Johnson & Johnson, Sony and Apple top the list of brands that college students say they "trust," according to the 2009 edition of Alloy Media + Marketing's College Explorer survey.
The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, canvassed 1,521 college students from April 1-27 to create a portrait of the sentiments and values of America's college student -- a much-desired ad cohort of young adults ages 18-30, numbering 13.8 million.
Asked what brands they associated with "happy," the survey subjects produced a rather different top-10 list. The only brand that appeared in the top-three tier in both lists was Apple, which came in third for trust and second for "happy" behind Clinique.
Following Apple on the list of "happy" brand associations were -- in order -- McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Target, Wrigley and Sony (tied), Walmart, Dove and Hershey. On the "trusted" list, Apple was followed by Colgate, Microsoft and Coca-Cola (tied), Toyota, Nike and Bank of America (tied), and Target and Dell (tied).
The annual college survey by Alloy and Harris also inquired about spending decisions, focusing on changes wrought by the recession. However, the group's discretionary spending power has actually increased, jumping 37% from four years ago, and 5% from last year to $56 billion.
The basic hierarchy of needs and desires remained the same. Food purchases are still a top category and increased over last year, as did spending on clothing, shoes, entertainment and technology -- although to a lesser degree.
On the technology front, as might be expected, Alloy found big year-over-year increases in ownership of laptop computers and MP3 players, continuing a trend of several years' standing.
For the first time, in 2009, Alloy found that less than half of college students own a desktop (48%), while 75% reported owning a laptop. Some 74% of college students surveyed reported owning an MP3 player -- double the number four years ago -- and 75% reported owning a digital camera -- up 17% from 2006.
Alloy also delved into social issues and future expectations. Overall, 43% of college students said they preferred to buy socially responsible brands. They seem rather gloomy on the economy, with only 35% saying they think the situation will improve over the next year.