Marketing to Generation Y: A Circular Economy Perspective

Leszek Adamczyk, CEO of a cutting-edge Polish environmental software company (ATMOTERM), and a longtime client of mine, recently forwarded me an insightful article about the growing interest among European youth in the “circular economy” model and their contributions of new perspectives to its development. The essay and the further study produced three intriguing findings that are useful for all marketers.

To start, it’s crucial to keep an eye on major developments throughout the world and the effect they may have on the economy and other sectors. Second, an exceptional chance to reach out to this demographic group is presented by their passion for a more sustainable environmental system. Last but not least, how brand positioning concepts may be applied to this circular economy model, like so many other great projects, to achieve wider adaption and guarantee the full advantages of the model are provided to society.

When compared to traditional consumer groups, the digital native Millennial generation is strikingly unique. When it came to the economy, the Baby Boom generation was used to taking no prisoners in its pursuit of expansion at any cost, which it did through a combination of consumption, investment, and competition. On the other hand, millennials are growing up in a society that is painfully unfair, polluted, running out of resources, and led by people they don’t respect.

The idea of a “circular economy” has been around for a while, but it is just recently garnering the attention and respect it deserves. In his 1966 study “The Economy of the Coming Spaceship Earth,” Kenneth Boulding initially proposed the concept of circular material flows as a model for the economy. With “growing pressures on resources and the environment,” the EU “has no choice but to go for the transition to a resource-efficient and ultimately regenerative circular economy,” as stated in the EU Commission’s 2012 manifesto based on a report from McKinsey on the economic and business opportunities from this restorative, circular model.

“Circle Economy,” a successful circular economy relies on the following six principles:

  1. To begin, all materials are recycled indefinitely.
  2. Second, the energy we use comes only from sustainable or renewable resources.
  3. Thirdly, ecosystems benefit from human activity, which in turn helps natural capital recover.
  4. Financial and non-financial value is created when resources are put to use.
  5. Fifth, wellbeing: human actions promote health and wellbeing.
  6. Human actions contribute to cohesive and thriving communities and cultures.

The generation born between 1980 and 2000 finds their inspiration in this last premise. Seven out of ten Millennials in the United States identify as “social activists,” and three-quarters think companies should help the economy, rather than hurt it. In particular, they believe that this concept of a circular economy might serve as a catalyst for positive social change. They view this sustainable model as a chance to be disruptive and empowered to construct something of their own will, in keeping with their strong desire to become entrepreneurs (54% want to start their own firm, or have already started one). There is an idealistic, utopian quality to their proposals, such as when they propose:

  • Food distribution networks at the neighborhood level recycle discarded food for nutrients.
  • Mushroom cultivation using recycled coffee grounds from nearby roasteries.
  • creative tax changes, urban gardening, garbage picking, and grocery stores that don’t use any packaging

Conversely, many members of the generation born between 1980 and 2000 view corporate “save the world” campaigns with skepticism. Millennials have little faith in the motives of most corporate managers, politicians, or business organizations since so many of these messages are blatantly related to the condition of buying their products. Instead, they look for ways to do things on their own, where they can retain control over the process and the final product.

Making the circular economy concept into a compelling brand that can excite and drive people and guarantee greater acceptance presents a problem (or opportunity) for businesses and other proponents of the approach. Branding is often linked with corporations or products, but the same ideas may be used for environmental systems. The most crucial part of branding is zeroing in on your ideal clientele and meeting their deepest aspirations.

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