What do Nike, Adidas, Starbucks and Facebook have that other brands don’t? They’re all sitting at the same table as the cool kids these days, according to the newest Piper Jaffray survey on teen brand preferences. Under Armour, Pandora, Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors are falling out of favor.
The survey, the investment firm’s 33rd semi-annual analysis, reports that kids are spending about 2.4% less, with more green going to food, videogames and athletic brands, and less to fashion. The research is based on responses from 5,500 teens with an average age of 16. And while the average family household income is $66,100, it also looks at spending patterns among higher and lower income levels. Overall, the Minneapolis-based firm says 39% of teens have part-time jobs.
And this time around, the research reveals some major surprises.
For one thing, interest in athletic brands is up sharply, with those brands representing 41% of favorite teen apparel brands, compared with 26% last spring. And the category is in the midst of a major shakeup.
While Nike continues to hold on to its No. 1 spot, Adidas is gaining fast, more than doubling its mindshare for footwear in all income levels and moving into the No. 1 position for new brands chosen by boys. (Nike had held that title since the survey taken in the fall of 2014.)
And Under Armour is fading. “Despite significant SKU expansion and reported category growth, male footwear mindshare has remained at about 1% across both income groups in our past four surveys,” the report says. When asked which brand they no longer wear, Under Armour was on the top of the list for upper-income males at 11%. “And not a single upper-income female voted for Under Armour apparel,” the report notes.
Patagonia made it into that category’s Top 5 for the first time, bumping the North Face.
But showering so much love and attention on athletic brands means teens have got less to spend on more traditional fashion. Among higher-income boys, for instance, apparel mindshare tumbled to 4%, the lowest it’s been since the recession. And while that’s good news for the likes of Vans and Lululemon, it spells trouble for companies like Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors and Vineyard Vines.
Social-media preferences are also a little unexpected: Facebook continues to be a well-liked brand, despite teens’ ongoing mania for Instagram and Snap, which is their favorite and used by 81% of teens. Some 52% of the teens in the survey say they’ve been on Facebook in the last month, and 33% say it’s a “top three” social network, about even with the results of the last research. While 79% use Instagram, making it No. 2 overall, most kids—54%--say it’s the best platform to try and reach them. (By comparison, only 53% say that about email, 42% Snapchat, 35% Twitter and 24% Facebook.)
“We believe that teens are continuing to carve out separate-use cases for Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat that, in the near-term, provide enough differentiation not to take time spent from one another,” the report says.
In music, Pandora is losing mindshare, as teens increasingly switch to Spotify and Apple Music.
Starbucks is the biggest winner in food, preferred by average income teens all over the country. (The survey included respondents from 43 states.) Chick-fil-A and Chipotle are also well-loved choices, and McDonald’s is hanging in there, though at levels below its peak performance. Burger chains like Five Guys and Red Robin are gaining.