The Increasing Importance of Values: How They'll Shape Our Future

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Valerie Gunn

This article is included in Issue 8 of Perspectives Quarterly titled The Future brought to you byThe Ones to Know, D1A’s initiative to change the way in which influencers and creators show up in the industry:

The year is 2025, and I need a new pair of shoes. Yes, I need them. I’ve run too far in them, and I need a pair with more support. Back in the day, I’d have gone into a store to try shoes on—somewhat blindly buying whichever brand fit my foot best.

But today, I pop open my phone and open an app. Think of it as a ‘we-care-about-you-and-the-world’ department store app. It’s got everything I need, and I can filter which brands display based on which issues I care about. I know that the money I am spending is going to a company that aligns with my values and ultimately to causes I believe in. That’s important to me. I get to be selective about how and where I spend my money. I get to vote with my dollar, one might say.

OK, so the real year is 2021, and my dream department store app doesn’t exist just yet. What does exist is the real shift toward values-based consumption, and beyond that, values- based decision making. This year in particular, values have taken center stage. Now more than ever, people are looking around them to see if the people and brands they are connected to align with their vision for the world. People are looking through brands’ feeds to see if they spoke out against racial injustice before clicking buy or quitting gyms because of the beliefs the founder holds.

It’s becoming increasingly popular for brands to take a values- based approach to their marketing—think #client Nike’s partnership with Colin Kaepernick. But the cool ads and public statements are not enough any more, and they certainly won’t be for the future. Both brands and companies are being held to a higher standard. Just saying that you care about the environment doesn’t matter if you aren’t taking meaningful action to reduce your negative impact. Showing diversity in your marketing, but not having a diverse team? We’re not buying it now, and we’re not going to be buying it in the future.

I expect that as the future unfolds, we are going to see consumers become even more shrewd about where they spend their dollars. Increased visibility and the public’s ability to hold companies accountable is going to demand that they change, and therefore the world at large will change. So how exactly is this going to unfold? Values’ impact on purchase decisions is going to become increasingly important, and according to McKinsey and Co., by 2025, Millennials alone are going to hold over $8 trillion in spending power—up from $1.4 trillion in 2020. That is a lot of money to be left on the table if my projections about values- based decision making are correct. These decisions are going to be based on more than just marketing; they’re going to rely on brands and companies practicing what they preach.

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Spending isn't the only thing values are going to change. They’re going to effectively categorize things into two categories. Let’s call them: aligned and not aligned. This is going to extend to which influencers they follow, whose music they listen to and what companies they want to work for. Effectively, this shift in values is going to demand that the world get better for everyone, not just the few at the top. People know they’ve got the power to drive change, and they’re going to make sure that those they admire and aspire to be are aligned with their values.