For Gen Y Trust and Character Are the Top Brand Currency

Millennials are passionate about companies who give back to the communities they serve. By this I mean both companies who contribute philanthropically and companies who foster goodwill by being transparent in times both bad and good.

Chelsea Krost is a popular Millennial blogger and she recently wrote about what makes millenials happy in the workforce. “Millennials are extremely dedicated to brands that are associated with or give back to a cause,” Krost said. “Millennials are simply not content with logging data, doing pointless research, or getting people’s coffee.” Why and how? Millennials are typically highly educated, have had the Internet nearly a part of their entire lives, and desire to make a positive impact in the world.

And with the Millennial Generation about to take over leadership positions in the workforce, we are already starting to see many leaders not only offering back but also making it the backbone of their companies. This year at SXSW V2V, I heard a talk by Jeff Rosenblum, documentary writer and director of The Naked Brand.



In the documentary, Jeff emphasizes how strong influence corporations have on the world. Jeff’s documentary features notables like Kevin Plank of Under Armour, Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, Shaquille O'Neal, and Alex Bogusky, all of whom are doing their part to help save the planet.

We are already starting to see many leaders create grassroots efforts to combine business and philanthropy and making it not part but foundation for their business. Lauren Bush’s FEED Projects was established to create good products that generate profit to help feed the world. A donation is built into the cost of their FEED bags, bears, t-shirts, and other accessories. Another rabidly popular brand with chic Millennials is TOMS shoes. They have a concept both simple and profound: for every pair of shoes sold through retail, they deliver a free, new pair of shoes to a child in need. Their site proclaims, “Giving is a job that comes with great responsibility.”

However Rosenblum articulates that advertising is in the midst of another revolution, especially when marketing to the millennial generation. While we know that the days when TV advertisements for cigarettes stated that they had no ill effect on your health are long gone. When helping make the world a better place, brands must be willing to be transparent and truthful about other aspects of their organization. These days, honesty is valuable brand currency.

Whether the word is good or bad, it spreads fast on social media. This abundance of data can make Millennials more cynical about the brands they have not yet bought into. When a brand makes a mistake, best practice is to admit it and offer a prompt make-good. Nothing combats cynicism or outright mistrust better than immediate and positive counteraction.

One of the most recent examples came from Crayola Colored Bubbles. Seems fun, right? But check out the reviews on Amazon. The negative reviews and countless homemade video reviews showing what happens when you play with the colored bubbles permeated the social channels and parenting blogs. Crayola has been well respected for decades and one faulty product won’t sink a business reputation built over the last century, it did leave a bad taste in the mouth of Millennials.

A company that I have recently come to admire is Chobani, which makes a popular Greek yogurt. After an unfortunate incident during which people allegedly became sick from moldy product, Chobani stepped up without delay, posting this on its Facebook page: “There is nothing more important to us than the quality of our products. We're currently in the process of voluntarily removing some from shelves that simply weren't up to snuff.” They reacted quickly and offered coupons for free substitutes to re-establish consumer trust in the brand.

Being socially positive by contributing back or keeping things straight and honest is not only good business but also hallmarks for capturing the hearts of the next wave of influential consumers. If you are a marketer or media professional looking to promote your products in a socially positive way, you can take a cue from any of these companies…or you can pave a new path.
1 comment about "For Gen Y Trust and Character Are the Top Brand Currency".
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  1. Zachary Cochran from CPXi, October 18, 2013 at 5:08 p.m.

    Chobani learned from the Tylenol case study. Good for them. That's the way to keep and build trust today.

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