Ethical, privacy-focused brands can take an edge among Gen Z

Brands that demonstrate they strive to 'do the right thing' can win over a younger generation disillusioned by 'corporate America'.
14 January 2020

Netflix ad for Orange is the New Black at Amsterdam Pride event. Source: Shutterstock

How well you treat your employees and protect your customers’ data could be your biggest brand differentiator within the next 12 months. 

According to Morning Consult’s Most Trusted Brands report, in a turbulent climate of regular data breaches among high-profile businesses, consumer awareness over the integrity of a brand’s data privacy and cybersecurity practices is at its highest, and represents a key consideration in their perceived level of trust in the company as data becomes the new currency.

Meanwhile, there is greater awareness than ever surrounding the employment conditions of some of the world’s most successful companies in regard to unsustainable working hours, low pay, and ruthless performance management systems. Just ask Tim Cook about the Golden Globes opening speech

The Brands report, which included feedback from 16,000 consumers on almost 2,000 brands, revealed two-thirds of respondents said Americans had become less trusting in recent years, while more than 50 percent of Generation Z have a negative view of corporate America. 

But it also said despite high profile corporate scandals in recent years, for brands looking and maintain customer relationships, there’s a “silver lining”, with the average top-100 major brand trusted by 59 percent of consumers and distrusted by just 13 percent. 

Top performing brands, including Google and Amazon, are more well-trusted than any major institution, save the military. 

But while brand trust is relatively strong today, there is a generational challenge facing brands in the future. Younger consumers are generally more skeptical of corporate America and hold higher ethical standards for brands. 

Young Americans are increasingly favoring companies that demonstrate strong ethical or political values, treat employees better than they are required to by law and produce products in a sustainable way. In contrast, producing high-quality products and paying the taxes they owe were of less importance. 

As companies invest in personalization, convenience, product development, and competitive pricing, they will face increasing pressure to demonstrate they are also “doing the right thing”.

The report says that working on the areas of data privacy, employee treatment, and fine print (ensuring the true nature of products and services are clearly articulated) represent key opportunities to build trust with a younger group of consumers. “If applicable, brands could consider messaging campaigns to help consumers understand their efforts in each area to build trust,” the report suggests.