Amazon Is Millennials' No. 1 Brand. So Is Purpose-Driven Marketing Fruitless?

Millennials seem to understand the importance of companies striving for meaning beyond profits. The same millennial buyers who tout their loyalty to cause-conscious organizations overwhelmingly spend their discretionary income at Amazon, a flawed behemoth that’s never laid out any ethical consumerism motto, but merely delivers fast service and competitively low prices.

It’s interesting that Amazon has pushed Apple out of the spotlight to become the favorite brand among millennials, according to a Moosylvania survey. This means all those analyses of predictable millennial buying habits may fall by the wayside when these consumers are faced with a spending choice.

Despite the public-facing efforts it has made during the COVID-19 outbreak, Amazon hardly has a pristine backstory, given its reputation for unfair worker treatment and conditions. Even Apple, Google, and Nike — three other Moosylvania winners — have less-than-perfect track records.



To their credit, these brands have made inroads into positive change. However, their inherent flaws apparently have not made a considerable dent in revenue. Millennials have not boycotted these brands en masse, which is a fact marketers must consider.

I encounter this type of consumer dissonance regularly, and perhaps you do, too. What people claim on surveys or in focus groups routinely flies in the face of their actual behavior. For that reason, when I test personas, I test based on prior purchases. Research helps narrow the buying opportunities, but what happens when the rubber meets the road? That’s all that really matters.

Does this mean that purpose-driven marketing is just a nice-to-have asset? Not at all. It simply needs to be part of a combination of factors that earn consumer loyalty.

We know loyalty is tough to win. Data from McKinsey & Co. shows 87% of buyers are brand-agnostic. What millennials — and all consumers — crave is value. And value comes from offering social responsibility as well as a host of other unique selling features to increase conversions on an otherwise level playing field.

Auto insurers, for example, are adjusting to a climate in which their policyholders are driving less than usual. State Farm decided to offer $2 billion in premiums to customers whose driving habits have decreased in light of stay-at-home orders. While it’s not a new service, it is an acknowledgment of current circumstances that resonates with existing policyholders and can be attractive to potential ones.

Brands need to think about what they stand for on a fundamental level. From there, they can build authentically — even if their social justice angles lack depth. This tactic has worked for Amazon, which has never strayed from its legacy of attractive prices and unmatched convenience. Even without a social angle, Amazon sits atop the retail ladder.

Consumers appreciate pledges like the “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation,” but they have a limit when it comes to how much they’re willing to pay for a cause. At some intersecting point, buyers are willing to reward companies — even ones with bad marks — for making their lives easier. The key for brands is figuring out where that line exists without assuming it begins and ends with a higher purpose.

3 comments about "Amazon Is Millennials' No. 1 Brand. So Is Purpose-Driven Marketing Fruitless?".
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  1. Jonathan May from HorseTV Global, February 22, 2021 at 4:31 p.m.

    Millennials haven't figured out that Amazon's business is not retail, it's data harvesting your preferences, buying habits, and more, and selling your data.  NOw Amazon is getting into the pharmacy business.  Just for grins I wanted to look up a price of a prescription, and it was very difficult, but in the process of proving my e-mail address and name, it said it "automatically" connected to my medical records.  WTF?  How does Amazon have access to my medical records?  Obviously it's harvesting data and will get more seeing what you take prescriptions for- VERY valuable data to sell to the highest bidder.  The Millennial Morons who didn't give a twit aboout privacy concerns in building these systems, will be the first ones to receive notices that they are due for a proctology exam.

  2. PJ Lehrer from NYU replied, February 23, 2021 at 12:48 p.m.

    I've surveyed students on cause marketing and while they are all for it in principle, they give Amazon a pass.  More here...

  3. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, February 24, 2021 at 2:17 p.m.

    A.  The study was from 2019 - prior to COVID.

    B.  Walmart gained 10 spots and moved to #4.

    The findings start with an "on-demand" facet, so is this a "favorite brand" study or "where do you do your shopping" study?


    The commentary doesn't seem to reflect the study nor the basis of the findings.

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