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Millennials largely ignore recall notifications—why it’s a comms problem

by | Oct 3, 2017 | Public Relations

Huge consumer recalls are so pervasive in today’s fault-filled mass-production society that a lot of younger folks don’t even bother attending to their recalled product when notified. Millennials are the least likely among the U.S. population to say they respond positively to product recall notices, according to new research from Stericycle Expert Solutions—which suggests that brands undergoing a recall may need to rethink their communication strategies with this demographic to improve compliance rates.

“This research shows that product recalls are as much a communications challenge as they are a logistical one,” said Michael Good, vice president of marketing and sales operations at Stericycle, in a news release. “The lesson for both regulatory bodies and product manufacturers is to make recall compliance easier and more relevant to this generation.”

The consumer survey of over 1,000 Americans found that most claim to comply with recall notices for food, pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, and consumer electronics.

Millennials are the least compliant across all age groups

In fact, compared to baby boomers, millennials are twice as likely to say they usually ignore recall notices (18 percent v. 6 percent) after reading it; typically throw it in the trash (36 percent v. 16 percent); and consider recall notices “not serious” (33 percent v. 21 percent).

Surprisingly, millennials ranked recalls of consumer electronic products least important, but agreed with their fellow Americans that food and pharmaceutical recalls are most important, with nearly 70 percent of all respondents ranking these recall categories first or second in order of importance. Millennials also ranked last in acting on product recalls for motor vehicles, food, and pharmaceuticals.

“It’s a trend that needs to be reversed because millennials are now the largest living American generation and will drive the greatest percentage of product purchases in the near future,” said Good.

Personal relevance—or lack thereof—is a key driver of recall non-compliance

Approximately 70 percent of respondents said they judge recall notices based on whether they think they are personally at risk. And more than one-quarter (26 percent) believe that recall notices are not serious and are sent mainly out of legal obligation.

Well over half of consumers (60 percent) surveyed say they have never received a recall notice for a consumer electronics item. Of those who have, 27 percent say they responded only some of the time or not at all.

So which consumer product categories do consumers take most seriously?

Appliances and power tools. Of seven items tested, approximately 80 percent of respondents ranked appliances as the first or second item they would most likely take action on should they get a recall notice. Coming in at second place was power tools, with 35 percent.

For car owners, more than one-third of respondents say they have never received a recall notice for a motor vehicle.

Similarly, consumers will at least generally check their food and drug purchases if they hear about a recall indirectly. Approximately 85 percent of respondents say they check their refrigerators or cupboards when they hear about a food recall on the news or via social media, while 82 percent say they check their medicine cabinet for a recalled pharmaceutical product.

The U.S. consumer survey was conducted by Stericycle Expert Solutions, August 23-25, 2017, using the national Toluna QuickSurvey panel, n=1,104 (results weighted to match U.S. Census data).

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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