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How Gen Z's favorite brands are building trust and loyalty during a pandemic

by Christina Germano
    Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19

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    As businesses and individuals adapted to a new lifestyle during COVID-19, consumers—especially Gen Zs—have paid attention to how companies are handling it. As the youngest generation with the greatest potential buying power, Gen Z will be especially influential as the economy slowly begins to recover.

    Gen Z has it rough right now (to be fair, we all do). Universities shuttered, internships cancelled, job offers deferred, courses and virtual commencement ceremonies—their worlds, their plans, and their futures have turned upside down.

    As such, Gen Z is more attuned than ever before to how companies, especially Gen Z focused brands, are trying to help the situation for their customers, employees, and the population in general. They are also reacting favorably to the human connections and positive stories of good deeds, as organizations show their true colors in the face of challenge.

    Some of Gen Z's favorite brands are making an effort to be helpful during these trying times. In turn, they're also building trust with Gen Z students and the influencers they look to for guidance. Here are a few examples of compassionate brands and what they’re doing in response to the pandemic.

    Gen Z's favorite brands are responding to COVID-19 with grace

    Columbia Sportswear

    Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle made a major personal sacrifice for the sake of his  publicly-traded business. With around 3,500 retail employees who can’t go to work due to social distancing measures, Boyle has taken steps to ensure they continue getting paid. Rather than asking for a bailout, he cut his own salary—which was $3.3 million in 2018—to just $10,000. An additional ten Columbia executives took a 15 percent pay cut to free up even more cash for payroll. Thousands of Columbia employees have also received at least four weeks of paid benefits, even as they’ve been unable to work. 

    This isn’t the first time the brand has popped up on Gen Z’s radar. On a marketing front, the brand had already established their appeal to Gen Z with the August 2019 launch of their SH/FT footwear, a line designed for younger urban consumers. And since their pandemic response is totally aligned with Gen Z values, Columbia Sportswear continues to be a brand to watch.

    Uber Eats

    Uber Eats is helping their consumers and employees through the pandemic on four key fronts. First, their no-contact delivery service allows individuals to order from local restaurants with minimal health risk to both themselves and the drivers. They’ve also waived delivery fees in an effort to encourage people to order from local restaurants. 

    Internally, they have been taking care of their own employees by offering two weeks of paid sick leave for drivers affected by the pandemic. And in a true demonstration of their commitment to do good—something Gen Z takes seriously even in ‘normal’ times— Uber Eats has also committed to providing 300,000 free meals to healthcare workers and first responders.


    Retail giant and Gen Z favorite Target has taken multiple steps to protect both their customers and employees. Employees benefit from policies such as expanded illness and quarantine pay, work-from-home options (for corporate employees), expanded childcare benefits, bonus pay for employees working through the pandemic, and much more. Target has also taken steps to protect its customers: expanding the return/exchange time frame, dedicating certain shopping hours to at-risk customers, and putting social-distancing measures in place in their stores. 

    Gen Z already loves Target for its omni-channel offerings, curated product selection, and bold branding. Add their stellar pandemic response to the list, and the retailer is sure to stay a favorite.

    Here's how you can be a Gen Z brand hero

    Consumers from all generations are paying attention to how corporations are responding to the pandemic. An entire website exists for tracking their actions, with Target high on the list of Heroes

    Gen Z is particularly tuned into how companies behave, and how they perform in the worst of times will not be soon forgotten. To learn more about Gen Z consumer behaviors and how you can reach this important audience, download The Gen Z Marketing Playbook.

    Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19

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