This is another rant from a Millennial that has been working in corporate America since the late 90’s.
When I grew up there was a belief that you weren’t being lied to when heard things in advertisements and on the news. Then, somewhere along the line, things changed. And it became that any shred of evidence was enough for a company or a news organization to lie to you. This has lead to loads of false advertising claims and an entirely new phenomenon known as “deceptive marketing”.
Sometimes the good guys win, for example, classmates.com had to shell out 9.5 million dollars for claiming their former classmates were online waiting for them. I find this one interesting because I have been in meetings where people have conjured up scams like this to try and convince people of something that isn’t true in order to sell a product.
What this example and the many others like it have lead to is a generation, us millennials, that are repulsed by the idea that a brand is fake at all. Now, we still like to believe that true loves happens on game show and that the Kardashians are somehow valued members of society, but this is nothing new. When a company labels something as healthy, we’ll read the label and be the judge, and if we determine you’re lying, your brand is in serious trouble.
This is because, unlike our predecessors, we believe that the exchange of money is something deeper than a customer and producer. We want a relationship. We want to know the things we’re buying were made by good people and that they’re treated well or that it’s helping more than just some big wig get richer.
Take Blake Mycoskie. When he traveled to Argentina in 2006 he felt compelled to help the poor children he saw growing up without shoes. In his travel there he discovered an incredibly simple and durable shoe style that he then brought back to the United States. This is the story of Tomorrow’s Shoes, which was shortened to just TOMS.
Since 2006 Blake and TOMS have given back 60 million pairs of shoes with their One for One policy which states that for every pair of TOMS shoes sold they will supply a child in need with a free pair. Blake is an amazing guy, besides being a GenXer, which I won’t blame him for. Unlike how Boomers blame Millennials for the year they were born in. If you don’t believe me search twitter for the hashtag #HowToConfuseAMillennial and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
This new business model completely flies in the face of the traditionally approaches of maximizing profits and cutting costs at all costs. A lot of people even thought that this was a gimmick and couldn’t last. Yet us lazy millennials ate it up as we felt better about spending ridiculous amounts of money with them than other brands who could not or would not have ever been so charitable. It makes us feel good to spend $100 on a pair of canvas shoes when we know the exchange isn’t just about a company trying to sell us something.
In 2014 TOMS sold half of it’s equity to Bain Capital valuing the company at 627M dollars. So, even if you don’t care about helping children have shoes or people get clean water or anything that isn’t entirely selfish, you should still recognize that this company, due to it’s philanthropic nature, has thrived and in doing so has created a new business model that is being emulated all over the world.
The main point I’m trying to make is, if you want us millennials to buy your stuff, we first need to buy into you. Just because you make the fanciest jeans doesn’t mean shit if you’re a horrible company that exploits its workers and lies to people.