I’m picking Maddie up in Ann Arbor today for spring break. All those podcast suggestions you sent me last month will come in handy.

It’s hard to overstate how different her freshman year has been from my college experience. The musical theater program at Michigan is no joke. After a full week of classes, they have rehearsals most Friday and Saturday nights until 11 pm, and meetings on Saturday or Sunday mornings.  

When the hell are you supposed to experiment with psychedelics or finish off the warm Busch Light floaters left on your coffee table overnight like people I’ve heard stories about with a schedule like that? If I ever saw early weekend mornings at Rollins, it was still last night.

Admittedly, I had no clear direction in college to get in the way of my debauchery. The kids in Maddie’s program have one objective – to land on Broadway. Or bust.

It’s what I imagine playing football at Alabama or Clemson is like. You’re there to get into the NFL. Full stop. And if you can leave early for the pros – like many MT kids at Michigan do when a show comes calling – you jump. College is a stepping-stone to hone your craft, little more. The only difference is that Maddie doesn’t have a second perfunctory major like Business Management or Exercise Science to fall back on. Or a $20M contract in her future. 

And now Noelle – a high school sophomore – is starting to think about college. She has her sights on places like Georgetown and Northwestern, at least for the moment. She’s wicked smart and conscientious, which will come in handy given she’ll need to make enough money to support her sister between shows, when waiting tables in Times Square doesn’t pay the bills. By then, Tara and I will be hoarding our money to travel – and spoil our grandkids.

It’s a wonder of biology and genetics that two girls, spawned from the same parents, can be so different. Or maybe not. Tara and I are about as diametric as two people can be. Maybe it was inevitable our kids would be a hodgepodge.

But all that stark variety has made our ride so much more fun and interesting. Our girls’ lives have been – and will continue to be – nothing like ours. Better too, I hope, although they have a lot of societal problems to fix that we all created for them.

I just hope they make time to be irresponsible every once in a while.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

My point of view on brand social consciousness and activism recently was f–ked up. I’m going to break from my typical format here and spend a little more time on this one. Over the past several months, I’ve included a version of the chart below in my standard C-suite presentation:  

My schtick was that, after peaking during the George Floyd crisis in 2020, the relative importance consumers place on corporate social responsibility has fallen below pre-pandemic levels. Naturally, when economic times are tough, most people care less about intrinsic things. I was always strenuous in saying that companies shouldn’t abandon their ESG or DEI initiatives because of it – if you’re only doing those things to make money, shame on you anyway. Still, they may not be the things you should lean into, from a marketing perspective, when people care more about saving money and paying the bills. 

But then our team published this study a few days ago, reminding me of just how unconsciously white, male, and privileged I can be. Put simply, Black Americans are far more likely than the average U.S. adult to care about the stance brands take – because of course they are. They research, shift their buying behaviors, and seek out minority-owned businesses, at an astoundingly higher rate. It’s a good reminder that I spend too much time looking at research through the lens of the “Gen Pop,” often the exact opposite of how we should be thinking about things.

Spending priorities have shifted a ton for student debt holders. Although the SCOTUS’s ruling on President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan is still a few months away, hopeful borrowers are thinking differently about how they’ll use the money. Compared to last September, a much smaller percentage say they will use the found cash to buy non-necessities. Far more would use it for essential expenses, paying down other debt, or perhaps making a down payment on a home. We’ll be watching this tracker closely in the months ahead.

366 days after the invasion, Americans are holding steady in their support (and their concern) for Ukraine. As you know, yesterday marked a year since dickhead Putin attacked his democratic neighbor. While our news attention has shifted – less than half as many people say they are following it ‘very closely,’ versus a year ago – to far more important things like spy balloons (he says sarcastically), overall concern about the war has been more or less steady since last summer. And 65% of people continue to support American aid to Ukraine, versus only 22% who oppose it.

Emotional well-being among young women in this country is a tragedy and it’s getting worse. In our 3 Things to Know this week (another important one is rising national security concerns), there is a staggering increase in sadness and anxiety among Gen Z and younger Millennial women over the past several weeks. They were already the worst cohort to begin with, compounded now by a tightening job market, financial strain, and college shootings. Stop ignoring this crisis. 

We’ve become incessantly impatient. If, like me, you believe that whoever designed the magical drive-thru logistics at McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A should take over every government agency, now you know why. Because they’ve conditioned people (much like Amazon, with delivery) to expect things immediately. Seventy-six percent of QSR diners say they won’t wait more than FIVE MINUTES(!!!) for their food. Over half say they’ve stopped eating somewhere (or are considering it) because wait times are too long. Fast-casual joints get a little more leeway.

More awesomeness from the InsightStore:

  • American Airlines ranks #1 among Gen Z (which is very different from the Gen Pop);
  • United is making it easier for families to sit together on the plane, which is cool;
  • Mattresses were a big draw for Presidents Day sales;
  • T-Mobile customers are the most likely to take their first cruise this year (and a few other factoids about upcoming cruisers);
  • Good old-fashioned cow’s milk is now preferred by a minority of young adults;
  • Lagunitas is the most favored non-alcoholic beer, or so people say.

The most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Much more – if I even see caffeine after noon, I can’t sleep at night; Yeah; Awesome question – outlaw country; Supremely; Up to date; Very.

Hoping you’re well.


PS: Beginning next week, this email will come from jd@news.civicscience.com. Please add it to your contacts.