The rise of the selfish consumer in a post-COVID world

By Hype Collective

Our recent Campus Pulse Check research took a deep dive into activism and identity in the context of a post-pandemic world (when this ever comes). 

Every incoming generation is heralded as the ‘next generation of leaders’, who will be better than the last. They’ll be ethical, virtuous and selfless. 

However, that’s not the case. Or at least, it’s not in the short term. Our findings show that one in three students (37%) say they’ll be a more selfish consumer in the short term, while they catch up on all of the experiences they’ve missed.

“I know the world is dying, I know my country is dying, but I need a break from all of this” Sameeksha, University of Leeds. 

Three quarters of students (73%) said they were excited to catch up on travel. Younger consumers are typically assumed to be more conscious of flying and their carbon footprint. However, our research suggests that these issues are likely to be less of a motivating factor in the purchasing decisions of the younger generation over the next 12 months. 

It’s all about purpose. Really?

Grab any marketing professional and ask them what’s important when building a brand that resonates with young consumers, and more often than not they’ll tell you it’s absolutely *vital* that your brand has a social purpose. 

Well, that’s bullshit. 

36% of students said they don’t expect brands to have a social purpose at all. This is partially because students are far more pragmatic than the media gives them credit for: 23% said they simply don’t expect a company to do anything beyond creating jobs and selling products. For others, the motivation for this belief is because they are cynical: 13% said brands who present a social purpose as a core part of their identity come across as inauthentic. 

A further 37% of students said that it was nice for a brand to have social purpose, but this wasn’t necessary. 

This leaves just 27% of students who think that it’s important for brands to have a social purpose. 

Not everyone is a campaigner

Anti-racist movements (70%) and mental health policies (63%) were the two causes students care most passionately about. 

However, nearly a quarter of students (22%) said they don’t care about any social causes at all. 

While this is a minority, it’s a significant one, and serves to illustrate that students aren’t the homogeneous group that the Daily Mail paints them as. 

Some of them care deeply about social causes, and some of them want brands to have a social purpose. But they don’t speak with a single voice, and many of them are pragmatic consumers who just want companies to sell them things. 

Much like the rest of us, really. 

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