Free Knowledge

No photo available.

Millennials and Cause: Seven Things We Learned from 5,493 People

Millennials care about causes and are more likely to show a preference toward products from companies which support causes—even if it means paying a bit more for those items. They are interested in making a difference in the world and they believe they can contribute to causes they care about more easily through a company’s program than through their own initiative.

“American Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation” is a study from Barkley in partnership with SMG and The Boston Consulting Group that examined the attitudes and purchasing habits of 4,259 Millennials (ages 16-34), compared with 1,234 non-Millennials (ages 35-74).

Here are seven things the research revealed you should keep in mind when targeting Millennials for cause programs:

1.    Millennials are very interested in what other people think. They will confer with friends (including their large social media friend groups) to help them make many of their everyday decisions. Perhaps in part because it has the potential to raise others’ opinions of them, 41% of Millennials participate in cause programs by supporting friends and family in causes those people care about.

Q » Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements. Self confidence in competency/capabilities. (Select one per row) N » 16-34 yr olds: 4,259 | 35-74 yr olds: 1,234

2.    They seek information via social media. As the first generation of digital natives, Millennials use social media far more regularly than older generations, and this is one of the main ways they learn about cause initiatives. The research strongly shows this affinity for social media is not tied to life stage, but a fundamental shift in the way this group communicates, gathers information and shares that information with others.

3.    They are 2.5x more likely to be early adopters of technology. Fifty-six percent of Millennials report that they are usually either one of the very first to try new technologies or are among the first group to try a new technology. For Millennials, being an early technology adopter is also not tied to life stage. Even Millennials with children continue to enthusiastically adopt new technology.

Q » Which of the following best describes your likelihood to try new technologies? (Select one) N » 16-34 yr olds: 4,259 | 35-74 yr olds: 1,234

4.    Millennials donate via SMS. In keeping with their digital-friendly lifestyle, Millennials use their mobile phones for almost 50% of their charitable donations. They value efficiency in many areas of their lives, so it makes sense they would apply that to their participation in cause programs as well.

5.    It’s important to target Millennial men and women differently. Female Millennials are more aware of cause marketing in general than their male counterparts. Men of this generation are most aware of cause marketing programs from retailers and branded manufacturers more patronized by men, e.g., 7 Eleven (Coffee Cup with a Cause), Home Depot (1,000 Playgrounds in 1,000 Days), and Timberland (Earthkeepers/Plant a Tree).

6.    Millennials will buy products from companies that support causes they care about. This generation’s purchase decisions are heavily influenced by their opinions of a company’s cause marketing initiatives. They also value charitable contributions via cause marketing because of the ease of participation and the scope of impact that a corporate-based charitable program can have in comparison to an individual donation.

7.    Millennials and Non-Millennials are aware of different cause campaigns. Legacy campaign Yoplait: Save Lids to Save Lives and youth-oriented campaigns Nike and Lance Armstrong Foundation: LIVESTRONG and Pepsi: Refresh scored much higher among Millennials than non-Millennials in our research. Long-standing campaigns McDonald’s: Ronald McDonald House, General Mills: Box Tops for Education and Avon: Breast Cancer Crusade scored highest among both Millennials and non-Millennials; however, the older generation had much higher awareness of all three compared to Millennials.
Q » Which of the following cause-related marketing programs are you aware of? (Select all that apply) N » 16-34 yr olds: 4,259 | 35-74 yr olds: 1,234

Affiliation with a cause is more important to the Millennial generation than to any previous generation. That means, as a brand that is searching for ways to engage and tap into this next generation of consumers, showing them that you care is critical. And there is more advice for brands courting Millennials — as a group, they are digital-savvy and accustomed to getting information from a variety of sources. This opens up a broad range of marketing methods and creative opportunities for brands to engage them.

For more information about the 90-page report “American Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation,” contact Jeff Fromm at

Key topics in this post:

Jeff Fromm

October 24, 2011

Filed under: