Teens still value price and quality over ethics, finds Mediacom research

Study shows teens are becoming increasingly more careful about the products they buy

The majority of teens are ethically conscious in their buying habits, according to research from Mediacom. But they will still choose brands they perceive to have "quality and value" first.

These findings come from the media ageny's Connected Kids report, which surveyed 1,201 eight to 19 year olds in the UK. It was conducted by Real World Insight (RWI), Medicom's research division, earlier this year.

The report found that over half of teenagers (54%) aged 16 to 19 have either deliberately purchased or stopped using a brand because of its ethics while 63% of those aged over 16 are more likely to buy a brand if it supports a cause or charity important to them.

According to Josh Krichefski, chief executive officer of Mediacom, increased online exposure to brand news stories “mean teenagers are more in tune with brand behaviour than ever before."

However, the report highlights that while younger generations are increasingly aware of the ethics of the brands they buy, they are yet to put such sentiment into practice.

When teens were asked what factors were most important when purchasing a brand, good quality products (81%) and value for money (80%) came out top.

Although ethics is still a secondary factor, it shouldn't deter brands from considering it within its marketing strategy.

"Brand purpose alone isn't enough to guarantee a purchase," Krichefski said but added that it can be "a key differentiator" when it comes to teens deciding where to buy their products.

He pointed to Lush as one example of a company that does this well, providing premium products made from ethically-sourced vegetarian ingredients.

He also singled out Burberry, which recently came under fire for burning millions of pounds’ worth of bags and clothes to "protect its brand”. under mounting pressure, it today (6 September) committed to cease this practice.

"To address the growing ethical movement, purpose should not just be part of the brand’s marketing strategy but rather the lifeblood that runs through any business, otherwise people will rightly remain suspicious," Krichefski said.

Knowing where companies stand on issues

The research was published amid several brands making headlines for advertising that constrained an 'ethical' message.

Nike used its brand as a platform to take a political stance in the latest push for its 'Just Do It' campaign, which ran with a striking image of NFL player Colin Kaepernick and the slogan: 'Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.'

The message was one that Nike hoped would register with this younger generation that are becoming increasingly careful about the products they buy.

Krichefski said that "brands that offer quality and are seen to do good are likely to attract a younger audience."

Meanwhile, Levi Strauss and Co. issued with a three-pronged support for gun control in a renewed advertising campaign.

Chief executive Chip Bergh addressed Levi's unwillingness to stay silent, in regards to a hotly-debated issue that is dividing the nation in half.

“As president and chief executive of a values-driven company. I take the responsibility of speaking up on the important issues of our day very seriously," said Bergh.

Levi's launched a series of initiatives to support organizations and people in favour of gun control. After a year that saw US students lead massive protests across America to demand gun control, this move by Levi will appeal to a younger generation who are becoming more acutely aware of such issues.

Mediacom's research also found that 85% of teens aged 16+ agree that brands should be responsible about minimising their impact on the environment and are increasingly invested in products that are ethically sourced.

Last month saw Will and Jayden Smith launch their Just Water in the UK, after inking a tie-up with Boots and Whole Foods.

“Water is the category that uses the most amount of plastic and could have the biggest impact if you provided an alternative,” the company’s chief executive Ira Laufer said.

And, beyond packaging (the bottles are comprised of 82% renewable resources, made mostly of paper from sustainably-managed forests) the company has sought to improve the economy around bottled water, by reinvesting revenue back into the community.

“The increase in online exposure to brand news stories means teenagers are more in tune with brand behaviour than ever before," surmised Krichefski.

"If you’re a brand in 2018 not concerned with purpose and ethics, you run the risk of not just alienating a whole generation but letting down customers who value ‘good’ more than you do.”

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.