The Young Consumers of Today Are the Brand Loyalists of Tomorrow

If you thought that the youth of America didn’t have the purchasing power of adults, you thought wrong! Young consumers don’t just have more disposable income nowadays; they’ve got the power to influence the spending habits of their parents as well.

According to market research group Harris Interactive, youngsters between the ages of eight and 24 will spend upwards of $211 billion in 2012. Naturally, this makes them an intriguing market segment as far as big name brands are concerned.

line graph businesswoman statistic officeCompanies understand that the young spenders of today will become the brand loyalists of tomorrow, and they want to know exactly what to expect from those spenders.

To that end, Harris Interactive conducted in 2011 what they call the Youth EquiTrend study.

The study polled over 5,000 young Americans in an effort to see how well certain brands measured up in terms of equity, emotional connection, and advocacy among the younger demographic.

In short, the study determined “which brands spark the strongest recognition and loyalty in the crowded, competitive youth market.”

The results of the poll are broken down by category (there are 13 total), and brands are ranked within each category. The comprehensive rankings are available at the Harris Interactive site, but here are some of the highlights:

Sweet Treats: Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Candy Bars is the highest ranked brand, followed by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Hershey’s Kisses.

Cereals: Cheerios is the highest ranked brand, followed by Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Sodas: Sprite is the highest ranked brand, followed by Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola.

Broadcast TV Networks: ABC is the highest ranked brand, followed by Fox Television Network and CBS.

Kids TV Programming: Nickelodeon is the highest ranked brand, followed by Disney Channel and Cartoon Network.

Social Media: is the highest ranked brand, followed by

Computers: Apple Computers is the highest ranked brand, followed by Hewlett-Packard Computers and Sony Computers

Mobile Phones: iPhone is the highest ranked brand, followed by HTC Phones and Samsung Phones

Gaming Platforms: Nintendo Wii is the highest ranked brand, followed by Sony Playstation 3 and Nintendo DS.

Apple is leading the way in the “computers” category? No surprise there.

Hershey bars are still a favorite? That makes sense.

But it seems like Facebook might not be the number one social media destination we all assumed it was for younger individuals. YouTube officially has the reigns in that department, and if they can manage to keep it that way, they’ll likely have an army of loyalists in the years to come.

And how about Sprite outperforming both Coca-Cola and Pepsi in the “soda” category? Seems a bit surreal, but the kids have spoken, and they apparently prefer their pop to be of clear variety. Of course, seeing as how Coca-Cola owns Sprite, one might argue that Coke is still “it.” In any case, Pepsi is certainly going to have to fight for its meal.

And Cheerios rank higher than both Frosted Flakes and Cinnamon Toast Crunch? Looks like youngsters don’t care as much about sugar and corn syrup as previously thought.

graph revenue statisticIn their official press release for the study, Harris Interactive puts it best:

“Youth of today have spending power and they also have loyalty to brands. Some of this comes from their parents, but they also make their own decisions,” said Regina A. Corso, Senior Vice President for Youth and Education Research at Harris Interactive. “Brands who tap into this loyalty when a consumer is a tween, and nurture it through the teen years, will have an extremely loyal customer by the time the customer is a young adult. Companies need to remember that consumers do not magically appear at age 18.”

All things considered, modern marketers would do well to understand that young consumers tend to have a mind of their own.

What are your thoughts? Are the results of the Youth EquiTrend study worth noting? Are they surprising? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Image credit: David Castillo Dominici

Joseph Giorgi

Joseph is the head of the Media Team at Quality Logo Products. He's a video specialist, blogger, perfectionist, and all-around likeable guy. When he's not busy focusing on the nitty-gritty details of his written and visual work, he's normally listening to bad 80s music and scouring the internet for useless information on useless subjects. You can also connect with Joe on Google+.


  1. amy

    This study is mind blowing, Joe! The Cheerios and Sprite finding surprise me the most. But, I could see parents buying them for their kids (I knew a few kids who didn’t need any extra caffeine LOL) and then the kids coming to love the taste. I’m a Honey Nut Cheerios sorta girl myself, so it’s good to see I’m right on target 😉

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Thanks, Amy!

      Yeah, parents probably have a certain amount of influence over kids’ eating habits — especially younger kids.

      And yes, Cheerios are always #1 in my book. I’ve always been a regular Cheerios guy, though…

      No added sugars for me. 😀

  2. Mandy Kilinskis

    A bunch of these results are surprising, but then again, the group surveyed is pretty vast. Even though 8-24 is only a gap of 16 years, the taste preferences and financial situations between an 8-year-old and a 24-year-old are distinctly different.

    On a personal note, I’m very glad that Reese’s ranked so high. 🙂

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Yeah, I guess it kinda goes without saying that there’s quite a difference between the preferences of an 8-year-old and a 24-year-old. It would have been nice to see the results split up between smaller age brackets (like 5-10, 10-15, 15-20, etc.).

