This List of 2017’s Top 10 Millennial Brands Has Myriad Retail-Rich Surprises

Good news for older brands in YouGov BrandIndex's latest survey

Getty Images/Dianna McDougall

An oft-heard critique of millennials is that they’re fickle—or, at the very least, far more youth-obsessed than our culture is, if YouGov BrandIndex’s July release of favorite brands is any indication. But older retailers and brands will find relief in the public-perception research firm’s latest survey, released today.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Netflix top the list of favorite brands for the past 12 months, with Facebook capturing a score of 83.5 percent and Netflix taking 75.8 percent. But the other three to fill out the top five? None other than Southern grocer H-E-B, Walmart and Victoria’s Secret, the latter springing from the ashes of shopping malls like a phoenix in Pink lingerie.

Methodology

YouGov tracks 16 different measures of brand health across 32 markets around the globe, across thousands of brands.

This year’s ranking varies from last year’s report in two significant ways: It’s looking at millennials, versus a general population of adults over 18. Also, YouGov created separate distinctions for ad awareness, positive word of mouth (WOM) to and from friends and family, news, and buzz (which covers everything a millennial may have heard about a brand, good or bad, paid or not).

CEO Ted Marzilli of YouGov calls these terms “inside baseball” for the industry. “Brands and media agencies tend to think of paid versus earned exposure,” he explained. “Paid is generated from ads, whereas WOM is earned because it’s people being ambassadors, talking up your brand, not being paid to do that.”

The WOM metric was added to the YouGov calculus five years ago, at the request of clients who wanted more granularity on paid versus earned media.

WOM can be “an interesting metric because sometimes [a brand can rise the ranks] for the wrong reasons—like United in April, dragging someone off a plane,” explained Marzilli.

This year’s WOM metric looks at positive word of mouth, ensuring those in the top 10 are there for good reasons, not mixed ones.

2017’s top 10 millennial brands: Facilitating lives, putting value first

Half the brands on the list are tech icons: Facebook, Netflix, YouTube, Snapchat and Amazon, which bridges the gap between software services and retail.

“One way I can interpret that data is those are brands making life easier; some would say better,” Marzilli said. “If those brands rank highly among millennials in generating WOM, they fulfill an important need in people’s lives. What comes to mind for me is that it makes life easier or facilitates connectedness, or being able to purchase or share things.”

Netflix is among the best examples of a brand “leveraging the internet to make life easier,” Marzilli continued. “It’s become integral to how millennials, indeed the general population, lead their lives and consume content.”

But value is also a critical consideration, as Walmart and H-E-B demonstrate. “Walmart may be becoming cool again among a generation of millennials living more thriftily, who don’t have the same prospects as a generation 15 or 20 years ago,” Marzilli observed. “Value may play an important part of their lives. Amazon might play into that as well.”

H-E-B was a particular surprise entry, and became the topic of internal debate, Marzilli revealed. “All the other brands are national, if not global, brands with wide footprints, but H-E-B is a localized brand in the southern part of the United States.”

“Because we’re focused on millennials that have heard something positive about brands, then participated in WOM, our methodology essentially adjusts for a brand’s footprint,” he explained. “People outside H-E-B’s footprint have probably heard neither positive nor negative news, so those consumers are not included. It’s an outlier on the list because it’s not national, but it does show that H-E-B is doing a good job among millennials who’ve heard something about it.”