If you think cause marketing tie-ins are an event trend, think again. The latest research contained in the annual Millennial Impact Report, produced by the Case Foundation, reveals that millennials not only want to do good (and want companies and brands to do good)—they want to do more. The 2019 study, which takes into account 10 years-worth of data by the foundation and research partner Achieve on millennials and their interest in causes, analyzed a number of key insights through the years.
Among the topline findings: That millennials believe they can affect deep change for the country by being involved in causes; that they care more about social issues than institutions; that they engage with causes through a range of sectors and industries; and that they are influenced in large part by their peers. In fact, the study finds, “peer-to-peer engagement, including that which occurs in the workplace, is a critical influence on and vehicle through which millennials charitably give and volunteer.”
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For millennials, causes create positive social experiences. According to historical data from the study, in 2013, 56 percent of millennials reported they volunteered to maximize their social connections. In 2014, that number jumped to 87 percent. And millennials aren’t delivering lip service. In 2011, 63 percent of millennials gave to three or more nonprofits. One year later, they gave to five, with nearly 90 percent planning to give to five again the following year, the studies show.
Here, we break down five key takeaways from the report relevant to brands engaging millennials through causes, and link them to recent case studies that bring the insights to life.
Tell a story.
“People relate most to a social issue when humans are the core of the story.”
Last fall, McDonald’s McCafé set out to connect with consumers in Chicago by highlighting the people and partners that are helping the brand in its mission to source 100 percent of its ground and whole bean coffee sustainably by 2020. The domed activation replicated a South American coffee farm. Inside, consumers could interact with coffee farmers, enjoy a complimentary McCafé beverage under real coffee trees and leave armed with information about how coffee is produced and its impact on climate change.
“Most young people’s first cause-action is typically small, whether liking a social media post, signing a petition or sharing a message.”
A little bit adds up to a lot. State Farm’s “Neighborhood of Good” program was created based on the insight that consumers want to do good, they just don’t know where to start. At music festivals for the last several years, the brand has created activations that allow consumers to take part in small acts that add up to big contributions to charities. CLIF Bar at Pitchfork Festival rewarded consumers who had biked into the event with samples; then, for a $10 donation to Alliance Great Lakes nonprofit, they could receive a premium, long-lasting temporary tattoo.
“Causes and companies cannot be shy about sharing their stance on important causes/social issues and what they’re doing to advance progress.”
Millennial consumers view companies and brands through the causes they support. They want to do business with brands that stand for something—and make it known. Brands engaged in bold, meaningful cause marketing surrounding Pride Month in June, including Tinder, which erected a rainbow slide in New York City, upon which each of the slide’s 30 feet represented a state that does not currently have non-discriminatory LGBTQ laws in place.
“Partnerships can help position an organization as innovative and collaborative. Partners can help a cause create new engagement opportunities, open up new audiences, make additional promotion possible, bring resources to a project and more.”
Summer is a key season for beer brands, and with beers being consumed, naturally, in vacation locations like the beach, brands have leveraged partnerships with environmental groups to deepen engagement. Corona last year partnered with Parley for the Oceans to educate the public about plastics that wind up in the oceans, erecting installations created by plastic waste in beaches in London, Melbourne, Santiago, Bogota, Santo Domingo and Lima.
“Causes and nonprofits can pick up on natural changemaker tendencies to turn everyday doing-good actions into bigger movements with broader impact on issues that matter to millennials.”
As the report explains, “By lowering the barrier to entry—helping people register to vote or get to the polls, holding educational sessions about impact investing—you can start to make real change snowball.” And Spotify, for the 2016 elections, did just that. The brand created community video exhibitions based on its “Clarify” video series, with each event exploring the connection between music, art and political issues that hit close to home in those markets. The brand also offered voter registration in eligible states.
Image: Jelena Zivkovic/iStock