Millennials dictate Harris Poll brand winners

The Harris Poll EquiTrend Brand Equity results are in and the winners in the five restaurant categories are: 

  • Burgers: Five Guys
  • QSR and coffee: Starbucks
  • Casual dining: Cheesecake Factory
  • Ice cream and frozen yogurt: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Shop
  • Fast Casual Mexican: Moe's Southwest Grill

The sweeping survey of more than 100,000 U.S. consumers on 4,000-plus brands in hundreds of business categories is in its 29th year and annually names the brands that are most often cited by consumers as favorites in their respective performance areas. 

This year, the pollsters said that millennials and their preferences are dictating which businesses win and which do not.

"More engaged with more brands than ever before, millennials — the largest generational cohort — are reshaping the U.S. brand landscape," The Harris Polls Vice President of Brand Solutions Joan Sinopoli said in information released today about the annual poll. "With prime earning years still ahead of them and a strong sense of values, they are dictating culture through the brands they buy. Millennials are using their new spending power to explore the world around them, purchase and feather their new nests and take steps to financially protect their growing families."

Pollsters said millennials' love of luxury and technology is also driving expensive auto and vehicle audio system brands, as well as the choice of Google Home as the year's top smart home brand and Chromecast as the best device for media streaming. 

Likewise, as millennials advance in age, pollsters said it is accelerating the brand equity ratings in areas like insurance and financial services, where equity ratings are lower for both Generation X and Baby Boomers. 

"Millennials could be considered responsibly rebellious," said Sinopoli. "They want brands who share their values yet deliver experiences and solve solutions with technology and intuition, and demonstrate an acute understanding of how millennials think, act and solve problems."

The 'values chasm'

In today’s deeply divided nation, poll results also indicate that virtual split down the political middle we saw in the presidential election is now proving to have a greater effect on brand preferences than our age.  The Harris Poll labels this split between left- and right-wing thinking as the 'values chasm,’ and consumers are lining up on either side of the rift in their brand preferences too.

"There are other fundamental differences suggesting that there is less a divide based on age alone," said Sinopoli. "It’s more of a divide based on ideologies and world views, and we see those values played out for politically and socially active brands."

As a result, well-known liberal-leaning brands like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shops and Starbucks have the hearts of the left-wing consumers, while the most strongly conservative consumers show an affinity for vocal conservative brands like Chick-fil-A. 

"Brand preferences demonstrated by values, rather than generational differences, are more striking and perhaps carry a more serious message about how we live today," said Sinopoli. "How can we expect to close the country’s divide if we aren’t meeting each other over a cup of coffee or discussing news and entertainment from the same sources?"

Where's Chipotle?

This marks the second consecutive year that Moe's Southwest Grill's has upstaged Chipotle, which held the title 2012 -2015. Chipotle, according to the release, fell below the category average of brand equity scores. ​


Topics: Trends / Statistics

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