Today’s tumultuous economy makes running any successful business seem like a herculean task. Yet a new wave of purpose-driven businesses are not simply surviving, they are thriving despite a fickle economy.
So who’s helping some of the most purpose-driven enterprises become wildly successful while others have shriveled up and withered away? Who cares about purpose-driven business and why? Who should businesses target in order to engage the most potential consumers in 2017?
One of the answers lies with the generation that recently passed the Baby Boomers as the most populous one on the planet: millennials.
The coveted consumer
I am a millennial. My generation is also known as Generation Y, Echo Boomer, or Generation ME. The world likes to describe me as an easily distracted, politically correct, civic-minded, creative narcissistic who wants a trophy just for showing up. I am supposedly a seeker of the authentic and an entitled “adult” who was born between the years of 1981-1997.
These labels are often slapped on anyone who looks relatively young, and they distract from what my generation really is all about and our unique position in the today’s economy. The reality is that millennials are currently the largest generation in the world’s workforce, and with the New Year looming, we are projected to have the most spending power of any generation in 2017.
So where are millennials spending all their hard-earned money and why? Millennials support companies that commit to a higher purpose and are more inclined to buy from a brand that stands on a foundation of corporate responsibility. For instance, 87% of millennials say that they base their purchasing decisions on whether or not a company makes positive social efforts.
Therefore, we are more likely to shop at natural or organic grocery stores like Whole Foods than at supermarkets or wholesale warehouses. We prefer to choose a transparent farm-to-table restaurant to chains like Sizzler or Houlihan’s. We train for months and pay for entry into grueling marathons, but only if there is a just cause attached. (Why would we subject ourselves to something that requires anti-chaffing nipple tape unless it was for a good cause?)
Here’s our “why”
To truly understand why we are the way we are you need to know what we fear, what we love, and what stokes the coals that fuel our motivations and ignite our passions.
First, we grew up watching our parents hang up on countless telemarketers, so we quickly became wary of anyone trying to sell us something. Our aversion to being scammed transformed us into wannabe rent-a-sleuths, fact-checking every word until our collective thumbs tired out.
Second, we are the first generation to be raised with portals to unlimited information in our pockets, able to Google anything dubious on a whim. We’ve been programmed to seek out sources of truth and spend our days seeking transparency above all else.
And finally, we watched our parents’ savings and retirement funds crumble during the worst economic collapse in U.S. history since the Great Depression. And we nervously bit our nails, trying to comprehend how we could feasibly dig ourselves out of student loan debt as we walked the plank of graduation, diving headfirst into a struggling job market. Watching the hit our parents took while transitioning into the workforce during the Great Recession trained our generation to be frugal with our money and made us question our spending habits.
All of these experiences are universally millennial as well as crucially formative to shaping the psyche of our generation.
Finding our purpose
Above all, I must say that we are a generation that was taught to question our world, and man, if our teachers could see us now. And although it might make my generation seem difficult to deal with, we can only shrug and respond that we are simply products of our respective environments, experiences, and upbringings.
The constant search for authenticity and truth is one of the fundamental reasons why I believe we gravitate – both personally and professionally – toward purpose-driven businesses. While many of us are still searching for our purpose in this wild world, we support and respect any enterprise that pursues a purpose as relentlessly and as passionately as we do each and every day.
We are attracted to businesses that have the audacity to puff their chests out and show their true positive purpose for all to see. Fortunately, companies like SAP are already flexing their purpose muscles – and millennials like me are taking notice.