H2R in Action

A Millennial Market: How Young Americans Influence Corporate Responsibility

The way consumers interact with brands is rapidly changing. There are now over 90 million American Millennials, defined by those born between 1981 and 2000. In fact, earlier this year, Millennials officially surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation in US history. As the new era of young people take a stronghold on our economy, market, and culture, many industries are realizing the increasing need to adapt in order to appeal to their evolving clientele

What about younger Americans makes us different from our parents’ generation? For starters, millennials are aware now more than ever that they are constantly being sold to, and they don’t like it. Advertisements and other marketing tactics are losing their effectiveness on young consumers. In fact, most millennials are skeptical of advertising, and only 1% are influenced by a compelling ad. Brands need to begin thinking outside the box and develop alternative strategies in order to win over the trust of their young and increasingly powerful consumers.

Millennials are also more likely to value brands they perceive to enhance lives, support social causes, and demonstrate transparency and trustworthiness. With 61% of young people feeling personally responsible to make a difference within their community or environment, they expect brands and companies to play their fare share. In fact, 75% of younger consumers expect brands to demonstrate social engagement and give back to society. 84% of millennials consider a brand’s public and implied values before making a purchase, and they don’t just take the company’s word for it. Young people are twice as likely than Baby Boomers to check if a brand’s corporate social responsibility claims are true and supported with specific action. Companies need to actively and publically demonstrate they are concerned about the social and environmental impacts of their products, and committed to mitigating effects where possible.

Why do these expectations matter? If brands don’t learn to adapt to the millennial mindset, they face obsolescence. By 2018, millennials are expected to surpass their preceding generations with $3.39 trillion in annual spending power. With this transition comes the increasing need for brands to meet the demands, expectations, and interests of their transitioning consumer base. It is essential to a company’s financial security and longevity to understand and value the expectations of this social cohort as well as appreciate the magnitude of the influence they play in the market.

Referred to as a decline of deference, younger Americans are experiencing less positive regard towards large companies and institutions. The growing population’s decline of deference makes it more difficult for companies to convince consumers that their brands demonstrate transparency and social engagement. Skepticism of environmental marketing claims leads younger Americans to look towards third party seals and certifications on packaging to vouch for the credibility of a brand’s claims. How2Recycle aims to meet these demands and promote sustainability by influencing packaging design for recycling. As a third party membership based program, How2Recycle works with industry companies to convey both overall recyclability of a package and improve the reliability, completeness, and transparency of recyclability claims. How2Recycle engages with consumers by instructing how to properly prepare a package for recycling, as well as where to go to find additional information. Also, as the project of GreenBlue, an environmental nonprofit, we are committed to promoting sustainability by increasing the amount and quality of recycled material.

How2Recycle addresses the changing demands of the growing (both in breadth and influence) population. We aim to create a market that propels companies towards social responsibility and transparency. We hope to help bridge the gap between company’s efforts and consumers’ suspicion. We want to foster trust, communication, and a greater understanding of the materials you handle everyday. Companies, heed the call: don’t dismiss millennials.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox
Project Associate

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