Generation Y is all about purpose-driven purchases. That’s old news. The rise of organic products, craft beer, and hybrid cars speak for themselves.
In short, you could say that Generation Y believes that they are doing good – that their purchases reflect their values, their views, and what they seek to change in the world. Somehow, by purchasing fair-trade coffee beans and driving a Prius, the world will be, even if only slightly, a better place.
We can go on and on about just how “good” a company is, but when it comes down to it: very few of us actually care.
While there is an important distinction between doing good and “doing good,” most of us do not have the time or even the desire to deconstruct the morality of each and every purchase. And this is where smart branding comes into play.
Generation Y is the most susceptible demographic to good branding. Look at Apple. Despite reports of chilling labor rights violations in China, Apple has emerged stronger than ever. Their simple, sleek interface design projects a feeling of cleanliness, while their ads preview young millennials taking selfies with their grandparents at birthday parties. Apple makes us feel like we can do good through their products, and at every touch point, they articulate it. They are able to leverage their clever, Generation-Y-driven branding to overshadow controversy.
When you see someone with an iPhone, you don’t think about the overworked, under aged exploited child laborers, but rather you think about how cool, modern, and on-trend the user is. And frankly, the person with the iPhone could care less about the child laborers, as long as their co-workers don’t associate the two together.
As brands continue to catch on to the do-good trend, many will fall a victim to producing do-good products in lieu of do-good branding. The two cannot be used interchangeably. At the end of the day, Wal-Mart is still going to be the media’s go-to bad guy, no matter how many cage-free, organic eggs they toss on the shelves. Alternatively, a change in perspective requires a change in branding. You have to win as the good guy, not as the guy who did one good deed.
So what does Generation Y want? Make the message clear. Make us feel good. Make us feel like we can change world – whether or not we actually can.