ACTIONABLE RESEARCH ON GEN Z AND MILLENNIALS
Millennials & Teens Sound Off: What Brands Do The Most Good

Millennials & Teens Sound Off: What Brands Do The Most Good

We know Millennials and teens expect brands to make a difference, but what company do they think is doing the best job supporting a social cause? We asked 1000 13-33-year-olds. 

Our most recent survey of Millennials and teens explored their social good attitudes and behaviors, from the causes that matter most to them right now, to how they make a difference, and how they feel about corporate social responsibility. We found that 45% of 13-33-year-olds think that brands play a significant role in social good or charity work. We’ve seen for some time that young consumers are looking for brands that help them to make a difference, and they are drawn to brands that make them feel good about themselves—which for many means those brands than make them feel they’re making a positive impact on the world. At this point it’s expected that brands will have some sort of social good effort, and that these charitable efforts will help to appeal to Millennials and teens. According to one study, 70% of Millennials spend more money on brands that support causes, and 66% are more likely to engage with those brands on social media to discuss social responsibility.

But corporate social responsibility is still a tricky area for many. As brands feel more pressure to do good, an industry of agencies focusing on socially responsible marketing has emerged. Finding the right social good mission is key, and one insider reports, “Brands often want to randomly pick a cause even if they don’t truly believe in it. Millennials will see right through that.”

So what brands are succeeding in their CSR strategies? To find out, we asked 1000 13-33-year-olds “What brand do you think does the BEST job of supporting a social cause or charitable organization?”* Here are their top ten responses: 

We’ll start with an important note: almost 40% of respondents said they didn’t know what brand was doing the best job, or that no brand is. This is a significant finding. Though social good has been buzzed about for years, Millennials are still not getting the message about what most brands are contributing. Our advice to most brands would be this: if you’re participating in a social good effort just to do good, keep going. But if you want young consumers to know that you are making a difference, you need to tell them on a consistent basis. Putting a tab on your corporate website isn’t going to cut it, they need more clear messaging, more regularly.

Case in point: by far the most mentioned brand they think is doing the best job supporting a social cause is TOMS shoes. Social good is baked into the very foundation of the brand, and their “buy one, give one” ethos is a permanent part of their messaging. They have become the brand that Millennials associate with doing good.

Of course, we couldn’t just get brands’ good side. We also asked Millennials and teens, “What brand do you think does the WORST job of supporting a social cause or charitable organization?” Here are there top ten responses: 

Walmart was the top response for brands they feel are doing the worst job supporting a social cause. This list (more than ten to account for some ties) is full of brands who have had some relatively recent PR troubles. But you might notice something else about the list: there are several crossovers with the brands that appear on the “best job” ranking.

This contradiction shows us how brand affinity and corporate responsibility are intertwined for young consumers. While Millennials are more receptive to what their favorite brands are doing from a corporate responsibility perspective, they’re often completely unaware of what their least favorite brands are doing to make the world a better place.

One respondent gives another clue to the crossover between lists, saying, “Apple. For all the money they make I never see them give back or back any causes.” Social good, while they demand it, is naturally divisive. For everyone who might love what Nike is doing, there is another who thinks it isn’t the right thing to do—or that it’s not enough. Chick-Fil-A was mentioned by more Millennials as a brand doing the worst job, but was still mentioned by some as a brand doing the best. You aren’t going to be able to please everyone, because not all Millennials think alike. So brands shouldn’t expect that CSR will get you the whole generation…but doing nothing at all might be worse.