel has been generating billions on its superhero movies like The Avengers. It especially appealed to Gen Z – the most diverse generation in US history – with the afro-futuristic Black Panther, which has been one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
61. Heinz Ketchup
Why it’s popular: From enlisting facial recognition software and social psychology to prove how happy pizza can make you to featuring YouTube celebrities in its advertisements, DiGiorno has been creative in how it reaches new audiences.
Why it’s popular: The ubiquitous food brand has targeted products like Pizza Pops for a teen audience. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Z have bought Pillsbury products, and half say it has a bright future.
57. Old Navy
Why it’s popular: Old Navy has produced a slew of smart, sponsored videos, like the My Squad Contest. That gave Gen Zs the chance to compete to meet their favorite internet celebrities – while wearing Old Navy apparel, naturally.
Why it’s popular: Sneakers have become increasingly popular among Gen Zs, particularly ones backed by major celebrity endorsements. Nike’s Jordan brand is also highly innovative on social media; it was one of the first to release major news through Instagram Stories.
55. Hot Pockets
Why it’s popular: The 91-year-old brand has maintained popularity through a variety of youth marketing campaigns. Kool-Aid has several Snapchat filters designed to promote new products, a GIF keyboard, and partnerships with YouTube celebrities.
Why it’s popular: When Netflix original show Stranger Things started featuring Eggo in 2016, the waffle brand seized on the opportunity with creativity. It made Halloween costumes referencing Stranger Things, created new recipes based off the show, and even created a Google Chrome extension.
52. Ben & Jerry’s
Why it’s popular: The ice cream brand is particularly appealing to Gen Z as Ben and Jerry’s bases its brand around social activism. Its YouTube channel, for instance, features videos discussing climate change and how the company sources its ingredients and materials responsibly.
51. Pizza Hut
Why it’s popular: Earlier this year, Pizza Hut announced that it would now deliver beer along with its pizza, a move that its chief brand officer said was made to appeal to Gen Z college students.
Why it’s popular: While it had a variety of marketing failures, like the 2017 Superbowl ad in which Kendall Jenner handed a Pepsi to a police officer during a protest, Pepsi has had success with its new, nostalgia-focused campaign around music.
49. Dunkin’ Donuts
Why it’s popular: Dunkin’ Donuts has a GIF keyboard, partnerships with social media influences like Logan Paul, and has mimicked viral food videos in presenting the Dunkin’ Donuts test kitchen over Facebook Live.
48. Mountain Dew
Why it’s popular: Gen Zs love Mountain Dew’s zany ad strategy, like the Puppymonkeybaby Super Bowl ad. Humor is especially key to attract advertisement-inundated Gen Zs.
Why it’s popular: Covergirl has rebuilt its marketing strategy around an “authentically diverse” slew of new Covergirls, including Ayesha Curry, Issa Rae, and and Katy Perry. That seems to have appealed to socially-conscious Gen Zs.
Why it’s popular: Converse’s VP chief marketing officer previously told Business Insider that Converse’s marketing strategy revolves around maintaining its iconic brand and, rather than recruiting big name influencers, partnering with smaller stars “who are so anchored and important to their community.”
Why it’s popular: The Nintendo Switch was a runaway success last year, following on the popularity of Pokemon Go.
Why it’s popular: Nearly two-thirds of Gen Zs enjoy shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, and Walmart has remained a mainstay in most American communities. But Walmart has also been innovative in capturing Gen Z; it recently announced an in-house basics brand meant to challenge Everlane.
Why it’s popular: Vans has benefitted from Gen Z’s obsession with 90s streetwear styles and the resurgence of sneaker culture.
42. Dairy Queen
Why it’s popular: Dairy Queen has re-captured its market by offering cheaper meal deals, boosting the quality of its famous Blizzard, and releasing humorous Valentine’s Day ads.
Why it’s popular: Typically an elementary school standby, Lunchables has been making moves into the teen market by making lunch combinations that are more suited for an adolescent palette. That includes larger portions, and meals like sub sandwiches and bacon-topped pizzas.
Why it’s popular: While few teens say Facebook is their social media of choice, many still use it for the Messenger app and to stay connected with friends and older users.
Why it’s popular: While Hostess has had a bumpy few years, the chief marketing officer said the company has had success creating a dialogue on social media platforms and by modernizing its packaging.
37. Capri Sun
Why it’s popular: Target has recently doubled down on Gen Z consumers, with the introduction of a men’s street style clothing line, a brand that sells headphones and phone cases, and a low-priced women’s clothing brand.
Why it’s popular: Tostitos made waves with a new ad that encouraged people to hang out more together in real life, and positioned itself as the chip of choice for get-togethers.
Why it’s popular: Wendy’s has focused on digital marketing and creating healthy, premium food items, distancing itself from the reputation that fast food is unhealthy.
