June 2018

Teens’ Views on Social Activism and Cause Marketing and Why It Matters for Brands

By now, we’ve all seen the compelling data as to why brands should invest in cause marketing – and our study supports prior findings, with 67% of teens saying they were more likely to purchase from a company that supports a cause versus a company that does not. But in our study completed this month of 2,000 U.S. teens between the ages of 14-17, we identified additional insights for brands as they consider their cause marketing programs.


What Teens Care About

One of the most interesting findings from our similar 2016 study was that the Environment did not rank as a key concern of teens. But in our 2018 survey, the Environment is back on the list. Ranked in order, the top 5 key concerns of teens are:

  1. Education
  2. Jobs and Unemployment
  3. Prejudice and Racism
  4. The Environment
  5. Terrorism


Teens Have Ramped Up Their Activism

A notable change since 2016 has been in teens’ more assertive activism. More than a quarter of respondents said they have “attended protests or rallies” or “boycotted a company” in the last year. In that same period, teens cited taking the following actions:

  • 60% Recycled regularly
  • 42% Educated family and/or friends about a cause
  • 33% Volunteered their time to a cause
  • 22% Donated money to a cause


Teens Say Corporations Have an Obligation to Solve Social Issues

One of the most fascinating findings of our study is teens’ belief that corporations have the same obligation as teens themselves to help solve social issues. 68% said companies have an obligation to solve social problems, while 67% said they themselves have that responsibility. Only 10% said neither they, nor corporations, have an obligation to solve social problems. And how do teens think companies are doing? Not so well. Only 28% of teens think companies are doing enough to support causes teens care about.


Communicating Cause Marketing Authenticity to Skeptical Teens

After learning a company supports a social cause:

  • 69% of teens say they trust the company more
  • 62% said they are more likely to purchase the company’s products
  • 66% of teens said they pay more attention to the company’s marketing/advertising

But teens are discriminating, if not skeptical:

  • 50% of teens said they believe a company’s cause marketing is genuine if it makes a financial donation to a cause
  • 50% of teens said they believe a company’s cause marketing is genuine if its employees work on the issue
  • 44% of teens said they believe a company’s cause marketing is genuine if the company communicates about their efforts in their marketing/advertising


Taking Steps Toward Effective Cause Marketing

In our 2016 study, the brands whose cause marketing efforts most resonated with Gen Z included Ben and Jerry’s, Chili’s, and the NFL. Our 2018 study includes three new companies getting the attention of teens:

Walmart’s partnership with Feeding America
McDonald’s HACER Scholarships and the Ronald McDonald House
Microsoft’s K-12 STEM programs

For more information about teen-centric cause marketing strategy and best practices, please contact us.