There's nothing like free food to get young people talking. According to J.D. Power and Associates, Arby's is the most talked-about quick-service restaurant online among "early careerists" (those between the ages of 22-29). This was at least in part due to this summer's Wednesday Freebies promotion. Anthropologie was the top retailer.
The report culled more than 475,000 online conversations from MySpace, Blogger, LiveJournal and other public social media sites to see what brands this demographic were talking about. After Arby's, Cold Stone Creamery and Subway were the top conversation generators in the quick-service restaurant category while Bath & Body Works and Old Navy were also big among retailers, according to the Early Careerist Tribe Intelligence Report, which was released today.
Concern about value in the face of a tough economy was the common theme in the conversations of the young adults. "The primary driver for Arby's was that they were considered the value quick-serve restaurant because they had free food Wednesdays," said Janet Eden-Harris, vice president of business development for J.D. Power Web Intelligence. Subway's $5 foot-long sandwich deals also got a significant amount of play in online conversations.
"In a lot of ways it's a hard-to-reach age group, so it's great that our efforts really hit home with them," said Jason Abelkop, svp of marketing and media for Arby's. "We're always excited to be No. 1 in a positive way."
Arby's may have been assisted by digital-focused promotions. Not only did the company promote the Wednesday Freebies online, it also sponsored an NCAA brackets Facebook app with CBSsports.com, as well as the viral Burger Grease Art viral video in which artist Phil Hansen paints the Mona Lisa using competitors' burgers.
Retailers followed a similar value-oriented pattern, according to Eden-Harris. While the higher-end Anthropologie took the top spot, frequently when it was mentioned it would be in the context of how expensive, though desirable, the company's clothes were. Affordability was a common theme for a number of other talked-about retailers, including Old Navy (No. 3), H&M (No. 7) and Forever 21 (No. 5).
This focus on cost-saving brands reflects an attitude that may be less idealistic than would have been expected from Generation Y. "We had this myth that these early careerists were more insulated from the recession," said Eden-Harris. "They're really following a different trajectory than that -- they're cycling back through phases, they're often having to live back home for awhile -- so there's a lot more disillusionment and disappointment in this group. While they still feel anxious to find that great job and get stability, they couple that with that sense that 'I want to stretch my dollar.'"