TOMS one day without shoes

In these undeniably challenging times, brands and designers are trying to strike just the right tone with their advertising. If Afdhel Aziz and Bobby Jones are on the mark, “Good Is the New Cool.”

The authors of the book by the same name believe that media-savvy Millennials and Gen Z don’t trust advertising, insist upon socially responsible brands and appreciate well-designed cutting-edge products. As of last year, the 80 million Millennials in the U.S. accounted for $200 billion in spending power (not to mention globally Millennials spend $2.45 trillion worldwide.) And the post-Millennials, iGeneration or Gen Zers are also an 80 million base domestically, racking up $44 billion in spending power and $200 billion when you consider their influence on their parents.

In a joint interview Wednesday, Aziz, a brand strategist who has worked with Nokia, Heineken, Proctor & Gamble and others, said 85 percent of Millennials said they are more likely to buy a brand that supports a cause as opposed to one that does not. “I definitely think people will continue to be increasingly conscious of their purchasing decisions and how brands’ values align with their own,” Jones said. “You’re already seeing that with the election with brands that are outspoken about taking a particular political stance, ultraconservative or what have you. There are consumers who are choosing to purchase those products because of those beliefs.”

Having developed campaigns and strategies for Adidas, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and other companies, Jones is chief marketing and communications officer for the nonprofit Peace First. “Young people have been aware of issues affecting their work from environmental and economic standpoints for years. Their awareness isn’t new,” he said.

Pointing to the breakdown of civic institutions and the lack of trust in corporations and brands, Aziz said what he and Jones found interesting was how Millennials and Gen Z consumers are reacting to those factors by coming up with new models and solutions as “opposed to just standing in the streets protesting.” Nielsen has reported that 92 percent of Millennials trust recommendation from friends and family, and 81 percent make online purchases based on friends’ social media posts. Aziz said, “It’s not good enough to say, ‘We gave some money to charity. Therefore, you should buy our product.’ There is a much higher degree of engagement generationally. We think it’s an existential threat to those brands who don’t figure that out. They’re not going to be around, survive and thrive.”

Alexander Wang’s collaboration with the nonprofit Do Something, Matthew Clough’s Stone & Cloth company and Toms’ shoes are among the fashion-related businesses referenced in the Regan Arts-published book.The authors also noted that 75 percent of the global workforce will be Millennials by 2025 and 80 percent of them want a job that will match their passion rather than just pay their bills.

Thanks to social media, these consumers know how to be brands themselves, which makes them savvier than any other generation, the authors said. “What they want is the proof. They want to see a brand take action,” Aziz said. “…Up there with music and film, fashion is one of those industries that has tremendous potential to become part of this new paradigm.”

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