Why Millennials’ Socially Conscious Mindset Is Crucial to Your Innovation Strategy

Posted by Tami Wessley on Mar 17, 2015

millennial socially consciousWhile a lot has been written about Millennials and how to market to them, innovators have been struggling to figure out how to evolve their strategies in order to capitalize on the sheer size and influence of these consumers. By not only understanding but also involving Millennials in strategy development, brands can ensure they truly deliver against this group’s needs, wants and desires. In this post, we’ll discuss why successful innovation strategies must account for these socially conscious Millennials and use it to their advantage.

Of all the characteristics that make the Millennial generation unique, their socially conscious mindset is one of their most defining. As the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in U.S. history (43% of adults are non-white), Millennials have learned to embrace the differences in one another – finding unity in the idea that no one is the same. And while it’s fair to point out that older generations were clearly cause-focused themselves, today’s Millennials are more aware, more educated, and more committed to social change than ever before. 

Apart from being the most racially diverse generation in U.S. history, there have been several significant events that have had a major influence on shaping Millennials’ socially conscious mindset. First and foremost, as technology has improved over time awareness for social causes has grown exponentially. Anyone with a smartphone can pull up their Twitter app and monitor breaking news stories in real time, and with Millennials checking their smartphones an average of 43 times per day, you can be sure that they’re up-to-date on the latest happenings. The global reach of the Internet has helped break down borders and shed light on causes that were unheard of 20 years ago – not to mention the impact of crowdfunding websites on today’s fundraising tactics.

As if growing up as Digital Natives wasn’t enough, however, Millennials also grew up during a time of significant social, economic, and environmental reform. Climate change, same-sex marriage rights, immigration reform, marijuana legalization, anti-smoking campaigns, and health care reforms are just a few examples of the major causes that have been hotly-debated over the past 15 years, and Millennials grew up surrounded by all of it. From an early age, Millennials witnessed firsthand what it takes to be agents of change and as a result, 61% are worried about the state of the world and feel personally responsible to make a difference. 

Given this era of significant social and economic change, it’s been very difficult for Millennials to grow up WITHOUT taking a stance on these causes. Many of these issues hit close to home with Millennial consumers, and their support for those causes have helped define who they are as individuals. The stance Millennials often take is usually much more liberal than their older counterparts. Only 26% of Millennials identify themselves as conservatives, compared to 35% of Gen Xers, 41% of Baby Boomers, and 45% of the Silent Generation. 

Defining the Socially Conscious Mindset

Given the nature of these self-aware, socially conscious consumers, today’s innovators need to reevaluate their brand’s positioning strategy if they want to be relevant to them. Millennials have high expectations when it comes to corporate social responsibility, and not meeting those expectations can be a major deal breaker for this large group of consumers. For Millennials, a socially conscious mindset means:

  • Sustainable & environmentally focused – willing to pay more if brand aligns with their ideals
  • Open-minded on social issues like same-sex marriage, citizenship for illegal immigrants, and marijuana legalization
  • More accepting of diversity and tolerant of other’s choices, attitudes, and differences
  • More likely to support social causes and support governmental intervention
  • Likely to volunteer
  • Open minded and willing to change – not brand loyal 

What Does This Mean for Your Brand?

According to a Millennial study by Cone Communications, 24% of Millennials believe they can make a difference in their community by buying products that support social causes, and 68% say that a company’s social/environmental commitment is important or extremely important when deciding which products to buy. Similarly, according to Nielsen, 51% of Millennials will pay extra for sustainable products, and another 51% actively check the packaging for sustainable labeling.

To be effective in today’s changing marketplace, there are two main strategies for companies to attract socially conscious Millennials:

  1. Engage in meaningful social causes that tug at the heartstrings of your Millennial audience while also being authentic to your brand. Pick a cause that’s relevant to both the brand and consumer, and make an authentic commitment to supporting that cause and communicating the impact of your support. The more Millennials see you giving back, the more they’ll be interested in supporting you. For example, Stella Artois recently launched their “Buy a Lady a Drink” campaign, in which they partnered with Water.org to provide clean drinking water for women and their children in developing countries. For every limited edition chalice that Stella Artois sells, they’ve committed to donating 5 years’ worth of clean drinking water, and in less than one week of the campaign launching, Stella Artois sold out of all 20,000 chalices in the US.

  2. Develop innovation strategies that improve the social responsibility of your products, services, or internal processes. Does your manufacturing process leave a large carbon footprint? Does your product/service have the ability to improve the quality of life for others? Does it have the potential to make a revolutionary global impact? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you can also win over Millennial consumers by reducing your carbon footprint and using your brand’s offerings as a way to do good in the world. After learning that a company is authentically socially responsible, 83% of Millennials are likely to trust that company more, 79% are likely to purchase that company’s products, and 66% will recommend those products to friends and family. On the other hand, if Millennials learn that your company ISN’T socially responsible, 90% will actually switch products, and 42% will encourage their family and friends to boycott your company’s products or services.  

Need help determining which cause you should support, or how you can use your product/service to support those causes? Using our Millennial Transforum® Brain Trust, innovation strategists can figure out exactly what their Millennial audience is thinking. You can brainstorm with Millennials firsthand to create strategies, messaging, and product/service ideas that truly resonate with this powerful consumer segment.

Ready to learn how to tap into our Millennial Brain Trust to drive innovative thinking for your business? Download our brief to learn how our Millennial Brain Trust process can reveal breakthrough innovation opportunities.Transforum for Millennials

Topics: Millennials, disciplined creativity, innovation management