Understanding How Gen Z Perceives Brands Differently

Understanding How Gen Z Perceives Brands Differently

Cultural Intelligence


Understanding how a brand is viewed by Gen Z is key to identifying pathways to connecting with this audience, remaining relevant, and ultimately sustaining brand leadership.  Deciphering how to connect with Gen Z will be critical for brands as they are the largest generation, comprising 27% of the US population1. They soon will become the largest cohort of consumers in the US, with a spending power of over $140 billion2 .    

The same brands can be perceived differently across generations. Gen Z - born between 1997 and 2012 - is the most ethnically diverse generation in American history.  So it is no surprise that they also view brand leaders in their own unique way.  

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To illustrate, we used BAV syndicated data to compare perceptions of two sets of leading brands in culture – Nike and Ben & Jerry’s  and Apple and Dunkin- among Gen Z and the General Population.  

Nike and Ben & Jerry’s 

Gen Z is a generation that is not afraid to stand behind their beliefs. They are not afraid of voicing their opinions across public forums and this behavior permeates their life choices too. Today, a company’s values and lived purpose influence not only their employer choices, but also their purchasing habits. Knowing this, leading brands like Nike and Ben & Jerry's today are adapting to this shift in attitudes, going beyond the functional and taking a stand on social impact issues central to their brands’ purpose.  

Among Gen Z, both Nike and Ben & Jerry’s get recognition as ‘Progressive’ brands who’s messaging and actions resonate with this generation. However, among Gen Pop, these brands are seen as more ‘Opinionated’ and ‘Arrogant’, reflecting a school of thought that views a brand’s role in culture as more functional. 

Nike and Ben and Jerry's

Apple and Dunkin Donuts

Gen Z is also the first "digitally native" generation, meaning they are the first generation to be born into and brought up during the age of digital technology; they've gained a familiarity with computers from an early age and essentially don’t know life before the smart phone. With this digitally native lens, Gen Z perceives Apple as a "Tried & True" leader. They recognize Apple for being traditional, simple, straightforward, and a good value. However, among the General Population, Apple is recognized as "Cutting Edge" - a brand that is recognized for being innovative, unique, progressive, and dynamic. 

Dunkin' also carries these two divergent personas, however, the roles are reversed. The General Population recognizes Dunkin' as a "Tried & True" leader, while Gen Z sees it as "Cutting Edge".  

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BAV Group is launching a syndicated research study to better understand Gen Z with the following objectives: 

  1. Determine which brands resonate most with Gen Z and why 

  1. Identify drivers of brand equity among this cohort – pinpointing category expectations vs. differentiators 

  1. Highlight which brands resonate most with specific ethnic groups (Hispanic, African American) within Gen Z and why?  

If you are interested in learning more about Gen Z and how they perceive and interact with brands, please contact us at info@bavgroup.com  


1 https://www.insiderintelligence.com/insights/generation-z-facts/ 
2 https://www.businessinsider.com/retail-courts-gen-z-spending-power-over-140-billion-2020-1