      Then again, I believe the “full” results are available for purchase through Harris Interactive. There’s probably a more detailed breakdown in there.

      • Mandy Kilinskis

        Clever, Harris. Clever. You would tease me with that and then ask for money.

        Regardless, though, you make a great point that brands will need to think about how to rank higher with the younger consumers. We’re creatures of habit, and we develop those habits while we’re young.

  3. Alex Brodsky

    Great post, Joe!

    ABC being the #1 network intrigues me. Part of me wonders if kids polled were lumping ABC Family Network in with ABC.

    Though there are family oriented shows, such as “Dancing with the Stars”, “Extreme Makeover”, and “The Middle”, most of the programming seems to be aimed at the older crowds.

    I’m also a bit shocked that The CW, a network catered specifically for the tween market, scored so low. However, they haven’t had a show as powerful as Dawson’s Creek since One Tree Hill jumped the shark in season 6.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Yeah, it’s puzzling that ABC was ranked #1 for the younger demographic. I guess the kids are all watching “Extreme Makeover” these days.

  4. Jen

    I think that Sprite ranking highest over cola is the craziest statistic to me. I guess when I think about it, I was more of a Sprite kid too, but now I prefer cola. I think Sprite is a little too sweet…maybe that is why kids like it more.

    Great post Joe, very interesting indeed!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I’d imagine that most kids will eventually grow out of their Sprite — and venture toward the dark side of cola. Mwahaha.

  5. Lauren

    Cherrios? Really kids? I mean they must be honey nut… But I still would prefer Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Hey now, let the kids have their regular Cheerios. Can’t go wrong with the original! 🙂

  6. Rachel

    Really interesting stuff, Joe! As you and others have mentioned, it IS a little odd to see good-for-you Cheerios beat out other sugary options and for Sprite to be above Coke and Pepsi. Personally, I’m a big Sprite fan, so it works for me! 🙂

    I also agree with Mandy that an age range of 8-24 seems really broad, considering the differences in maturity and life experiences between the two extremes. I wonder if more 8-year-olds or more 24-year-olds are the Cheerios fans? 😉 Anyway, thanks for the rundown, Joe!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Yeah, I was most surprised by the fact that Cheerios is #1. Like Amy and Lauren mentioned above, the poll may have factored Honey Nut Cheerios into the results.

      You’re welcome for the rundown. 🙂

  7. Jill Tooley

    $211 billion?!?! To quote Cheap Pete from “In Living Color”: Good lord, that’s a lot of money!

    Who knew that today’s youngsters had so much disposable income? And that they preferred the Wii to the PS3? There’s some surprising stuff here! The only one that actually didn’t throw me for a loop was that YouTube is the favorite of the social media brands. From what I hear, there are lots of changes in the pipeline for YouTube, which may make it even more appealing going forward.

    Great post, Joe! Thanks for all of the detailed info. Looks like the kids are with you on the sugar aversion, at least when it comes to cereals. Maybe stuff like this will have an impact on the “I must put high-fructose corn syrup in everything I manufacture” trend… 🙂

    • Joseph Giorgi

      “Good lord, that’s a lot of money!”

      LOL. I haven’t thought about that sketch in years! God, I miss the 90s!

      Yeah, YouTube seems primed to reinvent itself pretty soon here. I’m curious as to whether it’ll be a successful endeavor. Exciting stuff, though.

      High-fructose corn syrup = 🙁

  8. Eric

    Whoever got me hooked on Coca-Cola, well, power to that guy in their advertising department. Even after democratically partaking in the “Pepsi Challenge” one summer at the Taste of Chicago, I still stood firm on my soda choice. That stuff sticks with you, that’s for sure (as I’m typing this with a Vanilla Coke in-hand).

    Part of the sugary breakfast cereal decline is likely due to the sheer amount of options kids have nowadays. I remember when Toaster Strudel first came out, and, holy hell, it was the best thing on earth…despite the fact it was like piping frosting onto a plain, heated Pop Tart.

    Good reading, Joe! Topical stuff as always.

  9. Cybernetic SAM

    This is one of those many truths I feel I am better not knowing. I already get upset when I hear statistics on how babies (before they can talk) can recognize brands… this is just a higher level of that… Though it is a market, and a lucrative one at that, it is sad no one is safe. People worry about music and that all the harsh elements of the world influence our children, when right under their noses (from the day they are born) children are used as tools for companies to make money. Instead of children being children, they run around with $300 cell phones and even my 1 year old cousin has a tablet that he plays on. This scares me. What happened to the important stuff?

  10. Amanda

    Cheerios!? Really!? They are so plain, I’m surprised they made the list…or maybe it’s just all the moms that make the kids eat Cheerios, lol.

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