Aria Finger: Brands Have to Talk About Purpose In Order to Create Authentic Connections

If you’re looking to make meaningful connections with young consumers look no further than DoSomething.org.

WHOSAY President of Sales & Marketing Rob Gregory sat with Aria Finger, CEO and Chief Old Person of the largest tech platform in the world for young people and social change, to talk about brand purpose, millennials and influencer marketing.

“Our whole mission is to get these, some may say ‘lazy,’ ‘apathetic,’ ‘entitled’ young people, who are ages 13 to 25, to find a cause they’re passionate about it and then take action,” Finger told Gregory. “And I think the great thing is that, in 2017, brands are realizing that if they want to create authentic connections with this next generation, if they wanna stay relevant, they have to talk about purpose, they have to talk about social change.”

Finger clarified DoSomething.org doesn’t see young people as “lazy” and “apathetic,” quite the contrary. She believes that labeling the millennial generation this way is unfair. “First of all, everyone says ‘millennials are self-centered.’ It’s like, no; young people are self-centered! Everyone, when they’re in their 20s, is worrying about figuring out your career, figuring out your life...so they’re absolutely unfairly targeted,” she claimed.

And she has the data to prove it. “And, you know, just on a more technical side, people are using bad data left and right to unfairly characterize them,” she told Gregory. “And if you actually look at the data and dig into what’s really going on most of these stereotypes fall down.”

She should know it. Since its inception in 1993, DoSomething.org has inspired over 10 million young people to make positive change on and offline in over 131 countries including the United States. “I think everyone, no matter if you’re eight or eighty, cares about making the world a better place,” Aria explained. “But previous generations weren’t even given the permission to do that. You had to be cookie cutter, you had to follow your career. Now, when you ask the young person, who’s 18 going to college, of course, they wanna make money, of course, they wanna support their family, but one of the top things that they do say is that they wanna have a major and go onto the workforce and do something that fulfills them, do something that makes them feel good about going to work every day.”

DoSomething.org has been that outlet for many members looking to provide purpose to their brands, personal or otherwise. Aria told Gregory how DoSomething prioritizes its undertakings given the issues that affect their members according to their demographics. “So, we just think about where can we have the biggest impact and where does it make sense for us to play,” she said.  

Aria brought up two recent issues to illustrate her point; healthcare and immigration. “There are some people who said, ‘why doesn’t DoSomething speak up about healthcare in the United States?’” she said referring to recent attempts at repealing or replacing former President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. “That wasn’t an issue that sort of uniquely affected young people,” she explained.

With immigration, it was a totally different case altogether. “DoSomething has 5.5 million members they’re age 13 to 25, they over-index Latino, and so when it came out that DACA was gonna be ended we knew that our membership was gonna be really angry and really want to do something about that,” Finger explained. “So we immediately launched an emergency campaign and said, ‘we’re gonna take a stand on this issue.’ Let’s raise up the voices of our members so you can hear from them. And that’s how we decide what to take action on.”

The same goes for DoSomething’s work with influencers and brands. “I hate the word authenticity but it all comes back to that,” Finger said. “So if you’re working with a creator about discrimination they need to have a personal connection to that issue and so for whatever campaign we launch we try to find an influencer a content creator who really cares about that.”

She recalled a recent anti-bullying initiative, “Treat Yo Friends,” which was all about finding uniqueness in one’s friends and the fact that “you don’t have to [be] cookie cutter.” “We got [America’s Got Talent eleventh season winner] Grace VanderVaal and we went to her and we said we know you’re passionate about anti-bullying, would you create some content?” Finger told Gregory. The result? A textbook example of how to run an influencer campaign. “She said, ‘amazing!’ And she created content for this campaign, she put it out on her own social channels. We didn’t spend a dime. You know, half a million people saw it in a day. And so that’s the kind of content we wanna create it’s really authentic and the influencer really cares about.”

Finger concluded by describing some of the work DoSomething has done (and aspires to continue to do) with brands. “One current partner that we have that we’re super impressed with is CVS Health,” she said. “Three years ago they decided to stop selling something that was $2 billion in revenue. And so you have to make a really big decision as a brand, even though we all know that cigarettes are bad for people’s health. I’m sure they were weighing that sort of revenue versus the cost benefit.”

Finger was referring to CVS’ 2014 campaign “We Quit Tobacco, Here’s What Happened Next.” “Certainly there was some backlash but actually, if you saw within nine months any county that had a least 15% CVS market penetration, they saw a one percent drop in cigarette usage and that was 95 million packs,” she said. “So, immediate huge scale impact and they actually came to us because they were really excited about this and wanted to make sure they reached the next generation. So DoSomething and CVS Health partnered on a huge initiative that got young people talking to their friends and family about anti tobacco and now less than 10% of young people smoke, which is cut by more than half over the past 20 years. So we’re actually saving lives with initiatives like these, which is really exciting.”

INSIGHTS, FEATUREDBy Alex Marin