Reign Of The Plain: Survey Finds Gen Ys Prefer Brand Simple

A recent survey conducted by Outlaw Consulting, a San Francisco research firm, concluded that Generation Y trendsetters are more drawn to brands that speak to them in a "straightforward and stripped-down way, use plain packaging, and avoid excess," says Holly Brickley, an Outlaw strategic analyst.

Outlaw surveyed 100 of what it calls its "most forward trendsetter panelists" in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami, asking them which companies they most respected, and why.

The sample mostly targeted the first wave of Gen Y consumers, aged 21-27. The goal was to compile a "Trust Index" of brands that evoke "deeply positively feelings" among the trendsetters.

Most of the companies cited by the respondents stress simplicity, says Brickley, who notes that many of their favorite companies, from giants such as Apple to smaller newcomers like Method, are known for keeping things as stripped-down and unadorned as possible - not just in terms of the product's visual appearance but also in the way they organize their offerings. "Apple's computers and iPods are so clean and simple and easy to use," remarked one trendsetter. "No excess."



According to an Outlaw Consulting newsletter, the preference for simplification, lean-and-clean styling and all-in-one convenience could be motivated by environmental concerns. In other words, as the "green lifestyle" is something more and more people aspire to, the notion of excess has fallen into disfavor, notes Brickley, who wrote the report.

The Most Trusted 15 brands named by the trendsetters in the survey were:

  1. Apple
  2. Trader Joe's
  3. Jet Blue
  4. In-N-Out Burger
  5. Ben & Jerry's
  6. Whole Foods
  7. Adidas
  8. American Apparel
  9. Target
  10. H & M clothing stores
  11. Levi's
  12. Volkswagen
  13. Converse
  14. Vitamin Water
  15. Red Stripe Jamaican beer

"They also responded strongly to brands that they saw as 'dorky' but 'totally themselves'," says Brickley, who, at 27, is part of the demographic group that was surveyed. "Like Trader Joe's, for example. They liked that the company has a dorky newsletter and makes their employees wear silly Hawaiian shirts. They also really liked that In-N- Out starts their employees out at $10 an hour -- which made the trendsetters happier to eat there, as opposed to some fast-food chains where all the workers look miserable."

Respondents also were drawn to Jet Blue airline. "They loved everything about Jet Blue, noting that the airline is much easier to navigate, the flights are always cheap, always one-way and don't have a lot of weird special prices and restrictions," says Brickley.

The survey was conducted in late 2006, before Jet Blue got a load of bad publicity when one of its planes sat on the tarmac for several hours and wouldn't allow passengers to leave the plane.

The bottom line, concluded the survey, is that any company that is inconvenient or confusing, or that used over-designed imagery, is seen as out of touch and too "corporate."

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