Study Finds Social Activism Influences Consumer Opinions of US Teens

It’s important for businesses to continually create new fans and customers who trust and support their company. Developing this kind of relationship is one of the best ways to secure a company from the ups and downs of market forces, since shoppers are motivated by more than just the lowest price. One way to attract younger consumers is through social activism. A recent study from Fuse showed that many teens are concerned about social issues and social activism shapes their feelings toward companies.

Fuse recently conducted a survey of 2,000 U.S. teens between the ages of 14 and 17 years old. Like a similar survey they conducted two year ago, the Fuse report found that young teens are concerned about the future and expect companies to help their efforts to make the world a better place. This means business can see financial benefits from their efforts to address social problems associated with their industry. According to the survey, two-thirds (67 percent) of U.S. teens are more likely to purchase from a company that supports a cause versus a company that does not.

With so many causes worth promoting, which social activism causes matter most to teens? The 2018 survey reported that the top social concerns for U.S. teens are 1) Education, 2) Jobs and Unemployment, 3) Prejudice and Racism, 4) The Environment and 5) Terrorism. While the environment is obviously still important to teens, the environment went from being the number one concern in 2016 to the fourth in only two years.

Social Activism Tactics Most Used by U.S. Teens

According to Fuse, teens are showing a growing social activism on the issues they care about and more than a quarter of respondents said they have “attended protests or rallies” or “boycotted a company” in the last year. Even though they’re minors, there are many ways teens under the age of 18 can show their social activism. Among the teens who responded to the 2018 Fuse survey, 60 percent recycled regularly, 42 percent reported educating family and/or friends about a cause, a third (33 percent) volunteered their time to a cause, and more than a fifth (22 percent) donated money to a cause.

The survey also suggests that many teens strongly believe that companies have a role to play in solving society’s problems. According to Fuse, 68 percent of U.S. teens surveyed said companies have an obligation to help solve social problems, while 67 percent said they themselves have that responsibility. Only one in 10 (10 percent) said neither they, nor corporations, have an obligation to solve social problems.

How to Combine Social Activism and Marketing

Since social activism matters to teens, mentioning a company’s support of social causes can have several benefits for building the brand. According to Fuse, after learning a company supports certain causes, 69 percent of teens say they trust the company more, 62 percent said they are more likely to purchase the company’s products, and 66 percent said they pay more attention to the company’s marketing/advertising.

It’s important that a company be genuine when supporting social causes and not appear to be doing it solely for marketing purposes. Teens (like most consumers) can be skeptical of a company’s motives and judge a company’s sincerity by their actions. According to the Fuse survey, 50 percent of teens said they believe a company’s cause marketing is genuine if it makes a financial donation to a cause. Similarly, 50 percent of teens said they believe a company’s cause marketing is genuine if its employees work on the issue. Promoting a company’s social responsibility through marketing materials can also play a role ais 44 percent of teens said they believe a company’s cause marketing is genuine if the company communicates about their efforts in their marketing/advertising.

Teens under the age of 17 are an important market for companies, because their long-term viability depends on being able to attract these future consumers. If new,  more socially responsible companies manage to get a foothold in the youth market, it can cause problems for older companies down the road. So besides saving the planet and helping society, being a socially responsible company can help the company itself survive.

For more research about consumer trends, read this article with statistics about how consumers feel about modern technology and privacy.

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