Empowering young people to take action

Aria Finger Headshot.png

This October, Aria Finger, CEO of DoSomething will be taking to the YMS NYC stage in Brooklyn to share the insights behind their campaign with CVS Health and how purpose, tech and FOMO lead to brand love. Here she shares why she is so passionate about empowering young people to take action.

Can you tell us a little bit about the story behind DoSomething?
DoSomething was founded in 1993 by Andrew Shue (of Melrose Place fame!) and his childhood best friend Mike Sanchez. They had a simple and inspiring vision: How can we make volunteerism as prevalent as after-school sports to unlock the passion and creativity of a generation of young people!

What trends are you seeing when it comes to young people taking responsibility for the world around them?
This generation is as passionate about making the world a better place as any generation that has come before them.  The exciting part is that with increasingly powerful digital tools and communications technologies we've been able to unlock that passion and desire to do good and turn it into real action like never before.

Businesses that act with a social conscience are winning over young people - why do you think this is?
In 2017, truly most products are commodities so the only possible differentiator is the company's brand strength. Young people are now demanding that companies differentiate on the basis of purpose and social change. This generation will vote with their dollars as well as with their feet, their tweets, and their word-of-mouth power.

What do you think young people expect of brands today when it comes to being socially conscious?
It's the same as what you'd expect of your socially conscious best friend. You don't expect them to be perfect, but you do expect them to be honest, transparent and own up to it when they make a mistake.  Plus, if your best friend tells you about their New Year's Resolution to be better at XYZ and asks you to keep them accountable, you will.  You will call them out if they've not living up to their standards. Same with a brand.

At YMS you will be speaking alongside CVS Health. Can you give us a sneak preview into how they have engaged young people to take positive action?
CVS Health has so obviously put their money where their mouth is when it comes to purpose. Their decision to stop selling cigarettes was super inspiring, especially as someone who spent much of my High School weekends hanging out in the parking lot of the CVS in my town, buying new lip gloss, heading in for candy, browsing magazines, and just doing what bored teenagers do.  CVS Health did the right thing for their brand and for their consumers by making that decision and then they followed it up by partnering with DoSomething on a campaign called Quitters Always Win that activated teens and college students on this issue.  We'll be discussing the learnings from this campaign and our subsequent campaigns to share what it takes to engage and activate Millennials and GenZ.

What other brands do you admire when it comes to inspiring consumer action to do something good?
Starbucks stands out for me because even though they've made some missteps they have both great company policy - offering healthcare even for part-time workers and their tuition-free college offering - and they seem to genuinely care about working with their consumers to create positive change in the community.

What is the campaign you are most proud of that DoSomething have worked on?
I refuse to choose a favorite child!!  That being said, I'm super proud of one recent campaign in particular because everyone either told us they wouldn't partner with us on it, or dropped out last minute, or told us to put the campaign on hold.  Our Sincerely, Us activated DoSomething members to create Happy Ramadan cards that DoSomething collected and sent to every single mosque in America.  We launched the campaign just a few days after the deadly terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in May and the campaign was incredibly powerful. We sent 42,000+ handmade cards to every single mosque in the country and we heard an outpouring of support from the Muslim community as well as amazing feedback from our members, many of whom were learning about Islam and Ramadan for the first time.  Many, many brands shied away from the campaign deeming it "too controversial" so I'm proud that we ran it anyway and it resonated deeply with our members and the media. I'm sort of having a Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman moment where I want to tell the brands that said no, "You want massive media impressions and to authentically engage GenZ, right? Big mistake! Huge!"

And finally a few fun questions…

What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
SO MANY.  Every time we get a note from a young person who we've helped, I just swoon. DoSomething thrives on numbers and data and scale but sometimes those individual notes are so powerful to encourage us that we're moving in the right direction.

Favourite app? Why?
This is so dorky but the Brooklyn Public Library has a new e-book app that I just downloaded.  It's not perfect, but it’s such a fabulous way to take e-books and audio-books out of the library. Every young person in NYC should have it!

Something few people know about you?
I'm an open book. Everyone knows everything. My gynecology appointments are literally on my work calendar.  Let me think...I love magic?

What are you most looking forward to at YMS?
The people of course.  Chatting with new people and hearing their unique perspectives is always the best part of any conference. If you're coming - hit me up!

Finally, what should we have asked you that we didn’t?
My pet cause? Criminal justice reform.  So glad you asked. Our current system is essentially government-sanctioned slavery.  If you have any interest, I'm so game to rant about mandatory minimums, the idiocy of bail, wrongfully incarcerated prisoners, private prisons, you name it!

Aria Finger will be speaking at YMS NYC 2017 - come and say hello! Haven't got your tickets for YMS NYC 2017 yet? Head on over to our event page for more information on the biggest youth marketing conference in America.