Flash back to November of 2008 for a moment, the night Barack Obama became President. (Okay, okay. We get it: You don’t want to talk politics.) But hang with us for a second while we ask you this: Whom did Obama’s political team credit for delivering this historic victory?
You guessed it: Generation Y.
And the biggest reason for his victory begins and ends with the word ‘good’. See, Generation Y is a generation of believers, a generation that will line up behind a simple rallying cry to make the world a better place. This is a lesson Obama understood, and it’s a lesson brands large and small should take to heart.
Take a look at TOMS, for instance. In 2006, the company was nothing more than an idea. Fast forward to now, and it’s become a pillar of Generation Y footwear. The idea that spurred such growth is a simple one: Donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair that’s sold. It’s an ethic of good that millions of Gen Y’ers rallied around and, consequently, made TOMS one of the fastest-growing shoe companies in the US.
And now you’re seeing companies of all shapes and sizes trying to follow in TOMS' footprint. Take Burger King. No one associates Burger King with a company like TOMS. But the world’s second largest fast-food chain recently announced that it will get 100% of its eggs and pork from cage-free chickens and crate-free pigs. This isn’t the cheapest way to connect with a growing Gen Y, but it’s an initiative that comes from a place of good, a place of honesty, and it may turn out to be the brand’s most effective push in years.
There are plenty of other examples, like Burt’s Bees, an all-natural line of products that's gearing up to roll out an eco-friendly line of cosmetics for 18-24 year-olds. Or Starbucks, who has given up to $10 million in clean water funds raised from the sale of their Ethos Water. Or Nike, whose LiveStrong bracelets for cancer awareness comprise arguably the most effective charity-driven marketing campaign of all time.
The list goes on, but the brand-specific takeaways are simple:
Be honest. As a company, do what you believe in. Generation Y is as skeptical as they are passionate, which means they’ll be able to detect a PR stunt a mile away. Stick to your gut and make sure your brand stays true to that inherent sense of ‘good’ that got you started in the first place.
Back up your promise with product. It’s not enough anymore to simply want to change the world with your brand. To get noticed, and to stay noticed, you’ve got to have a quality product or service to back it all up.
Be real. You’ve got the mission. You’ve got the quality. Now get out there and make friends. Talk. Listen. Ask questions. Stay humble. You’ve got a real brand with real intentions. Don’t sell it short by selling it.
So while the candidates spend millions of dollars over the next few months trying to prove they’re worthy of your belief, take a step back and think about your own brand. Think about how it can instill belief and passion in others for free. Think about the steps you can take to make sure your brand is the next one to leave a permanent mark in the pavement. Just think. It’s a great place to start.