Younger generations – millennials and the so called generation Z – are increasingly aware of the social and environmental crises that are affecting not only their communities but the entire world. They want to be part of the solution and expect companies to be stewards for the wellbeing of the planet. This generation of conscious consumers is also the most active on social media and uses this ever-changing social web to share information. What this means for your brand is that if you want to stand out as a corporate change-maker you must lead a cultural conversation that resonates with your audience so deeply that they want to amplify your content and impact; in doing so you will establish purpose-driven customer loyalty, goodwill and profits.
Masdar Company’s Gen Z Global Sustainability Survey compiled data from over 4,000 online interviews of 18 to 25-year olds in 20 countries around the world and found that the vast majority of youth believe businesses have a responsibility to make the world more sustainable and a third made their opinion heard by sharing information about the environment on social media within a year prior to the 2016 study. What’s more is 46 percent said they’d spent more money on a product because of sustainability considerations and 31 percent have boycotted a brand because of unsustainable conduct. What this data shows us is that young consumers want a better world, not just better widgets. They are willing to vote for brands making an impact by purchasing their products, and equally willing to oppose others – not only with their dollars but also by sharing their opinions online – that aren’t contributing to the future they want to live in.
To appeal to the next generation of conscious consumers and build long-lasting customer relationships it’s important to share your purpose-driven mission in a way that younger generations will best receive it. Here are three ways your brand can connect with youth to not only increase the reach of your marketing strategies through word-of-mouth advertising, but also increase your brand’s long-term profitability:
1. Get and stay creative in how you engage with youth
The world is becoming increasingly connected through the internet and social media. For your brand to stay relevant, you have to ride the wave of change or get washed up on the sand. In fact, a 2016 study showed that over 2.3 billion people use social media – a 10 percent increase from the year before — and nearly 2 billion are connecting on their smart phones. The speed of change in this industry is constantly accelerating. First it was Friendster, then Myspace, then Facebook, and now you’ve got Instagram, Snapchat, Wechat, and Linkedin (among others), and virtual reality is set to transform online communication in the next few years. The industry is constantly changing but one thing that is staying consistent is that the majority of users on all of these platforms are below the age of 34. Engagement is a fluid art and channels, as well as content, are constantly being reimagined and redefined. For your brand to strengthen consumer engagement and keep younger generations interested – which will essentially determine your future success — you need to stay in touch with how people are engaging online.
2. Partner with organizations working with youth
An excellent way to reach youth is to collaborate with organizations that are already an important part of their lives and use your purpose-driven missions to create real social change in their communities.
An amazing example of a company using purpose to establish a leading role in a larger cultural conversation and create partnerships that expand their reach and impact is Dove. The brand partnered with the YMCA to launch the Be Real campaign, focused on fostering awareness about body image and helping strengthen body confidence. They scaled their messaging by offering UK schools the Be Real toolkit – which provides lessons for teachers, students, parents and partners on how to foster a body confident environment. The takeaway here is that by working with organizations that have already built relationships with young people to achieve a purpose-driven mission larger than your brand or industry, you can not only use the already established trust and familiarity to catch the attention of your target audience, but also create meaningful impact in the lives of your potential customers.
3. Invite consumers and influencers to shape your brand story
Making an emotional impact on your audience is critical to the success of your messaging strategies and a powerful way to do that is to encourage consumers to participate in and help your brand achieve its purpose-driven mission. The goal here is to empower your audience to understand your purpose and story so well that they can tell you what your brand stands for – that’s the reverse elevator pitch. What’s even more influential is to inspire fan action rather than fan interest. In doing this, you will see the incredible multiplier effect of consumer engagement and how it can scale your marketing campaigns, mission and sales.
An excellent example of a company that used the power of consumer activism to amplify their message is Naked Juice, which partnered with Wholesome Wave – a nonprofit that provides healthy food to underserved communities — on the Drink Good Do Good campaign, which encouraged consumers, celebrities and social media influencers to share selfies holding fruits or vegetables using the #DrinkGoodDoGood hashtag. For every selfie shared, Naked Juice donated 10 pounds of fresh produce to communities in need. By inviting consumers to take part in making a difference on issues they care about, you can strengthen your connection with stakeholder communities who will in turn magnify your message by sharing it with their networks.
Youth are the future and — through social media – they are actively shaping brand storytelling. To position yourself as a leader today, and in the years to come, you need to deliver the services, products and purpose younger generations want in the way they want to experience it.
Connect with We First!
Title image via Flickr courtesy of user Jeff Djevdet at https://flic.kr/p/JZRWEC.