The influence of social media today is so strong that entire businesses and careers thrive or fail by it. At the heart of this double-edged phenomenon is Generation Z and its propensity to vocalize its opinions. Businesses are discovering that, with the right messaging, they can turn Gen Z sentiment in their favor and into business success.
2020 laid a baseline where the public perception of a company hinges on it using the right language in public forums. The Black Lives Matter movement is by far the most obvious example. Companies from the largest to the smallest have embraced the BLM messaging as a symbol of solidarity for profit.
Now, the movement is making an impression on the world of finance. Major corporations such as Twitter, PayPal, and Netflix have announced plans to transfer billions of dollars to black-owned or black-run banks and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI).
These moves are heavily publicized for the positive press it generates, attaching a layer of social capital to companies otherwise seen as profit machines. They are in good company, though; faith organizations whose memberships tend to run older have put their shoulder to the wheel as well. It is one of the rare occasions that intergenerational gaps do not seem to matter.
While such moves are overwhelmingly positive in themselves, is it enough to assuage Gen Z? These organizations are not donating to charity; they are simply shifting massive amounts of money from one place to another. If the 1 percent owns 99 percent of the world, does the skin color of the 1 percent matter?
Doth Protest Too Much?
The issue of “responsible capitalism” must go beyond optics and Twitter bios. Giant corporations say and do all the PR-appropriate things in the U.S. but seem to falter as soon as profit enters the picture.
Nike has been criticized for its overt support for BLM protests in America but silence at the brutal crackdown on protestors in Hong Kong. Disney has been at the forefront of social justice both online and in its movies. However, the credits at the end of 2020’s Mulan thanked the government of Xinjiang, China where millions of ethnic Uyghurs have been placed in Nazi-like concentration camps.
While the odds are that most Gen Z-ers will balk at the prospect of not watching Disney movies or skipping the latest Nike sneakers, it does contribute to a sense of affected egalitarianism. Corporations must realize that the trend is clear and that subsequent generations in a few short years may not be as forgiving. If they do not match their corporate actions to their proclaimed values, the reckoning may be delayed but it will not be denied.
DeSantis Trusted Advisors provides consulting, advisory, and coaching services to businesses and their stakeholders with the goal of creating pathways to success. Please contact me today if you would like to discuss your organization’s business strategy.