The Power of the Millennial

Consumers’ loyalty is shifting, not between companies but from a brand-based to a values-based type of loyalty. Conscious businesses and millennials are front and center in a war against traditional greedy and irresponsible corporations.

It seems like only yesterday Al Gore put the phrase “climate change” on every noteworthy headline around the world. The problem was not new — it was being discussed since before the 80's — but it was not mainstream. Now that everyone and their mother were learning about climate change, questions started to arise. I am not saying the problem is even close to be put away, but companies now feel the pressure to act.

Beyond climate change, many other environmental and social challenges have been put forth for all of us to learn about. The younger generations grew up surrounded by talks of peace, environmental stewardship, responsible sourcing, reducing poverty, gender equality, eradicating malaria, etc. What’s even better is that they grew up convinced that they could change the world. Empowered by the almighty “social media”, thier voices could now be heard. Far away places you could only dream about by looking at National Geographic magazines where now at the reach of a keyboard stroke. What seemed like far fetched dreams were now part of this generation’s common language; “I want to change the world”, “I will make a difference”, “I don’t want to work for someone else my whole life”, “I want to travel the world”, “I want to find my calling… do things that matter”… they fear nothing, and believe life is to be enjoyed through a higher purpose.

The millennial, now the largest consumer demographic, is changing every industry in the world. They demand adventure, transparency, and intelligent products — innovative solutions to our needs that harm no one and create value for all stakeholders in the long-run. What is most important, they are not just talking about it, they are backing all this idiosyncrasy with their own wallets… that is the real power behind millennials!

Big brands are paying the price of not aligning themselves to these new set of values. They seem to be living by their old glories, assuming their brands are too big and important to perish by doing what they do best.

These companies seem to be writing the case studies for future business students to learn about corporate stubbornness:

McDonald’s: Apparently oblivious to the healthy-eating “trend”, this quater shows a 11% drop in comparison to last year’s, introducing McDonald’s to the Dow Jones’ list of most shorted stocks — meaning the investors’ confidence is very low. Hundreds of restaurants will close this year and multiple cuts are being made on the menu — which results in cuts throughout their supply chain.

The response was an advertising stunt that invites customers to “pay with lovin’” (hugs, high fives, etc.)… no one cared; McDonald’s story is still not exciting.

Bud Light: They definitely missed the mark with their #UpForWhatever campaign, implying their beer would ‘remove “no” from your night’, which was construed as a pro-rape statement… ouch!

Coca-Cola: Once enjoying the perfect brand perception — everyone used to relate it to happiness… what else could you ask for? — the company now deals with a decade’s worth of decline in consumption of carbonated beverages. The highly-protected, vault-sealed recipe of the red giant might be worthless in a few years.

… and many other big brands from around the world who seem not to have learned anything from tobacco companies; a big advertising and lobbying budget won’t save you from the inevitable, specially when consumer trends are so emotionally rooted.

In the world of advertising, creativity is not the only king! Brands need to create stories that are worth telling… but those stories are not longer created on the drawing boards of some prize-winning agency; they are created by conscious leaders that understand that value creation for all stakeholders is the only way to do business in the 21st century. Advertisers are there to find a way to skillfully tell that story and engage, not to create it.

The Conscious-Business movement is not a brilliant invention from corporate america, it’s a logical response to a new powerful consumer that is not afraid to challenge the status quo and ask tough questions. We are going back to the roots of capitalism with a newfound level of consciousness; conscious of our legacy, the impact we can have on others, and a higher purpose that can infuse our lives — and corporate culture — with passion… millennials might just actually save the world after all!