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The Case for Creating Believers

2018 October 17th

Here’s a statistic that should surprise you.

A recent Gallup poll found that 51% of Americans between the ages of 18-29 viewed socialism positively, versus 45% who had the same feelings about capitalism. 

Which is pretty significant. 

This result is one of many that reflects a growing disillusionment with the system. A system that is largely perceived to be responsible for the inherited wrongs of racism, sexism, inequality and climate change. 

Which, however you look at it, is a pretty bad rap. 

What this statistic doesn’t reflect, however, is that the people it represents have a real understanding of socialism - or how it’s been traditionally defined or understood. But that doesn’t matter. 

Right now, capitalism is in the cross hares because it represents the status quo. A status quo young people are intent on disrupting, while socialism represents an attractive alternative primarily because it rejects the values of capitalism. 

Which gets more to the heart of the issue.

What’s going on right now is less about political or economic ideologies and more about the values young people aspire to subscribe to. An aspiration that is not limited to the youth of the U.S. 

"What this result reflects is a growing disillusionment with the incumbent system. A system that is largely perceived to be responsible for the inherited wrongs of racism, sexism, inequality and climate change."

Around the world, young people are rejecting the paths taken by their parents and the values that defined them. 

Previous generations were driven by the need to accumulate as a signpost of progression. Car, house and white picket fence, baby (hopefully in that order), sent a clear message that you were on the right path. A path that was all about a destination - the future. 
Driven by materialism and an inherited desire to ascend the social status of their parents; this generation lived and breathed capitalism. And why not? There didn't seem any reason to question it. 

But this path to success doesn't exist anymore. And for young people now entering the ‘real’ world, the negative impacts inherited via capitalism and materialism's legacy are only too clear.

Which is why their rejection of their parents’ values is as much out of necessity; as it is rebellion. 

They’re are rebelling against a system which has failed them, not to mention left them with a pretty big mess to clean up.

They also don't have a choice. The safe, linear, path of progression adhered to by their parents is no longer. What was seemingly the norm for previous generations, now seems out of reach. Less young people own homes than the parents at their age. There are greater levels of unemployment than ever before.

Only a very few are saving for retirement.
Which is not surprising when what the future looks like is anyone’s guess. If for our parents the future was the destination, for the youth today its more concept than reality. 

"But this path to success doesn't exist anymore. And for young people now entering the ‘real’ world, the negative impacts inherited via capitalism and materialism's legacy are only too clear."

Which brings us back to right now.

Because in lieu of down payments on their future, now is where young people are investing.
And right now, for young people, what has value is experiences, self-actualisation and meaning. 

At the core of this value reappraisal, is a shift in motivation. No longer about building a life based on what you own; young people today are driven by a desire to believe. 

Believe in themselves. Believe in what they’re doing. Believe in the people around them. Believe in the businesses, organisations and movements they buy into. Believe in change. Believe in something bigger, something better.

Once you recognise this, it’s an urgent desire you can see everywhere you look. Rising activism, social conscious and awareness, a distrust for institutions and the establishment, and a renewed interest in self-growth and development. It’s a generation not seen since the 60’s. 

Against this backdrop, the question we at Andpeople are asking ourselves is: In a world in which the majority of the population (51% of the global population are under the age of 30) are questioning the status quo, where does this leave brands? 

I’d like to propose this starts with the term of consumer. 

Previous generations were driven by a desire to accumulate; but today this misses the point of why people increasingly buy into the brands they do. In doing so, we miss the opportunity to rewrite what the brands responsibility is in this equation. 

"No longer about building a life based on what you own; young people today are driven by a desire to believe."

When we reconsider the use of the word consumer, and start to think about the people we target as prospective believers, we do two important things.

We take accountability for why people should choose the brands we represent, but we also start to redesign our role in a 21st century economy. 

Which is well-timed because the truth is, the need for an industry that tells you what you should buy, is fast running out of road. For people with reasonable means, education and access to information and technology, I would argue it already has. 

But this doesn’t have to mean the end of branding. It’s just the end as we know it. 

What’s been born out of this is the chance for brands to transcend their traditional role as the architects of consumerism, to evolve into organisations, movements and forces in culture that people choose to believe in. 

Which makes for a great brief (side note to any brands out there). But also prompts the question, why do people believe in some brands and not others? 

In a world of competition, hyper-transparency and expectation; we believe this lies in standing for something more than just the bottom line. 

A purpose that inspires, or to aspire to. 
A cause worth fighting. 
A commitment to creating real value.
A reason for existing beyond next quarters profits. 

This is what is evident in the brands people are getting behind. Patagonia’s example for future businesses, Nike’s stand for what matters today. These and others point to the future of branding. 

An industry that aspires to more than sell consumers. An industry that inspires belief.

Written by
Michael Leslie