Why Brands Should Focus Their CSR Efforts on Millennials

As the pioneers of filtered posts and readily accessible information, millennials have already made their mark as major actors in the economy. While their unique channels of awareness and taste should prove to be an uncomplicated target to capitalize on, this is not the case. Instead, millennials expect businesses to make a positive impact on the world, particularly in an age clouded by relentless digital introspectiveness and high-speed consumerism. This makes them tough to please.

Leveraging the psychological influence of digital media as an asset to your company’s respectability, and a force for social change, still proves to be a challenge. In a recent incident on Instagram, over 100 fake accounts claiming to fight hunger in Sudan collected money for “donations” and thousands of followers, only to be exposed as invalid and unconnected to Sudan relief efforts.

This incident proved that graphics and text can be misleading—and that companies looking to rebrand their devotion to social good should examine peoples’ willingness to get involved online for a cause. If graphics and text are used in fusion with sincerity and validity, the same users scammed because of their legit concern for global issues can be compelled to support businesses with real CSR goals that resonate with them. 

There’s been a generational and cultural shift toward activism over the last few decades, as consumers call for more organic and open conversations about CSR from businesses. With this, the spirit of reversing capitalism-induced environmental and social damage has also become a trend in marketing. And millennials are largely the ones driving the shift.

Nielsen’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report states that 66 percent of worldwide consumers surveyed were more interested in purchasing products from companies that promote a promise of sustainability than those that have not. This benchmark can be used to analyze how millennials will continue to spend their growing income—a figure estimated to reach a net worth of $8 trillion by 2025. 

Given the push to keep appealing to an increasingly socially aware crowd, it is more imperative than ever for companies to evaluate how their millennial audiences perceive their CSR efforts. In a market where a product’s “purpose” is  indicative of its value and unsustainable practices are a faux-pas, an innovative, interactive social media experience can be exactly what consumers demand when seeking authenticity from an ethically-invested brand. 

It’s easier than ever to believe that one repost equates to advocacy, which is why providing substantial media coverage to pull people into the center of the cause is essential. Johnson and Johnson’s (RED) campaign to fight mother-to-child transmitted HIV roped together visual promotions that grabbed attention in a consumer-friendly way. Their video, starring a compilation of notable celebs rallying support, kept eyes on the screen and minds concerned about AIDS.

The same methodology can be adopted in pursuit of promoting other CSR campaigns- the objective to spread awareness on viral levels through approachable, light, and empowering visuals through visual storytelling. 

How do corporations achieve transparency and highlight their ability to adapt to a market pressured to change the world? One company that excels in tugging at heartstrings and handbags alike is Patagonia. Already an outdoor athleisure brand, the high-ticket clothing label translates its foundations of love for the environment into compelling nature videos and images, folding its fans into its purpose.

Thought leadership and creative storytelling trigger both desire and intrigue- imbedding the “why” behind your company’s initiative into its branding can show millennials you are genuinely committed to CSR. Patagonia’s consistent use of imagery to campaign for the environment separates them from businesses that simply highlight financial contributions. Sending a clear and appealing message of social action to your following means that your company may need to step away from other marketing and start promoting more CSR initiatives using tactics like visual clickbait. 

Representing your brand as current, active and engaged in social responsibility without boasting about financial feats can be as complex as it is overwhelming, but it is not impossible. As a society, our eyes and ears are open to an unbroken, sometimes undetectable chain of disingenuousness. As CSR campaigns force a rapid shift in brands'  priorities, conscientious social media campaigns will prove key in establishing a strong and fixed ethos between business and consumer.