Why it’s popular: From classic coffee to pumpkin spice lattes to millennial pink tea, Starbucks has been a mainstay of the coffee industry since most Gen Zs were born.
Why it’s popular: Breyers’ brand manager said the company has appealed to younger customers by aligning the brand with values like environmental sustainability and by connecting with influencers.
Why it’s popular: 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.
30. Under Armour
Why it’s popular: Under Armour has succeeded in positioning itself as the brand of underdogs, while also recruiting celebrity sponsorships from those like Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen.
Why it’s popular: The top soda company by brand share, Coca-Cola has appealed to Gen Zs with its “Share a Coke” campaign and endorsements from Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift.
26. Chips Ahoy
Why it’s popular: Chips Ahoy is third in cookie industry market share among all age groups, but it’s second-place for Gen Zs. Ypulse said 80% of Gen Zs have bought Chips Ahoy, and 71% said they intend on buying it again.
24. Kit Kat
Why it’s popular: Kit Kat engages with other companies to undertake creative ways to spread its brand, including the launch of Android operating system Android Kit Kat.
Why it’s popular: Instagram has been slowly drawing more teen users away from Snapchat by implementing a version of Snapchat’s Stories feature.
22. Little Debbie
Why it’s popular: Little Debbie has maintained its reputation as a low-cost snack choice, which is appealing for frugal Gen Z. The brand also has a beloved social media presence.
21. Bath & Body Works
Why it’s popular: The shopping mall mainstay may seem like an unusual choice for online-savvy Gen Zs, but the brand has continued to flourish by diversifying its offerings and maintaining a high-quality in-store experience.
Why it’s popular: Snickers’ new marketing strategy has targeted all people rather than the male audience it formerly focused on. Ypulse said 80% of Gen Zs have bought Snickers, and 63% of Gen Zs said it’s “popular.”
Why it’s popular: Axe has been accused of being unabashedly chauvinistic, but now it’s ad strategy appeals to social conscious Gen Z by tackling issues like toxic masculinity and how sexism hurts men.
17. Taco Bell
Why it’s popular: Taco Bell’s social media presence has been a runaway success for appealing to Gen Z, but it has also appealed to adolescent clientele with its “fourth meal” campaign on eating out late and by introducing discount options.
Why it’s popular: Pop-Tarts focuses not on reaching as many folks as possible in its messaging, but listening to their customers and reaching the right, highly-engaged group.
Why it’s popular: Gatorade is the top brand in sports drinks by share, and its target clientele is young athletes with strong online influence.
14. Kraft Mac & Cheese
Why it’s popular: Kraft Mac & Cheese has a legacy as a childhood favorite, and it removed all synthetic colors and preservatives in 2015.
Why it’s popular: Apple is by far Gen Z’s favorite tech brand. In a Business Insider survey, 94% of teens said they have an iPhone.
Why it’s popular: Google remains the mainstay for search engine needs, and Gen Zs grew up relying on Google for information.
Why it’s popular: Amazon is the e-commerce website of choice in the US, and Gen Zs also likely grew up ordering just about everything from it.
Why it’s popular: McDonald’s has relied on its core brand to boost sales, like offering all-day breakfast, while doubling down on fresh beef, freshly-cracked eggs, and the like.
9. Sour Patch Kids
Why it’s popular: A marketing director at Sour Patch Kids wrote that the company boosted the brand by lessening its involvement in TV and Facebook marketing, and going in on making the Sour Patch Kid himself a celebrity on Snapchat and YouTube.
Why it’s popular: Nike has long been the top sneaker company in the US, and it may have solidified Gen Z’s interest even further by aligning itself with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem last football season to protest racial injustice.
Why it’s popular: Cheetos has capitalized on food mashups – for example, Taco Bell’s Cheetos Burritos and Mac n’ Cheetos and Cheetos Chicken Fries at Burger King.
Why it’s popular: M&Ms has high social media engagement and works with top influencers like Emma Roberts.
Why it’s popular: Streaming options like Netflix are how Gen Zs watch television, as there are no commercials, you can binge watch, and there’s a greater variety of options.
Why it’s popular: Oreo’s is often driving the conversation by introducing weird new flavors and shocking consumers, like Swedish Fish, Banana Split Creme, Candy Corn, and Watermelon.
Why it’s popular: One of “the most successful snack foods ever,” Doritos continues to appeal to Gen Zs with its perfectly-engineered taste.
Why it’s popular: Nearly a third of teens watch YouTube more than Netflix, Hulu, or cable. “The content on YouTube is so much more diverse and funny and relatable,” one 16-year-old told Business Insider. “The stuff on TV is so outdated. I would watch Netflix, but I don’t have the money to sign up.”