New Studies Profile Public Attitudes and Change

16 05 2007

A special thanks goes out to Steve Loflin executive director of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars for sharing this information and whose members took part in the Universum survey below.

As you collect data to help paint a picture of customer needs and expectations, you might take a look at these latest studies addressing the profile of the Millennial generation and the US public demands from the private sector. These are excerpts from selections of each study.

“2007 Most Desirable Undergraduate Employers” study by Universum Communications

  • College students listed work-life balance as their first priority in seeking employers. Other top priorities cited by undergrads were the pursuit of further education, a sound financial base, and contributing to society.

  • Ethics courses and discussions might also be making a difference. Nearly 40% of undergrads in the survey chose high ethical standards as the most significant factor when determining what company to work for, whereas the financial strength of a company only received 26% of the vote.

  • The 27% of undergrads who listed “contributing to society” as one of their top three career goals is a particularly telling statistic, considering this focus on community wasn’t even on the radar a year ago. “Contributing to society” was made a survey option in 2006 after hundreds of students penciled it in on the 2005 survey. As social entrepreneurship becomes more popular, business students are seeing this mindset presented in the classroom and in the corporate world.

  • The study provided a glimpse into the generational preferences, economic influences, and general “buzz factor” that contribute to a company’s reputation as an employer.

“2007 Survey on US Public Attitudes on CSR Programs” by National Consumers League and Fleishman-Hillard International Communications

  • Americans of all political persuasions — 96 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Independents, and 65 percent of Republicans — say that it is either very or extremely important for Congress to ensure that companies are addressing social issues. These findings paint a far different picture of corporate social responsibility than the model laid out by Milton Friedman nearly 40 years ago.
  • More than three-fourths of surveyed Americans give U.S. companies less-than-high marks in the area of operating in a socially responsible manner. Democrats and Independents rate U.S. corporate performance significantly lower than did Republicans.
  • In addition to looking for more government oversight, 77 percent of surveyed American consumers believe that there is a need for global standards outlining corporate social responsibility criteria (an increase of 12 percent over last year’s results). Furthermore, two-thirds of respondents indicate that they would make purchasing decisions in favor of a company that meets such global standards for social responsibility.
  • A majority of Americans now rank the Internet as their top source for learning about the corporate social responsibility record of a company in their community. More than one-fourth of respondents who use the Internet to learn about a company’s CSR record are specifically turning to blogs or podcasts set up by customers or non management employees of companies. This finding represents a 100 percent increase over last year’s results.

“2006 Alloy College Explorer Study” by Alloy Media and Marketing and Harris Interactive

  • College students prefer an honest and effective social responsibility campaign over celebrity endorsements. The factors that drive their purchase decisions 33% preferred brands that give back to the community, are environmentally safe, or that are connected to a cause. Together these socially responsible characteristics surpassed paying more for a brand with a great image or preference for a brand used by celebrities by wide margins. One in four students has purchased a product this year specifically because it was socially conscious

  • The student focus on social responsibility fits other survey data that together paints a picture of a socially conscientious student community that cares about causes. Almost half (forty five percent) of students are active volunteers, often taking up a cause on their own but also getting involved through school or their fraternity or sorority. Asked about motivation, students who volunteer said they do so simply to help other people (55%) and to do their part as a community member (39%). Importantly, among those students who volunteer, forty nine percent said that it makes them feel good about themselves. The report shows that helping others and contributing to good causes were far more important to students than philanthropy to help them get a job or because it looks good on their resume.

  • Adding muscle to the weight students are throwing behind social responsibility is the fact that this year’s college enrollment is the largest on record, overall spending has jumped by $8 billion and their discretionary spending power has grown 12% to $46 billion.

  • The college student market is now well over 17 million strong and continues to grow in size and importance for marketers as the considerable influence they’ve gained in the past few years as technology early adopters bleeds into other areas, like social responsibility. Watch for the “greening” of the college market to have a big effect on brand positioning and campaigns in the coming year.

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