The 10 Most Important Brands To Generation-Y

by Julian Sonny

If there is ever anything that truly resonates within our generation, it's always a direct result of some damn good branding. We're suckers for great marketing, and sometimes, it takes just that for us to realize how awesome a product truly is. It's all a game of who can brainwash us the best.

Over the years, there's been a handful of lifestyle brands in particular that have bridged this gap and separated themselves from the pack. While so many companies have invested millions to connect with us by being "hip," only an elite group can claim to have achieved the monumental feat of truly capturing this vaunted market.

For the brands that are able to manage this, they become entrenched with one of the most loyal fanbases any advertiser could ever ask for. Comprised of 72 million people, we make up the largest portion of today's consumer spending and, unlike Generation-X, we've conflated excess with necessity. Gen-Y is like that wide-eyed 19 year old who just got off the plane to be a "model" in the big city -- everybody wants to f*ck it. This is the era of instant gratification and corporate America is always looking to cash out. Know your value.

There are several means to identifying with this niche audience of Gen-Y. For one, attaching a legitimate celebrity/music/sports influencer is always important. But what's most vital is truly embedding the brand in unique ways that cater to our needs: what we are interested in and what we do.

Certain brands have done this remarkably well in the past, which is why they are at the top of the food chain today. That's because they are able to subliminally deliver their message by pointing right back into our passions. They know where to find us and there is nothing in the way of stopping them from tracking us down.

To reach Generation-Y, you can't just use mass marketing anymore. You have to get into our faces and tell us exactly what we need. These are the 10 brands who got us so good that we didn't even know it:


Ploom is an upstart tobacco company based in San Francisco. Really. Re-imagining the smoking paradigm, Pax weds modern technologies, materials, and processes with beautifully simple yet effective design. The Bugatti defines the automotive industry, the iPod defines mobile music, and when it comes to the realm of loose leaf consumption, the Pax comes second to none.

Papers were for your parents, bongs were for your big brother in college, but today in the world of tobacco and marijuana, Ploom serves as a true destination brand. Rewiring our favorite past time is no easy feat, but when bringing together flawless design, attention-grabbing packaging, and an unbelievably durable product, you have something special for generations to come. Making such an indelible impact on Gen-Y isn't easy, but it only took Ploom one year.


When they told us Santa Claus wasn't real, we weren't so shocked, but when you try to tell me that the blood spilling down Mick Foley's face during a Hell In The Cell match with Undertaker isn't real, we have no problem telling you you're wrong. For the first time in history, sports and entertainment have been married in such a way where it brings individuals from all walks of life together for weekly episodes.

From fights with Mike Tyson to Donald Trump, the WWE brand has gone from local wrestling circuit to a publicly traded company worth hundreds of millions. If anyone told you what your dreams in life would involve fighting, pyrotechnics and steroids would never come true, they've clearly never heard of Hulk Hogan.

Mountain Dew

Dew you, right? Any brand willing to take a risk on Lil Wayne as a brand ambassador is cool with us. Although we wouldn't be caught dead actually drinking this, we do have a great deal of respect for the marketing toward our generation.

Their affinity for action sports, hip hop and pop culture easily makes Mountain Dew one of the most well respected and recognized brands for millenials. We love them because we haven't drunk a can since the third grade, but somehow the brand has grown to be larger and more recognizable than ever. That's marketing power.

Beats by Dre

Beats by Dre came hard on the scene as they proved that when tying a brand with one of the most reputable celebrities they can manage, truly pays off dividends. West coast hip hop legend Dr. Dre signed on with the company and since then they have taken flight. When quality meets style then you will surely get a positive response.

But while the product speaks for itself, Beats doesn't stop there. They have one of the most enticing campaigns that include print and TV ads. Just check out their Robin Thicke "Blurred Lines" commercial for the Beats Pill. Then watch the uncensored version immediately after. These guys know how to appeal to our market.


Thank founder Phil Knight for being ahead of the curve -- Nike is just one of those brands that our generation associates with being the best in the business. It doesn't get much better than Nike when it comes to sportswear and athletic gear. By making sure the company signs top athletes (such as LeBron James and Tiger Woods), it truly holds the monopoly in the game.

And if having one of the strongest teams wasn't enough, it's always innovating too. Just look at its cutting-edge football uniform designs. The University of Oregon (where Phil went to school) has arguably the hottest get up in football as we have seen its vision transcend to other teams on all levels. From making kids wait outside of Footlocker for two days just to cop a new pair of shoes, to having its gear on the biggest athletes in the game, Nike is the pinnacle.


ESPN is the true pioneer when it comes to attacking a niche market on cable television. Before there was an MTV, Food Network or Travel Channel, there was only the Entertainment Sports Network -- a channel dedicated to sports. Over the years, they have not only taken the monopoly (covering every damn sport there is), but now have separated themselves so far that it would probably be impossible for any kind of rival competition to step up.

From all the athletes to all the teams, ESPN always has full-access and the most in depth coverage. ESPN evolved the media landscape for the better of mankind and Generation-Y appreciates that.

Roc Nation

What rapper-turned-mogul Jay Z was able to accomplish with his Roc Nation brand in such limited time is truly remarkable. Not only is there one of the most iconic celebrities already embedded into the company, but he was able to transcend it beyond just music, but into fashion and even sports management as the latest endeavor for the marketing genius is Roc Nation Sports.

Already, he has acquired some of the top talent from all across the board with stars like Kevin Durant and Robinson Cano. With his reach within popular culture, surely he will help them reach the next level of athlete stardom. The Roc is always pushing itself into the future and it's because of Jay Z's status as one of the all-time greats that has catapulted them to the top.

Virgin Group

Two words: Richard Branson. Any man who cultivates his own marijuana production, creates a public space travel airline, and water skis with fully nude super models on his back is an individual that deserves bronze statues erected in his honor.

With over 300 companies in the portfolio, the high school drop out Richard Branson overcame struggles to create a brand that allows creativity and dreams to be explored to the fullest level. Virgin Media/Galactic/Records/etc. is led by the man who taught Gen-Y who they should be today and tomorrow.

Red Bull

Remember the ski jump competitions in downtown San Francisco and Central Park in NYC? What about the amazing set of images produced in slow motion that make you want to jump out of your chair and fight for your dreams. It's all Red Bull.

With a brand vision that allows Gen-Y to take risks in pursuit of living their dream, Red Bull has conquered everything from all female surf teams to excessively extreme cliff diving competitions. Red Bull is everything your parents were not and all you want to be today.


There is no competition for Apple when it comes to brand loyalty for Generation-Y. Tim Cook and crew could literally repackage an iPhone 1 and still be proclaimed as visionaries.

Steve Jobs's legendary attention to detail and product roadmap that outlives his time on the earth is something that we will not likely see again in our lifetime. While technology brands often have a cold and faceless persona, the pursuit of evolution and life is something that resonates with Apple even after Jobs's passing.