Brands’ Positions On Social Issues Isn’t Connecting With Gen Z

Generation Z isn’t connecting with consumer brands’ public support of social cause platforms. A study by social impact consulting firm DoSomething Strategic found that 66 percent of young consumers say that a brand's association with a social cause or platform positively impacts their overall impression of the brand and 58 percent say this association will impact their likelihood of purchasing that brand. However, across the 88 brands tested in the survey, an average of just 12 percent of respondents had "top of mind" associations between brands they were familiar with and a social cause or platform. Even when provided a list of social causes or platforms, cause association still only reached an average of 24 percent.

"This study highlights critical factors marketers today should consider when trying to reach a younger consumer," says Meredith Ferguson, managing director of DoSomething Strategic. "Primarily, that you need to shout loud and proud about your support of social issues and cause platforms to break through the noise. Too few young consumers are aware of brands' support of various cause initiatives and there is a real risk brands aren't getting the 'credit' for the good work they're doing. It is a missed opportunity to build a relationship with consumers based on shared values."

The report also found that brands can't expect their history of cause marketing to be known to a new generation. It did point out a few methods to give brands an edge when it comes to strengthening their connection to social cause initiatives among young people. These included finding a unique angle within a brand category, having a singular focus in the brand’s messaging and courting controversy.

"Gen Z defines 'authenticity' differently than older generations," says Ferguson. "To them, there is no such thing as a cause that is off-limits for a brand to champion—it doesn't have to be in lock-step with what a brand sells. So long as the brand is walking the walk and supporting the issue from the inside out, they're game."

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