SUMMARY: Brands are going to have to work very hard to earn the trust of millennials. The percentage of Millennials who believe business is having a positive impact on society dropped from 76% in 2017 to 55% in 2019 and 26% of Millennials have no trust in business leaders.
According to a report from Deloitte, “trust in traditional media is notably low among millennials and Gen Zs as political conversations over the last year have likely contributed to increased skepticism”. But it gets worse.
Millennials’ opinions about business continue to diminish, in part due to views that businesses focus solely on their own agendas rather than considering the consequences for society. Fifty-five percent said business has a positive impact on society, down from 61 percent in 2018. More millennials than ever—49 percent—would, if they had a choice, quit their current jobs in the next two years.
In addition, millennials and Gen Zs, in general, will patronize and support companies that align with their values. Younger generations are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to supporting businesses that make a positive impact on society. Many say they will not hesitate to lessen or end a consumer relationship when they disagree with a company’s business practices, values or political leanings.
Trouble for brands ahead?
The information in the Deloitte report is eye-opening but does it apply to all millennials? That’s hard to say but brands that aren’t transparent are going to pay a price. Brands that say they are environmentalists when their CEOs contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans are going to pay a huge price. Republicans are killing off environmental safeguards and people are angry. President Trump has taken historically unprecedented action to roll back a slew of environmental regulations that protect air, water, land and public health from hazards and climate change. The consequences of eliminating these regulations include more premature deaths from pollutants and higher levels of climate change-inducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to research from the NYU Law School.
If brands believe that consumers can’t dive into their politics and behaviors they are sadly mistaken. A social media post on bad brand behavior can go viral in an instant. Once people learn that a CEO has donated to a polarizing politician it could be the start of a decline in market share.
On the other side, how can we explain millennial and generation Zs use of Facebook who continues to violate trust and exploit users’ personal information? What about retailers like Wal*Mart whose owners make billions but whose employees are losing benefits?
If I had to summarize the report it would be that brands need to be more transparent. CEOs can’t position their companies as environmentally friendly when they donate to politicians who don’t believe in global warming.
Millennials are becoming more skeptical and that’s going to carry over to brands and advertising. Marketers had better learn that lesson quickly.