ACTIONABLE RESEARCH ON GEN Z AND MILLENNIALS
How Millennials Want Brands To Handle PR Scandals

How Millennials Want Brands To Handle PR Scandals

With more brands making their political views known than ever before, the chances of a PR misstep are also increasing. So what do Millennials expect from a brand if a scandal does go down?

In 2016, we explored the trend PC Police to find out what role political correctness plays in their own lives, how do they define it, and more. Truly understanding their view on the issue is essential—because whether you think they’re too sensitive or not, they’re a vocal majority with expectations that their views be heard. It’s no secret that brands can find themselves in hot water when they offend young consumers today. From thoughtless comments on social media to products that demonstrate cultural appropriation or exclusion, examples of brands being put on blast for their missteps abound. Young consumers have the tools to make their voices heard, and they’re letting brands know when they feel an injustice has been done.

But in the year since we first explored the topic, as we’re all more than aware, the politicization of all things has exploded into overdrive. Thanks to the current political climate, these days, nearly every ad—and every brand—can be political. More brands than ever before are making their political leanings known in marketing and messaging—and the potential to offend viewers has grown exponentially. Even big brands who might not intend to get political should expect to have their marketing interpreted that way—see Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad chronicling their German co-founder’s immigrant story sparking a boycott from those who believe the spot is a criticism of Trump. So today we’re exploring some of the data that shows just what offends Millennial consumers, and what they think brands should do when a PR scandal is stirred up. We’ll start with what they say they’ve been offended by in the past. (Keep in mind that when they’re thinking about offenses, it’s more likely those that go against their Millennial (read, more liberal) values that come to mind.)

Hateful speech against a person or group because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation are the most common things that Millennial consumers have been offended by overall. Males are far less likely to report having been offended by these things, and in fact less likely to report being offended across the board. When we look at race/ethnicity groups, African American/Black Millennials are more likely than both Caucasian and Hispanic Millennials to report being offended by hateful speech, jokes at the expense of a group of people, culturally insensitive stereotypes, and cultural appropriation. 

So when brands do something that does cross the boundary with young consumers, and offends a group, what do they expect that brand to do? 

About half of young consumers overall believe that a brand should immediately apologize after offending a group, and stop whatever has been the cause of the offense. It might seem simple, but often apologies and reactions from brands are delayed when young consumers want them to be immediate. Silence on the topic is the worst reaction a brand can have.

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