Engaging Gen Z and Millennials in a Time of Crisis

Learn how the current pandemic is affecting Gen Z and Millennials and how you can connect with them both now and in the future. Fill out the form to unlock more GenYZ and Millennial Insights.

Five months in and 2020 is already proving to be a year of unprecedented change: the COVID-19 pandemic, an emerging recession, and a high-stakes election.

Now more than ever, brands and companies need to understand and stay connected and relevant with Gen Z and Millennials. These are the insights you need to connect with these young consumers now and throughout the rest of the year.

COVID-19 has forced all of us to reconsider how we interact with the world. The uncertainty about how the crisis will evolve and impact us – both as individuals and as a society – has left us without guiderails for how to plan for next month, let alone past 2020. No one can predict the future, but we must be ready for whatever comes next, whenever it comes.

We at Collage have done our best to assess this situation and provide you with answers to three key questions:

1.     How will COVID-19 impact young consumers in the near and medium term?

2.     How can brands, companies, and other organizations connect with young consumers right now?

3.     How can brands, companies, and other organizations connect with young consumers beyond the pandemic?

The Emerging Recession Will Likely Have Serious Long-Term Effects for Millennial and Gen Z Consumers

Make no mistake: economic downturns have an especially harsh impact on young consumers. For example, peak and average unemployment rates during the Great Recession were much higher for people ages 25-35 than for older segments. And with May 2020 national unemployment numbers expected to reach as high as 20%, we can expect young Americans – who are more likely to be employed in industries directly impacted by social distancing – to feel the brunt of the current slowdown.

Younger consumers are more likely to work in industries hit hardest by COVID

The recession isn’t just a short-term issue—negative economic effects from recessions often linger for young people, such as stagnant wages, low levels of savings, and delayed life milestones. We saw this with older Millennials after the Great Recession.

Since the current picture for Gen Z looks a lot like that for Millennials during the Great Recession, it’s safe to assume they too will feel lingering effects of this recession for many years. And Millennials, facing their second economic disaster in two decades, will likely suffer again. But a scary economic outlook for young segments does not mean that brands should shift their marketing efforts away from Millennials and Gen Z.

Millennial and Gen Z consumers will continue to represent an ever-growing share of your target markets.  No consumer brand can afford to abandon these young segments now, no matter what happens in the near term. Their loyalty will be responsible for powering your return to normal growth in the recovery and beyond. It is in your immediate and long-term interest to let Gen Z and Millennial consumers know you are on their side during these difficult times.

Below are two insights from our recent genYZ study (attached above) that help you understand how to let young consumers know you value them and are on their side.

Young Consumers Want Brands to Be Practical, Not Preachy

About 4 in 5 consumers believe that brands have a responsibility to step up in response to COVID-19. Overall, consumers consider donating medical supplies and donating products and services to people in need to be the two most valuable actions brands can take response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Young consumers, in particular, respond well to brands that take well-rounded approaches to helping the community, their customers, and their employees.

If you decide to put out messaging around COVID-19, you need to make sure it speaks to the lived realities of your audience. Feel-good messages will fall on deaf ears in communities that feel like their tragedies are not being taken seriously. Young people are especially attuned to false or empty messaging. They want to see organizations put their money where their mouth is and take concrete action on issues of activism and community welfare.


Consumer brand preferences
Financial Stress, Inclusion, and Environmental Sustainability Remain Concerns

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp relief other major concerns distinctly felt by young consumers. Rising unemployment feeds into longstanding and widespread concerns of not having enough money to keep up with monthly expenses. Disproportionate access to public and private resources reminds consumers of all the ways racism, sexism, and homophobia still influence societal outcomes. And seeing the effects of quarantine on air and water quality around the globe highlights the effect human activity has on global climate change and our environment.
These are issues that most Americans, but particularly young segments, are passionate about! Activating around these issues is an efficient and effective way to build and maintain resonance as the COVID-19 crisis evolves and consumer mindset shifts to the 2020 election and beyond.

Brand Activation Issues

Fill out the form and download the presentation to learn more about key issues facing today’s young consumers and how to activate on the topics they care about.

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