The next generations want brands that take a stand

What if the legendary Burger King Whopper was no longer available? This was demonstrated in a Grand Effie-winning documentary-style campaign where the flagship Whopper sandwich was taken off the menu. The resulting TV spots showed the reactions of real (and very angry) customers when hearing that the Whopper would no longer be available. This might just be an ad, but would you care equally much if your usual breakfast cereal disappeared from the store shelves, or if your usual shampoo was discontinued? Apparently not, as research by Havas Media Group revealed that people would not mind if 74% of the brands they use every day would cease to exist. Alongside this, the survey also shows that 75% of consumers expects brands to contribute to their quality of life.

More than ever do brands need to have a clear purpose, but it goes beyond that. While in the past brands were expected to appeal to the mass, carefully considering each outgoing statement and avoiding actions that could be seen as socially, economically or politically controversial, today’s consumers expect companies to take a stand on issues.

According to the 2017 Edelman Earned brand study, 30% of consumers declares to make belief-driven purchase decisions more now than they did three years ago. And this is especially true for the next generations, purpose seekers on a personal quest for meaningful lives, macro-meaning. This is also reflected in what they expect from brands: they should add up to this meaningfulness, have a purpose, and care for the world they are taking from. The Edelman study confirms this thinking, showing that 60% of Millennials can be considered to be belief-purchase buyers that will switch, change or even boycott a brand if it isn’t conform their ideology.

Instagram Adidas Women

Adidas, for example, launched a campaign supporting women with the message to free themselves from standards. When asked whether the ad – which was considered to be very feministic – was trying to encourage women to be more aggressive, the brand commented smartly: “Our women’s crew is not promoting aggression but is on a mission, to free themselves from the standards and constant social judgment. They take originality into their own hands and create their own path.” This campaign runs parallel with the androgynous collection the brand launched.

Heineken’s ‘Worlds Apart’ campaign featured a social experiment where people with different points of view (a feminist and an anti-feminist, a right-wing man and a transgender woman, a climate conservative and an activist) were invited to work together and build a bar. The campaign gave a new dimension to the brand’s ’Open Your World’ mantra. The three duos are discussing personalities while assembling the bar furniture, yet only after having built the bar, a film is shown of each person presenting their (extreme) beliefs. They are then given a choice to either walk away or sit down and discuss their opposing beliefs over a beer. As part of this, Heineken is also partnering with The Human Library, a nonprofit organization that uses conversation to challenge stereotypes.

More and more brands are showing their real colors by taking a stand. The days when functional benefits ruled marketing are over; brands need to demonstrate purpose beyond profit-making. Yet Corporate Social Responsibility no longer is a simple checkbox; it should be part of a brand’s manifest to support a social cause or challenge issues in an overly polarized world. However, this is where it is essential to have a natural connection with the purpose you are supporting; you need to have an honest agenda beyond wanting to create marketing buzz.

Want to explore how your brand can connect with the next generations, and Gen Z in particular? Discover what our research toolbox and expert power can do for your brand!

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