One Cookie To Unite Them All

At the end of 2010, Harris Interactive released its first Youth EquiTrend Study in which it identified the brands with the highest equity among 8-12, 13-17, and 18-24 year olds. Compared side-by-side, the results make for some interesting reading:

8-12 Year Olds13-17 Year Olds18-24 Year Olds
1 Nintendo WiiReese's Peanut Butter CupsGoogle
2 DoritosIPodFacebook
3 OreoGoogleIPod
4 M&MsM&MsGatorade
5 Disney ChannelOreoTarget
6 NickelodeonSubwaySubway
7 Nintendo DSHershey's Milk ChocolateApple
8 McDonald'sTargetITunes
9 Toys R UsSprite Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
10 MicrosoftMicrosoftOreo



Each group age group seems to lean toward certain types of brands. In the younger set, TV and game brands stand out while 18-24 year olds are much more Apple- and tech-centric.

As for the 13-17 year-olds in between, they seem ... well, rather hungry. Six of their top ten brands are reserved for foods -- two more than either the younger or older age groups. Seriously, who amongst us would have predicted that Reese's Peanut Butter Cups would be the number one brand in the eyes of teens -- especially in an era of rising peanut allergies. Not me, that's for sure.

Thinking about the results further, however, it becomes clear to me that each top brand chart is as much about control as it is brand affinity. Take the 8-12 year-olds, for instance. Game systems (Nintendo Wii & DS) rank high as do cable stations (Disney & Nickelodeon). These are brands over which the kids exert direct control, be it through Wii-mote or remote.

The 13-17 year-olds, by contrast, are a group whose allowances and/or part-time salaries make them more cost conscious. In fact, another recent survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of found that price was a deciding factor for 67% of 13-18 year-olds purchasing electronics compared to only 23% of 8-12 year-olds. This is a likely reason that we see more consumable brands in the 13-17 rankings -- they are products teens can afford to love (and love to consume).

Of course, all of this changes dramatically in the 18-24 year-old set. Fed by college loans and/or full-time jobs, we see this age group increase their tech brand affinity considerably with Google, Facebook, and Apple (iPod and iTunes).

Interestingly, there is only one brand that ranks in the top ten for each age group -- Oreo. This caught my eye because Oreo also stands as the fifth most popular brand among Facebook users with over 16,575,000 fans -- behind only YouTube, Coke, Starbucks, and Facebook itself. So is Oreo doing something right or is this mere coincidence?

Taking a look at Oreo's Facebook wall, my vote would be for "doing something right." First of all, you have a simple, fun product that has been around for generations and appeals to the tastes of tweens, teens, young adults, and kids at heart. Second, as evidenced on Oreo's Facebook wall, you have human voices of the brand that seek to get fans engaged through games, photos, contests, and other interactions. The focus is never on selling but celebrating the fun of eating an Oreo. This, in turn, helps strengthen brand loyalty across all age groups.

The lessons in the Harris Youth EquiTrend survey may be that tweens, teens, and young adults are unique audiences who cannot be lumped together for marketing purposes. They each exercise different control over their worlds and, therefore, sport different brand affinities. At the same time, however, we shouldn't discount the one brand that unites them all -- Oreo -- and the notion that we all may long to be kids at heart. Therein may lie the creative key to unlocking the potential of your own brand with audiences of all ages.

Top Pizzas
1 Domino's
2 Papa John's
3 Pizza Hut
4 Little Caesars
5 Round Table
6 Godfather's
7 Chuck E. Cheese
Source: Brand Keys Customer
Loyalty Engagement Index 2011

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