How Telcos can Leverage Social Responsibility to Appeal to Young Customers

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What would you say if we told you that 76% of Gen Zs claim that they’ve purchased, or have considered purchasing, from brands that support causes they’re interested in (Hessekiel, 2018)?

Or that 67% wouldn’t purchase from a company that didn’t align with their values (Hessekiel, 2018)?

Companies that refuse to play an active role in changing the world aren’t going to cut it for Gen Z or Alpha.

Who is Gen Z and Alpha?

Born between 1995 and 2010, Gen Zs live a hyper-connected, on-demand lifestyle that centers around their devices. Immediately following the Zs are the Alphas. Born between 2010 and 2025, these kids are already more tech savvy than the average adult – and own their own device by age 4.

Gen Z and Alpha – despite their young age – have experienced many world-events that have influenced their thinking and behavior. For example, some experienced the 2008 recession and became more conscious of how they spend their money. They’ve celebrated the legalization of LGBTQ2+ marriage across the globe; witnessed movements such as #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and the Brexit; and lived through the rise of the smartphone.

Gen Z and Alpha are more diverse than generations before them; they celebrate their diversity and value brands that do the same. They actively seek brands that not only meet their needs but also align with their interests.

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Joining Forces

Did the grandparents of Gen Z boycott a TV show due to allegations against producers? Did they criticize the use of single-use plastic at local coffee shops? Not quite.

New generations are socially conscious. They have a strong desire to make a difference, are mindful of the environment and others, and these beliefs effect where and how they shop.

Gen Zs value green companies. These are organizations that work to reduce their social or environmental impact. Based on Gen Zs conviction to doing better, it’s predicted that Alphas will be even more motivated to inspire change. According to Jared Weiner, EVP and Chief Strategy Officer at The Future Hunters, Alphas will value blue companies that have a net-positive effect on the world. Companies will be expected to improve the world in the course of doing business.

5 children in a line holding hands in front of a illustration of the earth

Ignorance is not bliss and will no longer be tolerated by Gen Z and Alpha. We’ve already seen a drastic response from brands, across industries to clean up their act. As easy as it is to think of brands who’ve felt the recent sting of not rising to the morale standard, we think it’s more beneficial to look at those who did.

Dream Crazy

A recent prominent example is Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick.

The ad aired in September 2018 and quickly went viral.

Colin Kaepernick was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. In 2016, he refused to stand during the American National Anthem in protest of police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2017, Kaepernick became a free-agent and wasn’t signed by any teams in the NFL.

Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging that the NFL colluded to deny him of his employment rights due to his advocacy. In 2019, the NFL and Kaepernick reached a confidential settlement.

Nike received backlash immediately after releasing the ad. Many people posted videos of themselves destroying their Nike apparel. It also sparked a secondary debate on Nike manufacturing ethics (since 2001, Nike has been actively bettering the conditions or partnerships with manufactures, read more about that here).

Simultaneously, many people praised the ad. Ultimately, the campaign was found to be successful.

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The Washington Post reported that the campaign generated $43 million in media exposure. Other studies show that the ad had a 49% to 37% approval rate, with those between 18 and 34 approving by a 67-21 margin. And according The Guardian, Nike experienced a 31% increase in sales following the ad.

Dream Crazy takes a stance on an intense issue and uses Kaepernick as symbol for, “Believing in something, even if it means sacrificing everything”. The ad communicates that even though you may be discriminated against, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue things you are passionate about.

Nike used their brand and influence to support an issue much bigger than themselves and it paid off.

What We Learned from Nike

The two key learnings that telcos can take away are:

1. Be relevant.

Part of Nike’s success is the brand’s relevance to the issue. As a sports brand, Nike uses sport in a unique way to demonstrate and talk about a social issue greater than sport. The message is relevant to athletes and non-athletes alike.

2. Show, not tell.

This campaign would lack support and praise if Nike lacked initiative. A campaign like Dream Crazy is crucial for promoting awareness around an issue – but also opens the company up to criticism. Nike actively supports equality and inclusion, communities, respectful manufacturing and sourcing, and the environment. We see how brands are held accountable when we consider how people were praising Nike, and in the same breath asking about responsible resourcing.

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How Can Telcos Measure Up?

Nike is one example of how a brand can connect with customers on a social level – however, its not the only way. There are many ways for companies to practice social responsibility.

We see some telcos already taking on social initiatives, whether it be paid volunteer time or supporting social innovation. Here are three great examples:

1. Telco Together: The Telco Together Foundation is a platform in Australia that brings the telco industry together to support disadvantaged communities. They promote engagement and increase social awareness by creating opportunities for volunteering and fundraising in the industry.

2. Rogers’ Give Together: Give Together focuses on giving back to the community and coming together. Rogers hosts a “Give Together Month” where employees raise money for charities across Canada, and Rogers matches all employee donations up to $1000. Also, as part of Give Together, Rogers has “Give Together Volunteer Days” where for two days a year, employees volunteer with Canadian charities.

3. Touch Lebanon’s Touch Innovation Program: The touch Innovation Program selects entrepreneurs as “touch Innovators” and offers support to their start-ups. The program helps 8-12 startups a year, and those selected have access to the touch Lab and workshops. Current touch Innovators include companies focused on health software, e-learning, recycling, and more.

Ideas for Telco

So, now that you understand the impact social awareness has on a business and the importance to young customers – how can you get involved?

The important thing about being a socially aware business is getting it right. For telcos who are considering social initiatives, we suggest starting small and building up to larger projects that resonate with customers.

Here are three ways telcos can start incorporating a social aspect to their business:

1. Paperless processes: How much paper are your stores using? Telco contracts use a lot of paper and ink. By digitizing contracts telcos can make a difference for the environment. Just think of all the trees and water you’d save! (Digital contracts are a key part of digital transformation and are the easiest and quickest first step to take).

2. Responsible Shipping: Are your shipping practices sustainable? How many unnecessary shipments do you receive a week, could these be cut down or grouped together?

3. Paid Volunteering: A great idea for telcos looking to give back while boosting morale and creating a positive culture. Providing employees with paid time to volunteer encourages them to get out into the community and give back.

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