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

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

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.

2 comments about "Amazon Is Millennials' No. 1 Brand. So Is Purpose-Driven Marketing Fruitless?".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ronald Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, May 3, 2021 at 3:01 p.m.

    Realistic and practical observations. Good essay. 

  2. John Luma from iLumaNation, May 4, 2021 at 5:24 p.m.

    Excellent point here. Is it too simple to say capitalism itself has always been about convenience, efficiency and price? And making the world a better place for all, not so much. 

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications