Are Millennials The Moral Consumers You Think They Are?

female shopper with multiple shopping bags

A much discussed YouGov BrandIndex survey came out recently that questioned how much Millennials were really moral consumers.

The biggest news-making find of the survey was that popular ride-sharing firm Uber had the most significant improvement in brand awareness throughout the last year – even amongst Millennials.

“Uber”, “improvement”, “Millennials” – all in the same sentence. This raised eyebrows. But mine didn’t move.

Once I read the statistic, I almost shrugged. Totally understandable, in my opinion. The results showed one of two possibilities. One: that Millennials weren’t really aware of the bad publicity that Uber had endured in the last year. Or, two (and the one that I believe to be true): that Millennials were aware of Uber’s blunders but still chose to use the app. That they weren’t the steadfast moral consumers the media claimed they were.

I decided to take a poll amongst the Millennials I knew to find out. Over the next few days I talked to friends, friends of friends, and sometimes strangers in public places, and asked them the following question:

Have you ever stopped buying or using a particular brand due to political or moral reasons?

I asked this question offline and online and received a myriad of responses. There were a few trends amongst the answers I received.

Over the past year, only a sliver of my Millennial network deleted the Uber app.

The few that did (three people that I knew of) shared certain characteristics. They generally considered themselves very politically active and often had other options for ride-sharing. Malini Sen, a 28-year-old American living in Washington DC, told me that after the famed blog Susan J. Fowler wrote discrediting Uber, she “was too angry” and had to delete the app. Her actions were influenced by the fact that she works in tech and “that women in tech are so undervalued and men got away with it for being considered ‘high performing’…I couldn’t in good faith continue using a company like that.”

The majority of people who continue to use the app shared Julie’s* point of view. “I tried deleting them entirely, but frankly the app comes in handy sometimes. Now I only use it if I really, really need to.” Julie, a 29-year-old who lives and works in Toronto, is in the same boat I’m in.

We live in a city where cabs are pricey. Often Uber fares are a fraction of regular cab fares, and sometimes an Uber for two is cheaper than public transit fare for two (CAD$6.50). Currently, Uber does not have a direct competitor for locals to choose from.

If there were other options, I would be looking – but at the end of the day, the service that Uber provides is too valuable for me to ignore.

As much as I would like to hold my ground as a moral consumer (as I do despise the way Uber seems to conduct business), I won’t go out of my way to do so if there aren’t other options or if the other options are far more costly. Financially, I’m just not able to yet. Neither are my peers, even if they’re within the later age-range of the Millennial spectrum.

Interestingly, the responses did show a few commonly rejected products and brands.

Yuengling beer was mentioned several times as the beer to boycott due to their support of Donald Trump. Ivanka Trump’s clothing line was another brand that my peers avoided both before and after the president was elected. (Yes, my friends do lean Democrat.) Many fast fashion brands were shunned due to poor labour standards. However, what these had in common was the fact that even if you blacklist one, there are scores of other options to shop from. How much are you really sacrificing when you give up one beer vendor out of hundreds of brewers?

Daniel Restrepo, another Millennial who responded to my online poll, epitomised best both sides of the issue with his statement. “Gay but still claim Chik-Fil-A as my favourite. Sometimes I just don’t care.”

I’m sure every Millennial has their personal Chik-Fil-A consumer story. I’d love to hear yours. Are you a Millennial that identifies as a moral consumer? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts on this in the comments below!


*Name has been changed. 

4 thoughts on “Are Millennials The Moral Consumers You Think They Are?”

  1. Great post. I think that it shows that millennial are basically similar to the rest of us. Morally outraged at times, but convenience and competition still play a key component of decision making. It takes an extremely strong moral conviction to avoid bending to those 2 things. Really well done, thanks as it inspires thought.

    1. Thank you Rita! Yes, I do think that currently there are likely more similarities between all the different age groups than differences. Will be interesting to see if that continues as Millennials age.

  2. Great post Fang! I agree that we as Millennials try our best to “do the right thing” but at the end of the day convenience is king. No one is perfect… I think that what counts is that we are putting in an effort to make a positive change and exercising our rights to voice our opinion. We are certainly not a meek generation, but rather bold and eager to let ourselves be heard.

    1. Thanks for reading! I do agree about being a vocal generation, and in being vocal about wanting more transparency in particular.

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