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“Spend Shifter” Millennials demand change with their dollars
The beginning of a new consumer era is near.
Baby boomers are starting retirement and Generation X’ers have begun to inch ever-so-closely to the faint light at the end of the career tunnel. The dawn of the Millennials entering the working world is upon us, and with this emergence of a new generation comes a fresh perspective on the hierarchy of importance.
A recent survey of 2,300 Millennials conducted by Young & Rubicam found that the majority of young Americans now consider themselves a “Spend Shifter.” A “Spend Shifter” is identified as someone who purposefully buys products from companies with similar values to their own. This remarkable new consumer trend is waving a warning flag at business leaders. Along with anxieties about the bottom line, CEOs must now worry about their political ideals and how they fashion (and follow) their business ethics.
A perfect example of “Spend Shifters” in action occurred in 2012 when Dan Cathy, chief operating officer of the popular chicken sandwich food chain Chick-fil-A, declared his opposition to same-sex marriage. Reports soon surfaced that the company had donated millions of dollars to numerous anti-LGBT organizations.
This led to outrage among gay rights supporters, and America became a divided nation over the chicken sandwich with waffle fries. Many pro-gay rights activists (and Millennials overwhelmingly support gay rights issues) vowed to never eat at the fast-food restaurant again, while those on the other side of the fence went to the restaurant in droves.
A Chick-fil-A “Appreciation Day” was scheduled for August 1 of that year, and the company witnessed record-breaking sales—at the same time that thousands of Americans stood outside Chick-fil-A stores across the country and protested the company’s stance against gay rights.
After years of being surrounded by controversy, Cathy recently told USA Today that he “cares about all people,” and that he will now “leave it to the politicians and others to discuss social issues.”
As Millennials focus their consumer attention on what values and ideals companies hold, they also care about the companies’ social responsibilities. According to a survey of more than 1,200 adults, conducted by Cone Communications, Millennials were found to be the generation most focused on a corporation’s social responsibility when deciding what to purchase.
The survey found that nearly 89 percent of Americans would purchase a product from a company associated with a good cause if there wasn’t an increase in price or a decrease in quality. This percentage increased by nearly 23 points from the same survey Cone Communication carried out in 1993—a time where Millennials had yet to enter the adult population with their purchasing power.
A recent Brookings Institute paper noted: “As Millennials become an increasingly large share of the adult population and gather more and more wealth, the generation’s size and unity of belief will cause seismic shifts in the nation’s financial sector, shaking it to its very foundations and leading to major changes in the nation’s board rooms.
“As Millennials become CEOs, or determine the fate of those who are, they will change the purpose and priorities of companies in order to bring their strategies into alignment with the generation’s values and beliefs.”