Brands College Students Love
Filed Under: Best Practices, Market Research, Millennials, Youth & Family, Grow / Maintaining Strong Brands, Quantitative Research
College is a time of self-discovery—and figuring out what kind of beer doesn’t give you the worst hangover. College trends can turn on a dime and, depending on where you reside in the country, can be completely different from one school to the next. We wanted to get a better idea of what was trending in universities as well as among Gen Z, 11,000 of whom turn 18 every day. In order to find out what’s trending among the oldest segment of the Gen Z demographic, we researched Google search volume by looking at more than 500 keywords to find the most popular brands, musicians, and influencers in 25 college towns across the nation.
Let’s take a deeper look at what the kids are into these days.
What Are the Most Popular Beers?
College trends may come and go, but the one constant is that there will always be plenty of beer to go around on campus. So, what are the college kids drinking these days? We found that Corona was the most popular kind of beer nationwide—and Arizona State University’s mammoth student population of 76,000 also agrees.
Most of the colleges we studied, however, individually preferred the old college standby, Keystone Light. Beer drinkers at Michigan State University, University of Colorado, UC Berkeley, University of North Carolina, Cornell University, Illinois State University, and Montana State University all prefer the taste of “the stones” (or maybe that’s just all they can afford for the weekend). In second place by number of schools was the light beer, Michelob Ultra, which was the No. 1 choice at Texas A&M, University of Missouri, University of Alabama, University of Iowa, and University of Mississippi. In third place is one of the oldest beers in America, Yuengling, which is the most popular choice at the University of Florida, Penn State University, Indiana University, and Notre Dame University.
Other popular brewski choices were Miller High Life, Busch, Hamm’s, Dos Equis, Modelo, and Coors Light.
Which Fast Food Chain Reigns Supreme in College?
In college, you’re limited on time and on cash—which usually means that you’re eating a lot of fast food on the regular. But which fast food chain is the most popular in the country on college campuses? Nationally, college students heavily prefer Starbucks, where they are undoubtedly loading up on caffeine and grab n’ go sandwiches on their way to class. Starbucks is also a favorite on the campuses of Colorado State, UC Berkeley, University of Colorado, and University of Michigan.
Although Starbucks had the most national votes, when we broke down the data at an individual university level, Panda Express won handily by far. Out of the 25 colleges we researched, 10 of them preferred the fast-food Chinese franchise, including Arizona State, Kansas State, Michigan State, Montana State, Texas A&M, University of Alabama, University of Florida, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, and Virginia Tech.
College students also have a craving for Dunkin’ Donuts, which is a favorite on the campuses of Cornell, Harvard, Penn State, and University of Georgia. And it looks like late-night burritos and gorditas from Taco Bell are popular on the campuses of Indiana, University of Missouri, and University of Mississippi.
There were a few universities who marched to the beat of their own fast food drums, like University of North Carolina (who prefer Wendy’s), Notre Dame (who like Burger King), and University of Wisconsin (who prefer the lighter menu of Subway).
Which People Are Most Influential on College Campuses?
We know that college students love beer and fast food, but who is most influential on college campuses today? According to our data, the most popular musician nationwide on college campuses is Taylor Swift, and the most popular influencer is internet celebrity (and YouTube controversy) Logan Paul.
When we broke down the data at an individual campus level, we found much different results. Just Harvard and University of North Carolina preferred the break-up tunes of Taylor Swift over any other musician. At University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois, Indiana, and University of Iowa, the most popular musician is Chance the Rapper. Post Malone is the favorite of Texas A&M, University of Missouri, and University of Mississippi students. There are also plenty of Twenty One Pilots fans on Kansas State, Illinois State, and Montana State campuses—and Migos is a favorite of University of Alabama and University of Georgia students.
Other popular choices were Lil Dicky, Fifth Harmony, Tyga, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, and Ariana Grande.
When it comes to internet influencers, the results were fairly mixed. Ironically, no one university we looked at had Logan Paul as their favorite. Instead, we found that Vanossgaming (a Canadian video game commentator) was the most popular at Arizona State, Texas A&M, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, Virginia Tech, and University of North Carolina. Ryan Higa was close behind and is a favorite on the campuses of University of Michigan, University of Florida, and UC Berkeley. Identical twins and Instagram darlings Brooklyn & Bailey were the most popular at Penn State, University of Missouri, and Colorado State.
