By: Michael McQueen
The world’s most famous Youtuber made the news in late January for his big spending.
While Youtubers are notorious for their opulence, the standout part of this video was that this was spending with a cause – that cause being the funding of life-changing eye surgery for 1000 unsuspecting strangers. Mr Beast may be known for his extravagance, but he is undeniably admired for his philanthropy.
While rising to popularity on account of his gaming videos and expensive stunts, it is his abundant giving that has garnered him much attention throughout recent years. In this particular video, Mr Beast, with classic fast-paced cuts, rapid explanations and hyped announcements, depicts his discussions with surgeons and the lucky patients’ first moments of sight. Many are given lavish cash handouts following their surgeries, with one being given $50 000 to fund his college education. As expected, the following moments are highly emotional.
The popularity of Mr Beast highlights an essential priority of young consumers. Watched by viewers across multiple countries, Mr Beast’s audience is primarily made up of 18–30-year-olds. Given this largely Gen Z audience, the popularity of his extravagant philanthropy comes as no surprise.
Unquestionably the most socially concerned generation of consumers, Gen Zs look to support businesses and brands that have a clear set of social values, political engagement and sustainable practices. They believe that it is the responsibility of the wealthy – both corporate and individual – to tackle climate change, increase social welfare and champion diversity and equality.
Altruism is front of mind for Gen Zs. 85% believe that brands should be about something more than profit while 8 in 10 of them believe that it is the role of brands to make people’s lives better. While older generations have been familiar with corporate social responsibility as an occasionally prioritised business strategy, Gen Z sees it as the essential heart and soul of the companies they engage with.
With the rise of Gen Z as consumers and professionals following their Millennial counterparts, the last few years have seen the marked rise in the endorsement of businesses and brands that maintain strong social and environmental values.
As an indication of this trend, consider that brands that have a clear sense of meaning and social responsibility have outperformed stock market benchmarks by 120% over the last 15 years. Furthermore, assets in US funds that aim to produce social or environmental benefits alongside financial returns grew fourfold to $12T over the past decade.
Returning to the coming-of-age generation, the importance of cause-driven commerce is especially true for Gen Z. According to Forbes, 76% of Gen Zs said they have purchased or would consider purchasing from a brand because they identified with the issues and causes that the brand supported.
Brands favoured by Gen Z have made moves to publicly prioritise their social responsibility. For example, Warby Parker demonstrated their commitment to social values in 2019 with their ‘buy a pair, give a pair’ campaign which donated glasses to people in the developing world.
More established traditional brands are working hard to do much the same thing. Iconic jeweller Chopard, for example, made a commitment in 2019 to ensure all gold in its watches and jewellery would be 100% ethically sourced. Chopard’s co-president and creative director acknowledges that steps such as these are vital if the 160-year-old brand is to connect with and win the trust of young consumers.
Reflecting on how important the values-alignment of brands is for Gen Z, StockX senior economist Jesse Einhorn observes, “The products they invest in are the products they believe in.”
This prioritisation of sustainability is consistent across all of Gen Z’s spending. 81% of the generation would participate in or buy from a local provider and 65% of would rather use subscription services and long-term rentals for typical household items than purchasing the items new.
As a response to the priorities of this group, Etsy spent $1.62 billion in June 2021 to buy the second-hand fashion app Depop, an app favoured by Gen Zs who are intent on making sustainable and environmentally sensitive purchases. Etsy’s CEO Josh Silverman described the acquisition as a key way to achieve relevance with this younger demographic.
In a professional context, Gen Z claim they are more driven by meaning than money with almost two-thirds (65%) saying they’d prefer to do something of significance rather than merely earn a big pay packet.
For any business attempting to engage this emergent market as either consumers or employees, social responsibility cannot be a peripheral strategy. Rather, it must be prioritised as central to the aim of the company, on par with profits and growth. With a combined spending power of $143 billion, this market cannot be overlooked and the significance of their consumer values and professional interests cannot be overstated.
With their favoured entertainers taking up the baton of improving social welfare and the world at large, Gen Z’s expectations of their brands are set. If a 24-year-old Youtuber can user his wealth and platform for the service of the greater good, so must the companies aiming to capture the attention and the business of their youngest consumers.
 Layton, C 2023, ‘MrBeast helps thousand people with eyesight issues see again’, WNCT, 28 January.
 ‘mrbeast.com’, SimilarWeb, December 2022.
 Chiu, E. 2020, ‘Generation Z: Building a Better Normal’, Wunderman Thompson, December.
 Keohane, K. 2016, ‘The Case For Purpose Driven Brands’, Branding Strategy Insider, 9 September.
 Edgecliffe-Johnson, A. 2019, ‘Beyond The Bottom Line: Should Business Put Purpose Before Profit?’, Financial Times, 4 January.
 Stefanini, P. 2020, ‘A Simple Secret To Satisfying Gen Z: Listen’, Forbes, 20 March.
 Radfar, C. 2017, ‘Autonomous Cars Will Bring A Moveable Feast Of Products And Services’, TechCrunch, 2 July.
 Smith, R. 2018, ‘To Reach Millennials, High-End Jewelers Try New Products—and Approach’, The Wall Street Journal, 19 June.
 Calandra, C. 2021, ‘Gen Z’s financial freedom,’ Wunderman Thompson, 30 August.
 Browne, R. 2021, ‘Etsy is buying fashion resale app Depop for $1.62 billion,’ CNBC, 2 June.
 2020, ‘State of Gen Z Report’, Zebra IQ, September.
Article supplied with thanks to Michael McQueen.
About the Author: Michael is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.
Feature image: Screenshot, Youtube