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Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the The New Activist: Incl Impact of COVID-19 – US market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

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Social and political activism has long been a critical part of America’s democratic society. In 2020, activism has seen newfound attention and widespread participation across the country. The COVID-19 pandemic and the social inequities exposed during the economic lockdown, as well as vivid images of police brutality and racial injustice, have prompted renewed activist efforts and impacted consumers’ expectations of brands’ role in activism.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Lisa Dubina, a leading analyst in the Culture sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Throughout 2020, America has seen a surge in social awareness and consumer activism. The COVID-19 pandemic, the social inequities it’s underscored, and a series of racially fueled conflicts and killings have led to a social and racial justice awakening across the country. While the New Activist consumer segment only includes a third of the population, it is still a sizable consumer group that is poised to grow. Additionally, skewing young and multicultural, the New Activist segment likely overlaps with many brands’ current or future consumer base, making it an advantageous group for brands to know and understand Lisa Dubina
Senior Culture Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Key issues covered in this Report
        • Definition
          • COVID-19: Market context
          • Executive Summary

              • Top takeaways
                • Target audience overview
                  • Figure 1: Activist segmentation, June 2020
                • Impact of COVID-19 on activism
                  • Figure 2: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on activism, September 2020
                • Opportunities and Challenges
                  • Challenge: Activism efforts from brands will be divisive
                    • Brand opportunity: Focus on brand ethics and donation efforts
                      • Figure 3: Brands and activism, by Activist segmentation, June 2020
                      • Figure 4: Donating and activism, by Activist segmentation, June 2020
                    • Challenge: Not all New Activists are young
                      • Figure 5: Activist attributes, by age, June 2020
                    • Brand Opportunity: Appeal to shared activist values
                      • Figure 6: Personal values, by self-described activists, June 2020
                    • What it means
                    • Target Audience – Key Takeaways

                      • Activism is progressive, youth-led and growing
                        • For New Activists, activism is a more than just a philosophy
                          • Racial justice and equity currently have mass awareness and interest
                            • Achieving systemic change depends on the number of supporters and the involvement of brands
                            • Target Audience: New Activists

                              • Activism is more common among Americans than one might think
                                • Factors
                                  • Figure 7: Activist segmentation, June 2020
                                • Segments
                                  • Tolerant Non-activists (27%)
                                      • Figure 8: Activist segmentation – Tolerant Non-activism, June 2020
                                    • Anti-activists (21%)
                                        • Figure 9: Activist segmentation – Anti-activists, June 2020
                                      • The New Activists (33%)
                                          • Figure 10: Activist segmentation – New Activists, June 2020
                                          • Figure 11: Distribution of generations by race and Hispanic origin, 2020
                                        • Extreme Activists (19%)
                                            • Figure 12: Activist segmentation – Extreme Activists, June 2020
                                          • Activism is perceived to be a young adults’ game – but that’s not entirely the case
                                            • Figure 13: Age, by Activist segmentation, June 2020
                                            • Figure 14: Self-identified New Activists, by age, June 2020
                                            • Figure 15: Young American activists, by age, June 2020
                                          • While most consumers discuss issues, New Activists take action
                                            • Figure 16: Personal acts of activism, by activist segmentation, June 2020
                                            • Figure 17: Personal acts repertoire analysis, by activist segmentation, June 2020
                                          • Racial justice is the top concern for Activists and Americans overall
                                            • Figure 18: Top issues, by activist segmentation, June 2020
                                          • New Activist men in urban areas are most likely to participate in protests and demonstrations
                                            • Figure 19: Protest participation, by activist segmentation, June 2020
                                            • Figure 20: Protest participation, by gender, race and Hispanic origin
                                        • Outlook on Activism: In Consumers’ Own Words

                                          • There are fundamental differences in how activists are perceived and described
                                            • Educating, themselves and others, is a critical part of activism
                                              • Brand participation is crucial to achieving change
                                              • The Consumer – Key Takeaways

