Social Gaming To Social Good--Brands Matter To Youth Market

In the 1980s, hip-hop kids wore their Adidas Superstars like an identity badge. In the '90s, our Doc Martins showed how little we cared for the corporate world. Today, no hipster shoe closet is complete without a pair or two of TOMS canvas slip-ons.

The youth market has always defined itself through brands that reflect its cultural values. Recently, we've seen a clear shift in the message -- for good. Status symbols for the under-30 demographic show their commitment to the environment, global access to clean water, better access to nutritious foods and other social good causes. Today's youth market is consciously conscious, and they hold their brands accountable to representing their values.

There are a few reasons for this.

Social media has given us a new level of transparency, both in business and our personal lives. What we stand for is as easy to find as our list of Facebook "interests." Social media has made causes far more accessible and no longer relegated to the elite world of expensive fundraising dinners. Our causes, from DoSomething to charity:water, are our badges of good global citizenship.

The celebrity surrounding these causes has given status to their early adopters. Like discovering a new band, fashion trend or leading a sports team bandwagon, social good creates influencers out of peers. It is a point of pride, and maybe a bit of a competitive game, not to be left out.

The youth market wears its badges proudly. Becoming "the mayor" on foursquare, getting the best deal on Groupon or displaying your whereabouts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are achievements. It's the game of raising a personal public profile -- of coolness.

This is not to say that the rise of social good is inauthentic. The downturn in the economy in 2007 hit everyone in a very personal way. With a loss of livelihood came a rise in empathy, an honest desire to help others and heal our communities. Doing good makes us happy. An easy way to do good is is to purchase from brands that share these values.

A CSR component used to be a 'nice to have' in a marketing campaign, but today it's essential to a brand's DNA. Companies without a social good element integrated into the business model fail to connect authentically with their consumers. Creating a positive impact on the world is no longer an afterthought; it's at the core of a successful campaign. Project (RED), Starbucks' Let's Create Jobs for USA, Pepsi Refresh, the film "Bully." Purpose-driven brand strategy is creating meaningful conversation -- and a healthy ROI.

Youth culture is playing a game for social good -- it's a new passion point. As all successful brands know, passion can be monetized. And if a brand doesn't share or inspire the market's passion for creating good, it isn't connecting with the youth audience.

Roman Tsunder is cofounder and CEO, PTTOW! Youth, Marketing & Media Summit.

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