If you ask young people what some of the best brand connectors are, you will soon understand the importance of authenticity. Being in touch with what happens on the ground and arguably most importantly, the impact that brands who do good have – this is from our Generation Next survey which we conduct annually.
Now to address the elephant in the room. A lot of racially divisive issues are coming to the fore – I suspect this is as a result of the proliferation of social media, and how easily things can trend.
Brands have historically shied away from getting involved in public discourse that has made headlines. It wasn’t very surprising considering the media and societal landscape of that era. With that landscape of yesteryear turned completely on its head, young people are now taking silence as an act of being complicit. That belief isn’t just for their peers and parents, it now extends to corporates and brands too.
When Adam Catzavelos’ racist rant went viral, it was only a matter of time before his family’s business, St Georges Fine Foods, was in the spotlight and his wife was linked to the Nike brand. Those who don’t understand the youth space may have assumed that the best tactic would have been to ignore the matter, waiting for it to blow over – a grave mistake that doesn’t fly with millennials. Brands like H&M, Pepsi and Outsurance have experienced this first hand.
Sitting on the fence, especially on sensitive subjects, is as passé today as the isms that people are actively fighting both on and offline. There are now generations that are demanding more from brands than trendy product and street cred. As a youth consultancy, it is this understanding that shapes our pillars. This includes brands having a greater purpose, being consistent and authentic as well as finding their space within youth culture. Brands have to find their voice before crisis finds them. Only from that position can they communicate from the place of authenticity the youth market is insistent on.