Oftentimes, in society – whether we like it or not – we are defined by the generation we are born into. Through a categorization of age groups, we fall into slots that define our consumer trends, technological tendencies, and what we value in corporations – and in life. While this is a relatively broad generalization, it’s hard to negate the characteristics that compose a generational group. If you’re a Baby Boomer, you’re bound to be more traditional when it comes to media; if you’re a Millennial, you probably live and breathe social media. As for Generation Z, it’s safe to say hashtags and mentions have become part of their daily routine, already predicting the trends they will have as consumers. So, while you may not appreciate stereotypical comments about your generation, they do shed light on the baseline of what defines a generation.
Let’s put corporate social responsibility (CSR) under the generational microscope. For starters, only half of the Baby Boomers are willing to spend more money on products or companies that boast a positive community impact (Fischer, 2017). While they invest time in researching the “best” product or service, their preferred choice is not necessarily based on the company’s CSR efforts (Brakl, 2018). On the other end of the generational spectrum, Millennials expect corporations to be socially responsible – period (Fischer, 2017). They aspire to find brands that identify with their own values, and if a company isn’t #GivingBack, they might as well say “bye” to Millennials (Lister, 2018). It becomes a situation where the age gap is riddled with varied consumer priorities. So, is it even possible to approach such diverse audiences all at once? Well, the answer is: yes and no, or what we like to call “The Trendy and Traditional Approach.” It’s not one or the other, and it’s not black or white, it is a necessary balance between the two that fills the spaces between the generations: a gray shade that satisfies all – or most.
It is vital that we adhere to both the trendy and traditional sides of public relations when it comes to CSR. The complementary functionality paves the way for the efforts to adapt to trends while maintaining a structured, traditional backbone. This is precisely why, as a PR agency or marketer, it is important to have a keen sense of a company’s foundation and values, which live at the core of the CSR efforts. The company defines the fine line between what needs to be adapted and what needs to stay true to tradition. It is at this intersection that CSR can organically thrive for all generations.
We’ve gathered some key takeaways that emphasize the value of CSR and the importance of a customized experience per generation.
- Whenever you find yourself generalizing consumers based on their generation, in the context of CSR efforts, take a step back to dig deeper and find what is actually true and why it’s true. In doing so, you will shed light on the legitimate nature of a generation and understand them on a deeper level, which will not only help to tailor your CSR efforts but give you a solid foundation for them.
- Merging generational priorities is not as difficult as it sounds. It’s all about putting the pieces of the puzzle together. In other words, recognize each set of priorities in order to fulfill those needs and subsequently place all your efforts in the precise spot.
- CSR efforts might only be important for a couple of generations at the moment – Millennials and Gen Z – but those generations are also our future, which makes them just as much of a priority as the rest. The younger generations are starting to emerge in the consumer world, already deciding what they like and dislike. Thus, it’s very important to understand the needs of young consumers, not only because they have expectations from a brand or company, but also because achieving their loyalty to your brand could open the door for a lifelong, satisfied consumer.
We will leave you to think about this while we brainstorm about our next CSR project and its generational target(s).
Gloria Rodríguez, President & CEO, Comunicad, LLC