Just as the Great Recession created an indelible mark on millennials, so, too, has the effect of the pandemic had on Gen Z (born between 1996 and 2010). That’s the observation of some experts and it’s important because these folks are the largest generation in our history and make up 27% of our population. In addition, Gen Z is our youngest and most ethnically diverse generation.

What’s New

78% of respondents to a Morning Consult survey said COVID-19 had more impact on them than 9/11 or even the mass shootings at Parkland, Sandy Hook or Las Vegas. The data intelligence and market research firm recently launched the first in a series of multiyear surveys to better understand this generation. Like this survey, they expect to poll about a thousand Gen Zers ages 13 to 23 and 2,000 Gen Zers over 23.

On the Other Hand

Despite the impact of the pandemic, 77% of Gen Zers told Morning Consult that they’re optimistic about their future well-being. Another 88% went so far as to say that their future will be determined by the choices they make.

However, the shadow and memory of COVID-19 lingers, especially over education. 63% expressed concern that COVID-19 will affect their future education, while another 59% said they’re apprehensive over how it will impact potential career choices. 

Another interesting discovery from the survey is that COVID-19’s impact on family and national health ranked higher than the economy. 73% of respondents cited family and national health as most important over their own personal health at 61%. The economy reported in at 71%.

Marketing Highlights

What’s likely to grab the attention of marketers is that only 7% said they put a lot of trust in people in positions of power while another 43% reported having some trust. Similarly, just 6% strongly agreed that the world is a fair place, while only 13% kind of agreed.

What these results reveal to CMOs is a reason to reassess the kind and quality of communication coming from a brand. Gen Zers’ most important value in brands is honesty. 71% ranked it very important, while 57% said it was more important considering COVID-19.

And for about half the Gen Zers surveyed, COVID-19 has not only affected their opinion about some companies, but also altered their spending habits. 52% said they changed their opinion about a company because of their response to COVID-19, while 45% said they will now buy from certain companies for the same reason.

Morning Consult’s findings also confirmed earlier studies showing Gen Z’s concern for employees at companies whose brand they purchase. 62% rated this higher than price or quality. The way brands treated their employees during the pandemic also meant a lot to respondents. 74% said that alone would affect their future brand loyalty.

Loyalty was at the heart of two other major findings. 60% of Gen Zers said the way the brand communicated with them during the pandemic will affect their loyalty. 70% reported that the manner in which a brand helped others during the pandemic would also increase their loyalty.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.