Young consumers are notorious for disrupting industries, but the demand for brand purpose is here to stay. Gone are the days when charity donations and volunteer days would satisfy corporate social responsibility (CSR) requirements. CSR is now table stakes while purpose must be at the core of a brand’s offering to be relevant.
Driven by their desire to see themselves in the brands that they engage with, Millennials gave rise to the “lifestyle brand,” a brand that contributes to or drives culture instead of just selling a product. Now, we’re seeing their successor generation, known as Gen Zs, create demand for purpose-driven brands, or brands that create social impact as part of their core brand identity.
Gen Zs, a group denoted as the cohort born between 1997–2017, is characteristically defined for their socially conscious, but action-oriented nature. Growing up in politically and economically unsettling times, they yearn for meaning across all aspects of their lives, though require stability that their Millennial predecessors were not afforded due to the Great Recession. Whether it’s the companies they work for, the brands they support, or the causes they advocate for, Zs expect a strong sense of purpose and social consciousness at the core.
While Boomers and Gen Xers focus on value and pragmatism, Millennials focus on the cultural and social markers of a brand. However, it’s Gen Zs that go a step further and engage with a brand based on its greater societal value. Many mistake Millennials’ love for the idea of purpose and doing good in the world with Gen Zs’ action-oriented nature that drives them to align their behavior with their beliefs. According to Sustainable Brands, 67 percent of Gen Zs make purchase decisions based on a brand’s values and the desire to support them.
Let’s also not forget the incredible impact of digital and globalization. As digital natives, Gen Zs were born into a world where they have unprecedented, 24/7 access. They constantly have a lens into what’s happening and a global platform through social to share their thoughts, opinions, and plans for mobilizing change. As a result, they do not just wish to make a difference in the world as Millennials are known for, but they have the means to take action and allow their voice to be heard.
To be relevant today and survive tomorrow, every brand must consider why they exist in the context of driving social impact. Whether it’s connecting creators to consumers, taking a stand against injustice, or creating a platform that gives a voice to the silenced, at the heart of every brand must be a purpose.