Every generation is accompanied by a range of values and beliefs that impact its decisions and behaviors. And in today’s fast-paced, globalized world, where the spread of culture and social change is accelerating, it is now more important than ever for brands to unpack and understand the values that guide younger generations’ consumer choices.
In our work, we’ve seen that young people’s defining values and beliefs are shifting away from once dominant value systems like organized religion, and moving towards a diverse constellation of attitudes and practices, like self-care, mindfulness, and a generalized spirituality.
We recently partnered with VICE Media to investigate what this new approach to spirituality means to Millennials and Gen Zers, and how it plays out in their lives and interactions with brands. We found that these generations are seeking meaning, purpose, and community in new places, and they embrace spirituality both individually and socially in ways that are often less structured and demanding than traditional religious communities.
What’s driving this shift to spirituality for young people?
We found that there are three key catalysts driving the rise in spirituality among younger generations:
- Distrust in religion: While spirituality is on the rise, young people are distancing themselves from associating with organized religion
- Focus on individualism: With identity becoming more fluid and lifestyle-driven, many are shying away from labels – like religious membership – that can be seen as too restrictive, or that demand more commitment than they are comfortable with
- Seeking community: In an increasingly digitally networked world, religious and spiritual connections no longer need to be centered on a particular neighborhood or physical space
These catalysts reflect broad societal shifts, driven by everything
from recent economic crises, to claims of “fake news,” the #metoo movement, and
scandals in the Catholic church, fueling declining trust in institutions and
authority figures that once provided a sense of collective direction and
stability for many.
As a result, we’re seeing a more individualistic, “DIY” approach to values, where a growing moral vacuum is driving Millennials and Gen Zers in particular to turn toward new ways of feeding their needs for meaning and purpose. As they grow and establish their identities in this cultural landscape, youth today are more likely to turn to the brands they engage with to take an active role on social causes and values.
What does this mean for modern brands?
Brands across industries are increasingly expected to take actions that better society and humanity just as much as they are expected to deliver on quality and price. Millennials and Gen Zers look for brands that align with and help develop their values, take a stand in today’s social discourse, and provide a sense of being part of something larger and more meaningful than a transactional product or experience. Brands that realize this opportunity can drive authenticity and desirability by aligning messaging, products, experiences, content, and even business models with the moral leadership young consumers are looking for as they move forward in their spiritual journeys.
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