Other influential influencers on college campuses were King Bach, Erika Costell, Lucas & Marcus, PewDiePie, Connor Frants, KSI, and Bratayley.
The Biggest Brands on Campus
In the life of today’s college students, products are available to them 24/7, but which companies are their go-to brands?
Nationally, superstore Target was the most popular brand—and the University of Wisconsin students agreed. In addition to Target, Whole Foods was another go-to brand, which was the favorite of Arizona State, Colorado State, Harvard, UC Berkeley, University of Colorado, University of Michigan, and University of North Carolina students. Unsurprisingly, Apple was another favorite and reigned supreme with Indiana, Michigan State, Penn State, Texas A&M, University of Illinois, and Notre Dame students.
Other contenders for college students were Amazon Prime, PlayStation, Wii, and GoPro.
What Are College Students Wearing?
The college trope may be that they roll out of bed and run to their first class, but college students still have allegiances to certain clothing companies—and the most popular brand nationwide was Urban Outfitters, which also has plenty of fans at Cornell, Penn State, and University of Georgia.
Athleisure brand Lululemon was a popular choice for Michigan State, University of Alabama, University of Michigan, University of Mississippi, and University of Missouri students. Another popular athleisure brand, Under Armour, was the number one choice for Illinois State, Montana State, University of North Carolina, Notre Dame, and University of Wisconsin.
Other popular clothing brands were Vans, Victoria’s Secret, Zara, American Eagle, Brandy Melville, Adidas, and Hollister.
What Are College Students Doing for Entertainment?
Between all of the classes and the term papers, college students have to find something to do to wind down at the end of a hard day. We dove into the data to see what Netflix shows and video games were most popular with college students.
Nationally, the most popular Netflix show was the 80s horror-thriller series, Stranger Things. However, at individual campuses the results were mixed. University of Michigan, Texas A&M, University of Florida, UC Berkeley, Harvard, and Cornell all like to watch Duchess Meghan Markle’s show, Suits. American Horror Story is another favorite show for the college-aged crowd, which was the most popular at Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Kansas State, and University of Mississippi. Students at Arizona State, University of Alabama, University of Georgia, and Notre Dame preferred to unwind with an episode of “Power.”
Other popular choices were The Crown, Big Mouth, Bob’s Burgers, Black Mirror, Vampire Diaries, and Breaking Bad.
But what about video games? It turns out that the most popular game nationwide is Fortnite, which, ironically, we didn’t see pop up in our data at the individual campus level. Instead, we found that the old standby World of Warcraft was popular at Texas A&M, University of Colorado, University of Missouri, Colorado State, Virginia Tech, and Montana State. Counter Strike is also a hit among the college crowd, with large swathes of fans at Arizona State, University of Florida, Michigan State, Penn State, Harvard, and Cornell.
Additional popular games include The Legend of Zelda, Overwatch, Grand Theft Auto, and Pokémon.
How we selected college towns: Our list is based off of data from Best College Reviews list of the “50 Best College Towns in America.” Best College Reviews creates their rankings using data from many sources, including: National Center for Education Statistics: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), National Center for Education Statistics: College Navigator, ED.gov, Bureau of Labor Statistics and American Fact Finder.
How we selected beer brands: We selected our list of beer brands using 24/7 Wall Street’s research on the top 26 beer brands in America, which is based on barrels shipped in 2017 as well as market share percentage.
How we selected fast food brands: We used data from the Gen Z “It’s Lit” research study, which was commissioned by Google from May to July 2016.
How we selected brands: We used data from the Gen Z “It’s Lit” research study, which was commissioned by Google from May to July 2016.
How we selected musicians: We selected our list of artists and musicians based on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
How we selected influencers: We used Gen Z trends data from the National Retail Federation as well as the Gen Z “It’s Lit” research study, which was commissioned by Google from May to July 2016.
How we selected fashion brands: We used Gen Z consumer trends data from the National Retail Federation as well as the Gen Z “It’s Lit” research study, which was commissioned by Google from May to July 2016.
How we selected Netflix shows: Our list is based off of Netflix’s top 20 most binged shows as of February 2018.
How we selected video games: We used Ranker.com’s list of the most popular video games.