                                                • Brand ethics and donations are activist efforts with mass appeal
                                                  • COVID-19 has sparked activism, both social and pandemic-related
                                                    • The pandemic has influenced Americans’ personal and perceived values
                                                      • While disillusioned with the American system, New Activists are generous and see the good in individuals
                                                      • Activism and Brands

                                                        • Ethical practices and quiet activism are the way forward for mainstream brands
                                                          • Figure 21: Brands and activism, by Activist segmentation, June 2020
                                                          • Figure 22: Brands and activism, by age, June 2020
                                                        • A donation campaign is one quieter way brands can participate in activism
                                                          • Figure 23: Donating money, by activist segmentation, June 2020
                                                        • Brand Spotlight: Chipotle takes a stand and provides donation opportunities to consumers
                                                          • Figure 24: Brand spotlight – Chipotle’s donation platform, June 2020
                                                        • Brands should be wary about using celebrity spokespeople for activist causes
                                                          • Figure 25: Celebrity activists, by Activist segmentation, June 2020
                                                      • Activism and COVID-19

                                                        • A pandemic-induced surge in activism
                                                          • New Activists are the most concerned about the spread of COVID-19, though concern is also prevalent among the general population
                                                            • Figure 26: COVID concerns, by activist outlook segmentation, June 2020
                                                          • Political views and perceived risk influence face mask boycotting
                                                            • Figure 27: Face mask usage, by political affiliation, June 2020
                                                            • Figure 28: Face mask usage, by age, June 2020
                                                          • Extreme Activists are more likely to support anti-lockdown protests
                                                            • Figure 29: Anti-lockdown protests, by activist outlook segmentation, June 2020
                                                          • Nearly a third of Americans say they will not get a COVID-19 vaccine once available
                                                            • Figure 30: COVID-19 vaccine, by household income and education, June 2020
                                                          • Extreme Activists are the segment least likely to get vaccinated
                                                            • Figure 31: COVID-19 vaccine, by activist outlook segmentation, June 2020
                                                          • Only 50% of Black adults expect they will get a COVID vaccine
                                                            • Figure 32: COVID-19 vaccine, by race and Hispanic origin, June 2020
                                                        • Activist Values and American Values

                                                          • Monitoring American Values
                                                            • Personal values have turned inward toward maintaining personal relationships
                                                              • Figure 33: Increased personal values, June 2020 vs December 2019
                                                              • Figure 34: Decreased personal values, June 2020 vs December 2019
                                                            • COVID-19 has improved Americans’ perception of their fellow countrymen
                                                              • Figure 35: Increased Americans’ values, June 2020 vs December 2019
                                                              • Figure 36: Decreased Americans’ values, June 2020 vs December 2019
                                                            • New Activists emphasize their personal generosity and compassion
                                                              • Figure 37: Personal values, by self-described activists, June 2020
                                                            • Disillusionment with the current American system drives New Activists
                                                              • Figure 38: Personal values, by self-described activists, June 2020
                                                            • Despite cynicism in the American system, Activists still see the good in individuals
                                                              • Figure 39: Other Americans’ values, by Activist outlook segmentation, June 2020
                                                          • Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

                                                            • Activism becomes a global, collective experience
                                                              • Yet, localism is not forgotten and continues to be a driving force
                                                              • Competitive Strategies

                                                                  • Activism continues to become more digital and more collective
                                                                    • Instagram leans into its role in activism
                                                                      • Figure 40: Instagram testing fundraising feature, July 2020
                                                                    • While activism goes global, localism is not forgotten
                                                                      • Adidas starts sporting accountability
                                                                        • Figure 41: Adidas’ commitments to change, june 2020
                                                                      • NBA players demand social justice
                                                                        • Figure 42: Sacrifice to make change, August 2020
                                                                      • What’s next?
                                                                      • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                        • Data sources
                                                                          • Consumer survey data
                                                                            • Consumer qualitative research
                                                                              • Direct marketing creative
                                                                                • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                  • Abbreviations
                                                                                    • Terms

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