Generation Y Should I Trust You? The Challenge for Brands

Generation Y Should I Trust You? The Challenge for Brands

Brands are symbols of trust – we use them as navigation beacons in a landscape of uncertain options. But the next generation of consumers is re-defining what it takes to be trusted.  At the core of this re-definition are two attributes: sustainability and authenticity. Brands that lack those qualities will struggle increasingly to attract either consumers or recruits.

According to research by The Intelligence Group, this next generation of consumers, described as Generation Y or ‘Millenials’, want to make the world a better place, and they’re demonstrating this intent in the brands and products they choose, ‘… products that follow ethical practices and are aligned with social causes’. (adweek: responsible youth)

For these digital natives, sharing is a normal part of life. Everyday they share photos, ideas, technology and information about themselves.  Defined by The Cloud, a key facilitator of this ‘open source‘ lifestyle is mutual trust and the brands that can demonstrate the qualities that drive trust, like honesty and authenticity, will benefit from Generation Y’s loyalty.

When Patagonia ran print ads reading ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’, calling for consumers to boycott Cyber Monday, they showed true commitment to the cause, – putting purpose above product (and potentially, profit).  As a direct result of this ad, trust in the brand between 18 to 34-year-olds went up 350%. (Source: Ford Trend Book 2013).


Conversely, ‘80% of people trust a brand less when it communicates inconsistent values’. (Source: Ford Trend Book 2013).  Recently Naked Juice Co. agreed to pay $9m to settle a law suit alleging the ‘All Natural’ claim, on their packaging and in their advertising, to be false.  A quick read of their Facebook page shows how intolerant consumers are of any inauthenticity, be it accidental or intentional.  Claims of ‘goodness’ must hold up under close scrutiny, particularly now when consumers have so much access to free information and platforms for opinion.

The Warby Parker glasses brand was built on principles of honesty and openness and their amazing success story – growing 500% in one year – illustrates just how much these values resonate with today’s consumer.  The company make a fashionable, quality product offering genuine value, with emphasis on mutual trust.  They are transparent about the cost of producing a pair of glasses and offer their customers a try-on at home free service (simply return the ones you don’t want).  The brand was founded with social enterprise at its core and they stay true to this with their Buy a Pair, Give a Pair initiative, as well as ensuring the company operates at 100% carbon neutral.  As their co-founder Neil Blumenthal says, “Customers can sense authenticity,” and their commitment to maintaining this authenticity has set Warby Parker leagues above its competition.

But not only does practicing what you preach matter, with sustainability at the heart of so much of their decision-making, Generation Y are also looking to trusted brands to help them navigate a market overloaded with information, good causes and confusing labeling.  24% want guidance from brands on how to make the most ethically responsible purchasing decisions (Adweek Data Points: Responsible Youth), while 80% of global consumers think it’s important for brands to make them aware of their efforts to address societal issues. ( Marketing 3.0 The Rise of Purpose Driven Social Brands)

Generation Y show and share their social consciousness through association with brands that are worthy of their trust.  Brands that respond honestly and authentically will be rewarded with loyalty.