Earlier this week The New York Times ran an article titled C.E.O.s Are Not Here To Save Us. It connected the weak stock market performance of Peloton, Dropbox, Lyft, Uber, and Spotify with the companies’ utopian mission statements and their “aspirational rhetoric.” The article goes on to give a few examples of brands failing in their marketing efforts around higher purpose and fired C.E.O.s who seemingly cared more about their aspirational mission statements than their bottom line. The article concludes with the point that investors matter more than the idealism of a public company C.E.O, no matter what the Business Roundtable or recent trends in “woke values” seem to suggest.
Of course stock price and investors matter, and yes, some early attempts at purpose marketing have failed. But we’re also at the beginning stage of a dramatic shift in consumer culture. There’s a new generation of consumers, Gen Zs, who care deeply about brand purpose and seek to support brands whose values are aligned with their own. Since the oldest Zs are only 24 year-olds, they haven’t yet come into their full spending power and brands and corporations haven’t fully felt their influence. They’re about to.
Each year we speak with thousands of Gen Zs on behalf of our brands looking to better understand this generation. One thing is clear; they believe it’s up to them to make the world a better place and they’re looking to brands to help them. In our research we found that the vast majority (89%) prefer brands and corporations that contribute positive change to the world and 74% believe they can make a difference through the brands they support.
Zs are tomorrow’s consumers, employees, founders, and investors and they’re looking to brands and corporations to help them make the world a better place. The brands and corporations Zs put their support behind will be the brands that thrive in the future. So no, today’s CEO’s won’t save us, but Gen Z will.