Pandemic Profoundly Affecting Gen Z, Millennials

COVID-19 is already emerging as the defining event for Gen Z-ers and millennials. There is a need for brands to understand what is going on right now in the minds of young consumers, so brands can better connect and communicate with them effectively during these scary and challenging times.

Despite well-publicized pictures of young people partying on spring break in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the overwhelming majority of 18- to 34-year-olds are now “closely following” the news about COVID-19, roughly the same as other generational cohorts.

According to our recent study, the disruption to the ordinary cadence of life has many in these cohorts feeling unsettled and aimless.

Gen Z-ers are more likely to be students who had their classes canceled or shifted solely online. In addition, many Gen Z-ers and millennials are workers in service industries who can’t shift into working from home. This means a reduction in hours, being furloughed or temporarily laid off until given the all-clear to resume a new normal schedule.



Brands are doing their part to flatten the curve by donating funds, making masks or hand sanitizer and using various ad media to spread the importance of staying home, self-distancing in person but maintaining relationships via email, FaceTime and Zoom, among others.

This is important to Gen Z and millennials. Even if some in this demo are unworried about their own health and well-being, they are concerned about the greater, global effect of COVID-19.

The is the time for brands to empathize with consumers rather than capitalize.

Brands like Diageo and Anheuser-Busch are making much-needed hand sanitizer while Heinz, KFC, Netflix, Lyft, TikTok, and Under Armour, among many others, are donating money, food, and transportation to worthwhile causes.

To emphasize the severity of COVID-19 from a creative standpoint, McDonald’s separated its golden arches, Mucinex encouraged people to spread facts, not fear, and Miss Chiquita has been removed from the iconic Chiquita banana sticker on social media because she’s at home.

U-Haul is offering college students who had to move out of their dorms thirty days of free storage.

Ikea launched a television ad that encourages people to embrace not going out by reconnecting with their sanctuary: their homes.

Gen Z-ers and Millennials are doing just that, we found. They are entertaining themselves and keeping busy with crafting, increasing activity on social networks such as TikTok, and challenging themselves personally with fitness/working out, learning new languages and how to cook. They are also streaming movies and shows on Netflix and Hulu and listening to podcasts.

Although, at this point, what demographic isn’t bingeing movies and TV series these days? The same goes for social media. With an abundance of free time and hours to occupy, social media use for Gen Z-ers and Millennials increased in March, especially on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

For brands to succeed with Gen Zs and Millennials not only now but in the future, they need to better understand which attitudinal and behavioral changes will be permanent, have an awareness of developing cultural movements and the foundational values emerging for each generation going through COVID-19.

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