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Here’s how Gen Z’s holiday preferences are changing in 2020

by Stephanie H.
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    In a valiant effort to make something good of 2020, statistics show that Gen Z are turning to “micro holidays”—smaller, less mainstream events that lend themselves to social distancing, while still allowing for the festivity we all crave this time of year. We have the insights you need to understand how Gen Z is celebrating this holiday season.

    Come October 14, 2020, classes won’t be cancelled and work won’t be closed, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a national holiday. It just might be one you’ve never heard of: National Kick Butt Day. For those feeling less feisty, don’t fret. Just a few days later, there’s National Cheese Curd Day, followed by National Pasta Day, and National Sweetest Day, which is all perfectly fine, because October 20th is National Sloth Day

    If you’re paying attention, especially on social media, you might have already known about some of these micro holidays. (If you have National Bologna Day on your calendar, please slide into our DMs, we want to meet you.) 

    And while these niche holidays might not have the marquis appeal of Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving, they’re becoming more and more popular thanks to, you guessed it, the pandemic—and Gen Z’s affinity for the unique. In a recent report, Pinterest shared that this year, their users are planning even the little in-between holidays as if they’re big ones. In past years, about 4 in 10 Pinners said they care about micro-holidays like Friendsgiving or New Year’s brunch. But this year…7 in 10 say they’ll celebrate the smaller moments

    This makes sense—especially since people are nervous about gathering in large groups and with elderly relatives, which has always been the norm with traditional holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

    To compensate, people are instead turning to smaller moments, like Halloween and Friendsgiving, for joy and comfort. This will be especially true for Gen Zers who might be stuck quarantining at college and not able to return home for the holidays. Or, if they do, they will celebrate with only a few people. Like Gen Z college student Haley, who says:

    “I’ll probably go all out for all the holidays, big and small, since there is nothing else to do and I can’t really see anyone.” 

    Take Gen Z college student sophomore, Lilli. As someone who typically doesn’t acknowledge these mini moments, she says that’s changed this year:

    “This year, my respect for micro holidays has grown. During such a tumultuous time, it’s good to have a break in the depression and monotony with little things like Friendsgiving or Halloween. Before, the smaller holidays seemed unimportant—either I was too busy or too disinterested, but now I have nothing to do but think about what I’m missing out on from years past.”

    So how will Gen Z ‘go all out’ when they can’t really see anyone? Likely it will be online via Zoom or something similar, and with small groups of friends. Gen Z student Lilli says:

    “I will celebrate within my bubble of friends and eat foods that are related to the holiday or watch a movie. I don’t want to do anything that undoes all the social distancing I have been doing thus far.”

    Gen Z brands should make the most of micro moments

    In the context of staying safe but having fun, especially at a time when Gen Z needs it most, here’s a brief to-do list for brands wondering how to reach Generation Z in the midst of 2020’s micro holiday season:

    • Listen. Brands know who their ideal Gen Z is. You know what’s important to them and what they care about. But what are your Gen Z consumers talking about? When it comes to letting loose at the tailend of a tough year, what preferences do Gen Z have for their celebrations? Chances are, marketing to Gen Z this time of year will be all about striking a balance between celebration and safety.
    • Join the conversation. Do some social listening or ask a simple question in an Instagram story or on Twitter. “What micro holiday are you most excited about? #answerthephonelikebuddytheelfday or #uglysweaterday?” 

    Don’t overlook the opportunity to just contribute as a way to connect and give value. You don’t always have to be selling. Post pictures of how you and your colleagues, even pets, wear your ugly holiday sweater, and ask for submissions. (Keep reading for ideas on engaging with Gen Z.) 

    • Own it. Pick a micro holiday to own that feels right. Note, however, this doesn't mean the one you choose has to be a direct, literal relation to what your brand sells. 

    For example, do you have to be an apparel brand to post about an ugly sweater micro holiday? No. The question to ask is, would your Gen Z customer be interested in participating in a conversation with your brand about an ugly sweater? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then perfect. 

    (If no, keep looking, there’s no shortage of mico holidays to co-opt as your own. You can find an exhaustive list sorted by month here; and here, sorted month by month, but also by topic.) Once you’ve found something that will resonate with Gen Z preferences, you can start a fun dialogue that might just convert to a sale.  

    • Engage. Have fun. Gen Z brands can promote micro holidays with contests and opportunities that invite participation and engagement, not to mention grow awareness and even possibly generate leads. When you do post, be sure to use the appropriate hashtag for the micro holiday you’re owning (so your posts pop up when people search), along with your brand’s hashtag.
    Here are several ideas to get you thinking, most will all work across all social media platforms. 
      • Host a hashtag challenge. Super popular on TikTok, a hashtag challenge can garner lots of user submissions and brand awareness. Be thoughtful when you create your challenge and your hashtag. Don’t over complicate it and incorporate your brand name. To make it memorable and hopefully, viral—for this marketing tactic, you do want to feature your product in some way. 
      • Promote a ‘caption this photo’ contest. This is a fun way to engage with your Gen Z audience. If it makes sense, feature your offering. You can keep expenses low with this approach, too. Feature the winning caption in your brand’s story, making the creative winner momentarily insta-famous. 
      • Keep the fun going. Don’t limit your micro holiday marketing to the day-of only. Tease out the fun over a week (or whatever time frame you choose) with a new game or challenge every day. It doesn’t have to be a major undertaking, either. You can start the week with a simple, ‘tag a friend’ for an entry or just ‘share this post’ for an entry, raising the stakes each day to a bigger and better payoff.
        For those Zers that don’t follow you but came across your content (perhaps your micro holiday hashtag?), be sure to include a ‘follow this account and like this post’ for an entry to grow your followers.  
      • Offer a discount. Secret santa gift exchanges are fun and a great way to encourage your Gen Z consumers to create an event of their own with friends and family. As social distancing will make it difficult to host and attend parties in person this holiday season, taking turns unwrapping presents from an unknown gifter would be a great way to socialize online in a group. You can offer a discount for your product as an incentive. 

    These are just a few ideas for using micro holidays in your brand’s Gen Z marketing. The possibilities really are endless. And as silly as some of the micro holidays may seem (we’re looking at you Pluto Demoted Day), they can be a compelling and worthwhile way to promote your brand and gain awareness and affinity with Gen Z.

    Major focus on the minor

    Whatever micro holiday feels right for your brand, have fun with it. You’ll possibly be helping Gen Z find joy with friends and family, no matter where they may be. As this is the year of so many firsts, why not find time and room in EOY budgets to go major on a minor holiday? You may be surprised at the results.

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