IKEA. Volkswagen. Blue Bell. Lululemon. Samsung. Product recalls have been responsible for a growing share of headlines and crisis retainers in recent years, but members of the Millennial generation seem less likely than other age groups to respond to these product return notifications or even take them seriously, according to a recent consumer survey commissioned by recall management company Stericycle Expert Solutions.
Stericycle’s survey suggests that those belonging to the 18-to-34-year-old demographic are the least compliant across all age groups when it comes to recall notices involving everything from food, pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles or consumer electronics.
In fact, the survey found that Millennials are three times more likely to simply ignore recall notices after reading them compared to members of the Baby Boomer generation (18 percent vs. six percent), are twice as likely to toss these notices in the trash (36 percent vs. 16 percent) and also more likely to characterize recall notices as “not serious” (33 percent vs. 21 percent).
Of the different types of potential product recalls listed in the survey, Millennials expressed the greatest lack of interest in recalls involving consumer electronic products. While this may come as a puzzling detail, considering the amount of gadgets consumed by this demographic, the study also noted that consumer response was low across the board for all age groups who’d claimed to receive a recall notice for a consumer electronics item (only 27 percent), and more than half of all consumers surveyed (60 percent) admitted they’d never received a recall notice for products falling under this category at all.
On the other hand, Millennials seemed to agree with older age groups on the gravity of recalls pertaining to either food or pharmaceutical products. Nearly 70 percent of all respondents ranked one of these recall categories as either the most serious or second-most serious form of recall, with a wide majority — 85 percent — claiming they check their refrigerators or cupboards when they hear about a food recall on the news, and 82 percent claiming to do the same in their medicine cabinet when it involves a recalled pharmaceutical product.
Because the survey suggests Millennials place a lower emphasis on product return notifications than other generations, it may also underscore a long-held belief among PR pros that members of this often-elusive demographic widely distrust marketing messages. As a result, the survey may also offer a teachable moment to manufacturers when it comes to communicating with this age group in the course of handling an operational crisis.
The survey also found that personal relevance — or lack thereof — was a key driver of recall non-compliance among members of the Millennial, Generation X and Baby Boomer generations. Approximately 70 percent of all respondents admitted that they judge recall notices based on whether they believe they’re personally at risk. More than a quarter (26 percent) of all respondents polled said they believe recall notices are simply sent primarily out of legal obligation.
Finally, the survey found that overall, across all age groups, respondents took most seriously product recalls involving appliances and power tools.
Stericycle’s recall survey was conducted using the national Toluna QuickSurvey panel and polled more than 1,000 U.S. adults in late August.