Five Effective Ways for connecting with Gen Z

Seven months after the first introduction of lockdown measures in Europe, the old continent and the world is already experiencing a second Coronavirus wave. It is also evident that there is a growing feeling of fatigue and apathy in society, and we’ve seen it in recent protests in the Czech Republic and the UK. As we are coming from months of detailed analysis and predictions, while also rapidly approaching 2021, it is important to start planning about that “new normal” and the future that younger generations are dreaming of.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been well known that the most vulnerable group of people is elderly citizens. So far the efforts of governments have been focused primarily on protecting the health of older generations by imposing restrictions that eventually affected the daily habits and lifestyle choices of younger people. While in the beginning, the media saw this as a potential “battle of the generations”, interestingly, according to a recent survey 60% of both generations have spent more time speaking with each other since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. More importantly, it’s worth remembering that both sides are passing through many hardships. For Generation Z, this period could prove to be defining for their life. This generation is just entering adulthood and has seen how their education and employment opportunities have been severely affected. With this in mind, here we’ll draw on our work on understanding young consumers and dig deeper into the most pressing issues for Gen Zers. We’ll also attempt to define more clearly the “post-COVID-19 world” that they now aspire to see.

Depression is on the rise...

Gen Zers have been highlighted by researchers as the most anxious generation ever. In a recent Deloitte survey, 48% have indicated that they feel anxious most of the time. As also indicated in the Study on Gen Z Travellers that we produced for the European Travel Commission and our previous July blog post, mental health was already a huge topic for Zers. Clearly COVID-19 has had a further detrimental effect on them. Bloomberg recently highlighted that young Americans and Brits have been affected significantly by the pandemic stating that “youngest adults are the ones who are suffering the most mental anguish”. The numbers speak for themselves. As the graphs below show, isolation and uncertainty have had a severe effect on their mental health.

Source: Bloomber, 2020

...while climate change remains the most pressing issue

Nonetheless, climate change remains the biggest concern for both Gen Zers and Millennials. Although it was argued that COVID-19 is an opportunity for a “reset”, the topic has largely been put in the background by authorities, while the main priority has since been handling the pandemic”. However, a report published by the UN in September showed that although CO2 emissions have reduced during the lockdown, concentrations of the long-lasting gas in the atmosphere have continued to rise, meaning that the climate change crisis continues to unravel. Just consider that in 2020 Europe has also had its warmest winter since records began.

Source: Deloitte, 2020

So, what should the “new normal” entail?

Taking into consideration elements such as climate change and mental health, which have already been a constant reality for Zers during their coming of age and adulthood, it is important to stress how vital it is for young generations to experience a “better normal” and not return to the old one. For this generation, job instability, declining incomes, equality, physical and mental health have been a constant concern already before COVID-19 and a reason for their discontent with the current status quo. Recent Zers-driven movements like Black Lives Matter, Fridays for Future or the #MeToo (all of them pre-2020) show that this generation demands higher levels of accountability by companies and governments. This accountability will have to go beyond important actions such as reducing CO2 emissions, having a more ethnically diverse workforce or better male/female ratio in workplaces, but tackle wider issues such as social inequality, access to education, and adopting a holistic approach to sustainability, among others.

This pandemic is perceived as a chance for a restart, however younger generations were demanding this reset already before COVID-19. For example, in the above-mentioned Deloitte survey, only 43% of Gen Zs agree that business is having a positive impact on society, while in the case of Millenials only 51% agree that business is a force for good (down from 76%, three years ago).

All this clearly points to the need for drastic change. Here are five ways we think brands can foster a better connection with younger generations and meet up their expectations:
  • In an age of misinformation, transparency is crucial
A generation that grew up in times of fake news and multiple cases of “greenwashing”, Gen Zers are often suspicious about the information provided by companies and place higher demands on data storage and transparency around production, pricing and operations. Closely related to their desire for authenticity, Generation Z can distinguish when a company is genuine in its efforts and whether it truly strives for a positive change. A good example of this is Toms shoes and the approach they take in showing the results of their Global Giving Fund.
  • Sustainability requires a holistic approach
For a long time sustainability has become a concept which is not only focused on the environment and this is especially valid for Generation Z. As a result, popular brands among Gen Zers are adopting more holistic and creative approaches to sustainability in order to engage with their young followers. For example, last year, the hugely popular brand among Millenials and Gen Zers, Urban Outfitters, announced the launch of the clothing rental company Nully to address the demand for new circular economy based models in retail. Another great example comes from Ben & Jerry’s and their clear stance in favour of the Black Lives Matter movement.

  • Brand engagement through community building
For a generation that struggles with very high levels of loneliness, (in America nearly 79% and 71% of Zers and Millennials, respectively, have reported that they feel lonely), creating a sense of community is very important. It’s not by chance that Gen Zers are getting involved so actively in social movements. Brands and initiatives that give young generations a more active role in product development and establish a welcoming communication with them will result in better brand engagement. Lego’s Ideas initiative, where people can propose ideas for new Lego sets has successfully managed to engage the community of the brand and foster a genuine connection.
  • Communication in the right channels is essential
Working with young people when creating products and campaigns is essential, however it’s even more important to find the appropriate channels and the right way to communicate with this segment. In that sense, Chipotle has recently done some very effective marketing campaigns. Taking into consideration that 40% of their customers are Zers, it was not by chance that the company prioritised channels like TikTok, where Generation Z comprises 60% of the users. Highly engaging campaigns such as #ChipotleLidFlip,#Boorito and especially #GuacDance, which resulted in record-breaking sales for the chain, have proven to be quite effective in engaging with young customers.
  • For a generation defined by stress, empathy can make a difference
Taking into consideration the socio-economic challenges faced by Generation Z, brands that give back to the community transparently and genuinely will gain a place in Gen Zers’ hearts. Especially in the current context of COVID-19. A good example comes from the UK and the “punk” beer Brewdog. In response to a national shortage of hand sanitisers, the company started producing a Punk Sanitiser and donating it to the NHS and various local charities.

Planning for the future

Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unravel and it is still unclear when it will finish and how the world would look like afterwards, one thing is for sure- the importance of Gen Z in a socio-economic aspect will only increase. As we have highlighted in the ETC study - Gen Zers are the future of travel, but not only this. Destinations, together with brands and governments need to start from now on, to address this segment in their strategies and come up with new approaches to understanding their needs and concerns. Following our detailed Gen Z study and work with companies such as Coca-Cola in guiding them through the latest COVID-19 developments in the tourism sector, we can help you through this transition too, by:

  • Custom-made consumer research 
  • Strategy Sprints to pivot your product to Gen Zers 
  • Expert evaluation panels
  • Trendwatching, scenario planning, C-Suite briefing
  • Experience design & branding strategies
  • Generation Z-focused marketing campaigns
  • Destination management strategies
  • Insights presentations & innovation workshops
What TOPOSOPHY can do for you

We have been global thought leaders in destination development, management and marketing for the last 10 years. We transform places and destinations through the skills and international experience of 12 members of staff and a global network of 20+ experts. In total, we have undertaken projects and offered integrated solutions to trusted clients in 20+ countries across 4 continents. We’re ready to support you too.

Contact us

If you’d like to know more about what we’ve presented here, you’re always welcome to get in contact with us. Just drop us a line at or send us a note through our contact page.





I ‘ll have our blog posts delivered fresh right to your inbox.


We have received your input and we will get back to you shortly.