A staggering 80% of millennials said they’d take action against a brand whose advertising mishandles a social issue they most care about; 44% would go as far as to stop buying the brand altogether.
These findings are from a recent study conducted by Leflein in partnership with GenForward Survey of Millennials, a nationally representative bimonthly survey out of the University of Chicago.
Now more than ever, brands need to be pre-emptive, investing in ad testing and taking a TMA (Total Marketing Approach) to avoid the time, resources and embarrassment that goes along with having to rehabilitate their image. “Not only do advertisers run the real risk of social media brand activism to an insensitive campaign, a poorly conceived ad can hurt the bottom line,” according to Barbara Leflein, President of Leflein Associates.
This study comes on the heels of last week’s news of Unilever’s Dove Body Wash pulling its latest Facebook ad amidst social outrage over their depiction of a black woman removing her brown shirt to reveal a white woman.
To think, this is still happening in a year of advertising debacles such as Beiersdorf’s Nivea Deodorant “White is Purity” ad and Pepsi’s now infamous Kendall Jenner protest spot, that are tone deaf to the needs and sensitivities of diverse audiences.
Through this research, Leflein wanted to better understand what the highly diverse millennial population thought about the relationship of brand advertising and social causes.
Other Key Findings
- Almost all millennials (87%) cited an issue that they would like brands to bring attention to through advertising.
- Of the 20 social issues tested, racial equality is the number one social cause millennials want brands to support.
- African American millennials are three times as likely as white millennials to favor brand support of racial equality as their #1 cause (36% vs. 11% respectively).
- Other top box social issues millennials are interested in seeing attention brought to include global warming (11% total millennials vs. 4% African Americans), immigration (19% among Latinos compared to 3% of whites) and income equality (12% among Asian Americas vs. 7% of whites).
Skepticism for Brands and Social Causes
Considering all the recent misfires, it is not surprising that not all millennials trust brands to tackle social issues in their advertising. Two out of five millennials (40%) are skeptical; believing that companies only pretend to care (23%) or that brands and social issues don’t mix (17%).
Only 10% of millennials report that they are more likely to buy products from companies that tackle social issues they care about compared to four times as many saying they wouldn’t buy a brand’s product or service if they mishandled the social cause.
“This data suggests that brands should very carefully consider and test their ads with diverse consumers before embarking on a campaign that grapples with social causes. There’s more to lose from a poorly executed ad campaign than there is to gain from increased sales,” according to Barbara Leflein.