Four insights on Gen-Z after lockdown, and three tactics through which to reach this cohort, by the7stars’ Helen Rose.

“Bored in the House, I’m in the House Bored.” TikTok sensation Curtis Roach and Tyga’s topical lockdown anthem sums up what most of us feel about lockdown - especially Gen Z. 

This digitally native cohort of 15-25s on the cusp of adulthood, has seen their transition through education and employment to greater independence screech to a halt with important rites of passage such as exams, graduating or leaving home, dramatically disrupted. Meanwhile light relief - such as socialising with friends - has been off the cards, as has travel, holidays, trips to the cinema, the gym, festivals and gigs. 

In joining forces with Vision Path to track this generation for our white paper, we found them to be a group for whom boundaries did not exist. So how are they reacting now that lockdown measures - an unparalleled set of boundaries - are finally being lifted? This is what we discovered:

1. They are more united than divided

Not surprisingly given its impact on their lives, the pandemic is still a major topic of conversation for Gen Z: 9 in 10 are talking about it. Although this group is very diverse - they are united by the feelings of their sense of freedom being curtailed, and also by their views on the future. One in three of Gen Z say that they feel a greater sense of community within their generation during these Covid times. 

This is demonstrated by their involvement in activism around Black Lives Matter and Pride which has been keeping them busy and engaged during lockdown. “I’ve been talking about Black Lives Matter and other positive things that might come from this lockdown.” was a quote from one young male, but summed up the sentiment of many. Their sense of community is also evident in an emphasis on sharing beauty, Netflix or podcasting tips and discussing relationships and meet ups.

2. Three F’s have supported them through lockdown

We asked Gen Z to list the top three factors that have helped them through lockdown so far. Friends and family came out highest - with 63% citing these, followed by funny content (mentioned by 50%). This goes back to a finding in our white paper that Gen Z is very good at creating and maintaining a micro world where they feel happy and safe as a buffer against the uncertainty and stress of the outside world. Interestingly teachers, schools, colleges, uni and brands didn’t score highly at all with just 12% listing teachers and educational institutions in their top three. 

3. Education, employment and money worries top their concerns

Gen Z is nothing if not realistic about the wider world. While their social lives are their priority right now, they are also thinking about the impact of Covid-19 on their futures. For those aged 18-20 concerns are primarily about its effect on their exams and further education with 31% mentioning this. Meanwhile, concerns for those aged 21-24 are more about their lack of ability to do stuff and the impact of lockdown on their careers. 

While over a quarter are concerned about getting a job post Covid, a big issue for Gen Z is that the pandemic will prevent them getting the job they really want (56% mentioned this). Being able to feel financially stable is a worry for 62%.

4. But they are more resilient than we might think

Despite the challenges of lockdown and concerns about its impact on young people’s mental health, our research found that Gen Z is looking surprisingly resilient as they emerge from captivity. Just over half (52%) feel OK about what the future holds with nearly one in three optimistic about what lies ahead while just 19% feel negative. A key reason for this is that they desperately want to get on with their lives. As one participant put it: “I can’t wait to get back on track, earn some money, go out with my friends and just do stuff again.”

So how can advertisers engage with Gen Z as they transition out of lockdown?

1. Solidarity, positivity and humour are key

From climate change to Black Lives Matter, this cohort is big on empathy. Brands seeking to engage need to demonstrate solidarity, a real sense of what it means to be a young person in this extraordinary time of upheaval and uncertainty. Positivity is important: brands need to hold out hope of better times ahead. As always humour wins through, so brands which can help Gen Z smile despite the challenges will be in pole position to connect. Great examples of the right sort of approach include Defected Records’ virtual festival, Travis Scott's Fortnite album launch and Oreo’s Tik Tok campaign #oreosticksandwich which engaged young fans in a virtual but contextually relevant way. 

2. Brands should seek to inform and upskill

While finding their ideal job and feeling financially stable is a top concern for all of Gen Z, there is an opportunity for brands - particularly banks and financial services - to offer up diverse influencers who have been in their shoes and can help Gen Z understand and navigate the choices available to them. This includes helping them to think laterally and creatively about their options. CNBC shows the way with this article about how Gen Z can pivot their summer plans. 

3. Now's the time to take it offline

Post lockdown, following months of a predominantly digital diet, brands should take advantage of relaxing restrictions to offer Gen Z offline opportunities to connect and engage in a safe, socially distanced way. 

Now more than ever, they seek inspiration, creativity and positive role models and often this experience or contact has more cut through in an offline world. Brands that can build on a sense of community and transition this safely into the real world, are especially likely to prosper. A great example here is the exclusive launch from Vision Express of young fashion sunglasses brand Privé Revaux using social channels to drive brand reappraisal for Vision Express and reach Gen Z as a new target demographic… just in time for the lifting of lockdown and sunny summer days ahead.