Below is a complimentary Demography Unplugged research note written by Hedgeye Demography analyst Neil Howe. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

How Do Young People Choose Brands? - 1 13 2022 9 13 06 AM

Young people (ages 13-24) are more likely than older Americans to favor brands that practice social responsibility. They’re also more likely to care about brands that are "trendy." (MTV/AP-NORC)

NH: MTV and the Associated Press/NORC just released a poll comparing the values of today’s youth to older Americans. And the numbers show that young people have different criteria for choosing brands than older adults.  

How so? “Gen Zers” (ages 13-24) prefer brands that, in their eyes, embody or practice "responsible" social values. For example, 46% of young people prefer companies that treat employees "fairly." 39% favor brands that are "environmentally conscious."

And 34% prefer companies that "support charitable causes I believe in." Both Millennials and Xers rank these three preferences significantly lower.

Young consumers also care a great deal about how others view companies. 25% are more likely to buy a brand they know is "trendy," and 29% are more likely to buy a brand their friends own. Again, Millennials and Xers rank these preferences lower.

To be sure, the positive brand attribute that all three generations most agree on is that it should offer good value. Roughly two-thirds of all generations agree here, without much difference between generations.

The number two attribute for all generations--and here Zers stood out--is that it should have a reputation for being authentic. Interesting wording, indeed! It's unclear whether the agreement would have been any higher if people had been asked about whether they themselves regard the brand as authentic. Apparently, it's enough that it be regarded by others as authentic. Which, I must say, will strike many as an intrinsically inauthentic motive.

If there is something else all three generations agree on, it's that very few say they care if the brand "shares your political beliefs."

This is consistent with other surveys. No matter how partisan and polarized Americans become when they have to vote or mobilize for or against a political party, we don't like to think that we care about the party itself. This is true even when there is virtually no uncertainty about which party we will support.

We like to think that we care first about our "values"--whatever those are--and then vote for the party likely to align themselves with them.

How Do Young People Choose Brands? - Brands

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Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.

A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.

Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."

Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.

Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.

Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.