Brand affinity starts young so when Google checked in with Gen Z in a recent report called “It’s Lit” it found that several Pacific Northwest companies — Nike, Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbucks — are “cool” according to the report, but as a whole teens do not think the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo, Sprint, Virgin America, TMZ or McDonalds have the cool factor.
For those who grew up thinking jazz was cool, the Google report, which surveyed 1,100 teens, redefines cool as Gen Z sees it as a “representation of their values, their expectations of themselves, their peers and the brands they hold in the highest regard. “
“Cool is an indication of what people pay attention to, what gets them excited, and can often act as a manifestation of their hope and dreams,” writes Google’s Brand Team for Consumer Apps. “Unlike millennials, this group is ambitious, engaged, and feel like they can change the world.”
Encompassing 25% of the US population today, Gen Z (those born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s) has the purchasing power of $44bn annually, although it could be closer to $200bn annually when factoring in their influence on parental and household purchases.
When it comes to Gen Z, cool is about being one's authentic self and embracing what one loves, and rejecting what one doesn’t. The study reports that teens feel something is cool if it is unique, impressive, interesting, amazing or awesome and brings joy or happiness. Teens favor Netflix, Google, Oreo, Xbox, Nike, Amazon, Apple, Snapchat, Instagram, Chik-Fil-A, Microsoft and Starbucks, the report found.
When it comes to technology, the report notes that mobile is still king, and VR and AR are really the coolest things in tech. Social media is considered cool, particularly Snapchat and Instagram. Facebook is cool, but is best for “consumption and stalking” though Gen Z teens rarely post.
Beauty brands like Clinique, NARS, Maybelline, Neutrogena, Tarte and Too-Faced are cool and when it comes to shoes, which is the currency for cool among Gen Z, the top three coolest shoe brands are Jordan, Converse and Vans. Teens believe that music that makes them feel something is ‘cool’ and favor philanthropic musicians and celebrities. Teens believe Selena Gomez, Emma Watson and Ariana Grande as actresses, and musicians like Drake, Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, and The Beatles are cool.
The report also notes that Gen Z believes and relies on brands to shape their world with YouTube as their top coolest brand followed by Netflix, Google, Xbox, GoPro, Playstation, Doritos, Nike and Chrome.
Gen Z thinks Xbox is the coolest video console, while millennials are more into Playstation. Millennials like cars. Gen Z likes Uber. Gen Z also loves Oreos, which are cool because of the variety of delicious flavors and the cute/funny marketing.”
As far as being an evolved generation, if a proclivity for video streaming is evidence that Gen Z can sustain a true connection to the world or has the bandwidth at such a young age to maintain global awareness remains to be seen, but Gen Z is the first generation that never knew the world before the Internet. As a result, the Google report believes Gen Z is informed, evolved and empathetic, and they have high hopes for the brands they choose to love. They will set the tone for the products to come and marketers will grow to know and understand them well.