TRENDING: Gen Z will have to clean up our mess

by Louise Burgers. Generation Z are trending this week as unemployment figures rocket after the market disruption caused by pandemic lockdowns across the globe. In the next decade, the youth just entering the employment market or completing their studies, will bear the brunt of the current economic recession.

by Louise Burgers. Generation Z are trending this week as unemployment figures rocket after the market disruption caused by pandemic lockdowns across the globe. In the next decade, the youth just entering the employment market or completing their studies, will bear the brunt of the current economic recession.

COVID-19 has hit this lockdown generation hard, as they watch their dreams dashed, after being handed the responsibility to fix the world in the next decade, when they should be building careers and focusing on their own futures. They wanted a lifestyle, not a job, but they may get neither. 90% of the youth say COVID-19 has really changed their worldview. With the uncertainty around this pandemic, Gen Z have realised that things can change at any time. But, despite economic challenges and ongoing disparity; this generation remain hopeful; and empathic, with a strong social justice barometer. In fact, they believe that 72% of businesses need to be transparent with their values stated clearly; and be philanthropic as well as for profit.

Dion Chang.

South Africa’s leading trend forecaster, Dion Chang, founder of Flux Trends, hosted a webinar recently, in which he highlighted the latest trends on his radar for Gen Z, post-Covid. It is not a pretty picture. This is how brands can reach Gen Z as customers in the next few years as they grow up in these strange days to come, he advised:

  1. Mobile attention spans: You only have eight seconds only to get their attention.
  2. Massive online gaming platforms is now where brands are starting to intercept them. For example, the new Star Wars trailer was launched on the massively popular Fortnite game before anywhere else.
  3. Gen Z will probably spend most of their money on an Avatar skin for their online lives; rather than something from a retailer.
  4. Celeb culture has tumbled during lockdown, but Gen Z shun celebrity culture. They don’t like inequality.
  5. Considered econsumption: Brands will have to look at the circular economy. This lockdown generation’s status symbols won’t be luxury brands; it will be what brands do. For example, adidas is bringing out more eco products harvested from waste products.
  6. They have great brand expectations: This smart youth demographic wants a learning experience. Life experience is more important to them than stuff. They also want to know how brands are going to fix things.
  7. Health insurance is important; not property ownership, as they want to travel and move around.
  8. This is also a generation of rights and responsibilities: “Brands have a responsibility to us”. “Marketing doesn’t consume us”.
  9. Content that is interactive and makes the youth understand what a brand stands for, is what they want. Brands need to add value to the world. They don’t want to buy a logo; they want to buy from ‘someone’. Someone which stands for something.
  10. Extinction fears: This generation is more stressed. They are growing up under the shadow of climate change; with natural disasters from the Australian fires, to COVID-19. This unprecedented generational event will shape them, like no other generation in 100 years.
Global consumer sentiment improves

All indications are that global consumer sentiment is improving and in territories where the spread of new infections is being controlled, life is slowly returning to some kind of normal. Global Web Index (GWI) has been conducting research, along with local South African affiliate, YouKnow, each month, and the fourth wave of its research, conducted in May 2020, indicates that while consumers believe it will take six months to return to normal across the globe; they are optimistic about their futures.

Most importantly for brands, nine in 10 consumers globally think it is important that brands and businesses get back to normal. GWI reports: “When asked about brands and businesses returning to normal (e.g. opening shops, running regular advertising, etc), it’s nine in 10 globally, who think this is important. Figures peak in Italy and Romania, as well as among baby boomers and the higher income group.”

Brands can also resume normal advertising in regions where the virus is under control. Across 20 countries surveyed, 88% approved of brands running “normal” advertising. “Conversely, we’re seeing small but consistent decreases in approval for coronavirus-related advertising. Although overall approval for this still remains very high in all countries, the numbers have successively ticked down in over twelve of the seventeen countries where there is trended data available across March-April.”

Within the survey sample across the 20 countries surveyed, over 50% said they would return to the shops immediately. As is to be expected, those numbers are higher in the countries already on the road to recovery. “Consumers remain much more reticent about returning to large indoor venues (25%) or large outdoor venues (28%). Clearly, people consider shops to be smaller and more manageable in terms of their safety concerns; and are yet to be convinced that similarly adequate measures could be put in place in larger venues where the crowds would be bigger.” And this is what consumers want to see in place to make them feel safe, the research found:

  • In terms of the measures that consumers overwhelmingly want to see in public places, regular cleaning / disinfecting (68%); social distancing measures (58%); and provision of hand sanitizer (57%), are the biggest priorities. As might be expected, many of these safety-related measures are most important to baby boomers.
  • Cashless payment options should see a boost: “Globally, about 40% say these will be important to them in public places, but here we see the opposite age trend at work: Gen Z (41%) and millennials (42%) are over 10 points ahead of boomers (30%) for this. The younger generations also have a notable lead for self-service payment options,” GWI reports.

Of course, that doesn’t mean consumers are ready to go out and shop till they drop. Over 90% have changed their shopping behaviour in some way. GWI explained: “This reflects the fact that almost 85% of consumers expect the pandemic to have an impact on their personal finances, albeit with the largest amount anticipating only a small impact (44% say this, compared to 30% envisaging a big impact and 9% bracing for a dramatic impact).”

Consumers are also delaying big-ticket purchases (80%) – a behaviour observed among Gen Z and the top income group. They are actively looking for money-saving opportunities and promotions, despite being in a more comfortable position, GWI reports. “Gen Z are also the most likely to think they’ll have to dip into their savings; close to half expect to have to do this, compared to just a fifth of boomers. Smaller expenditure is also under the spotlight for consumers; globally, 39% plan to cut back on their day-to-day spending; with 38% looking to reduce their regular financial commitments (e.g. cancel subscriptions, memberships, etc).”

Drinking games

Alcohol sales in South Africa is still a trending topic, despite prohibition being lifted and alcohol sales allowed since last week, under lockdown level 3. There were queues around the block when liquor stores opened on June 1, 2020; and again this week after rumours that Government would again ban alcohol sales after hospital trauma wards were full of people shot, stabbed, beaten up or injured in alcohol related incidences – either as victims of crime or self-inflicted through general drunken idiocy.


Louise Burgers (previously Marsland) is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.


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