Visual Communication

How Top Brands Visually Illustrate Their Social Responsibility to Millennials

By Celia Topping - 6 min read

An estimated $30 trillion is on the brink of being transferred to Millennials from their Baby Boomer parents and socially-responsible brands stand to benefit the most.

Earning a slice of this considerably hefty pie are brands that understand social responsibility as key to the community-minded Millennial generation, who buy not only what a brand is selling, but what they believe in.

Corporate Social Responsibility

In it’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report, Nielson found that 73% of Millennials are more willing to spend money with a brand that has proven its commitment to sustainability and social responsibility. Marketing is in essence, self-interested, but Millennials prefer those brands who choose to allocate at least part of their time/money to help others. Consider Toms Shoes’ super-successful One for One business model, a direct donation to those in need for every pair of shoes bought. Since 2006, 35 million pairs of shoes have been given to the needy, not to mention the millions of Millennials wearing their Toms with pride.

Low section of person standing on boardwalk

Authentic Alignment With Social Causes

Millennials have an innately strong BS detector, so if they believe a brand is only ‘caring’ about a cause for marketing purposes, you can be sure they won’t be fooled, such as Phillip Morris’s poor attempt in their ‘Hold My Light’ campaign. In contrast, outdoor clothing company Patagonia, consistently prove their socially responsible, eco-friendly credentials year on year. For example, their 2016 “Don’t buy this jacket” campaign released on Black Friday, actively encouraged consumers to consider the environmental cost of all purchases, even their own, illustrating their serious commitment to environmental issues.

Midsection of man rock climbing

Customer Involvement

As well as expecting their favorite brands to be actively socially conscious, Millennials also desire the opportunity to give something back themselves. Dina Powell, leader of Goldman’s Sach’s philanthropy initiatives said, “This is a generation that’s very interested in making a positive impact” and has been instrumental in organizing programmes for Millennial staff members to volunteer their time coaching. A good example of the demand for involvement is Stella Artois’ ‘Buy a Lady a Drink’ campaign, in association with, created to raise awareness of the global water crisis and fronted by Matt Damon. Being offered the opportunity to ‘be the generation to help end the global water crisis’ clearly attracted the attention of Millennials keen to contribute to worthy, socially conscious causes.

Portrait of young woman having beer in restaurant

Make a Positive Impact on the World

Since the 1980’s, Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream brand has been synonymous with corporate responsibility. They have supported many causes and have never shied away from social issues, including their campaign to fight against climate change in 2015 for which they released a new flavor, “Save our Swirled” and created a clever video, endangered flavors, to highlight the impact of climate change. The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation is proof of their vehement belief that “the strongest bond you can build with your consumers is over shared values.”

Close-up of hand holding ice cream cone

Go Public About Your CSR

Millennials care deeply about making a positive social and environmental impact, so will choose brands that share their concerns. One brand that strongly ticks all the boxes of ethical sourcing, community-care and environmental responsibility and is not afraid to shout about it, is Starbucks. In the last 5 years, they have transformed themselves from being just another coffee company into one famous for its’ CSR credibility, by investing massively in the people and communities they work with, and not least, developed the Starbucks Foundation to strengthen community-centric initiatives.

Starbucks proudly publish their Global Responsibility Report every year, sharing information on the positive impacts they’re making. In short, Starbucks try to be as environmentally friendly as possible, but also make sure everyone knows about it, which is considered just dandy by social-media-mad millennials.

Close-up of hand holding tomato


The brands which authentically embrace corporate social responsibility and give something back to the world are the ones which will gain respect, trust and revenue in the increasingly wealthy, socially-minded, millennial market.

  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Authentic Alignment With Social Causes
  • Customer Involvement
  • Make a Positive Impact on the World
  • Go Public About Your CSR
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