5 Ways COVID-19 Is Affecting Students, And How Your Brand Can Help

Gordon D'Mello

In Audience, Behaviour Posted

With each passing week (what day is it again?) I guess COVID-19 feels somewhat more normal. Whatever that means in a climate like this. Routines are always going to be fluctuating for the near future, and although things are still hugely uncertain as a whole, we’re in this battle together. And then you have students.

Gen Zs who were meant to be in university right now, studying, going to events, festivals, travelling, online shopping like no tomorrow – it goes on. And naturally that 17-25 year period is arguably the most social time in your life. There’s arguably not as much pressure to save, but you’re building new friendships at uni, maybe dating properly for the first time, too. So it’s a tough time for students right now to be missing out on – considering the studying aspect still exists.

And a report has been released by Seed, looking into just how students are being affected by COVID-19. So here, we’ve broken down some key points from the report, along with some ways your brand can help Gen Z students right now, so you can reap the rewards later.

#1 Uncertain Studies, And Future

It’s an uncertain time for everyone, and students face some serious concerns when it comes to things like studies, exams and job prospects. Online learning has commenced nationally at universities and tertiary institutions; and it seems increasingly likely that the prospect of online exams await (76% are already preparing for at-home tests). Not only does this put huge pressure on students now, but with a hugely uncertain job market awaiting them, it’s a double whammy.

What Brands Can Do: How can your brand physically support students right now? Think outside of the box here too, not just 10% off deals but wider narrative messages that aim to inspire, help and keep them on the right track. Can you help the people they care about? Help them prepare for this period of limited connection, or the uncertain job time that comes after?

#2 Social Sacrifice 

A buzzing social life is often so important for students, filled with excitement and new experiences. Whether it’s gigs and music festivals, weekend parties and events, or even just the daily brunch/lunch or hangout – students are deprived right now. Holidays have been cancelled, family gatherings over Easter didn’t happen, and sport is also nowhere in sight. A student’s social footprint therefore has dwindled, not to mention studies-related events like graduation have also been cancelled or postponed. Meaning it’s never been a worse time for social engagement.

What Brands Can Do: How can your brand inject joy into a student’s life? We’ve seen events like Isol-Aid provide a music outlet, and various musicians do live sets online to give a sense of social happiness. Not to mention countless Zoom-events, and even pub’s doing trivia via video call. In a time of such minimal social opportunity, can you brand offer an outlet for Gen Zs to get some social engagement back?

#3 Students Are Desperate For Distraction And Light Relief Right Now

This is a flow on from the above point, but like many, students are also looking for as much distraction as possible right now. Negative thoughts are high, and good news is lacking (heck even just news not related to COVID-19). Between studying at home and lacking social engagement, they are craving any source of positive news. Whether it be positive news geared at mental health, or completely non-COVID news. We particularly love John Krasinski’s SomeGoodNews series of videos where he does a news-anchor-style video on good news around the world amidst all the uncertainty.

What Brands Can Do: In the Seed report, students said they look to brands to help provide entertainment to help fill time – think funny videos, interactive experiences, live online events, exclusive content and online tournaments. This is a huge opportunity for brands to provide an outlet of good news and distraction to help build loyalty (and your email base for example). Don’t view it as a massive profit-making period, but rather a consolidation period. Can your brand run webinar events, online festivals/events or create some fun content as a distraction for Gen Z students?

#4 Lack Of Inspiration

Right now, Gen Z students face uncharted periods away from friends, family and human connection as a whole. Some even continue to live on campus, often alone, or don’t have family to go back and live with. And even if they are able to stay with family right now, that confined time alone means inspiration will be at an all time low.

What Brands Can Do: Connection is so vital for everyone right now, especially when students thrive on this at a wider level. How can your brand help connect students with the people they care about? How can you inspire them via digital experiences that help Gen Zs connect to the outside world?

#5 Leaders To The Front

Ultimately, students look to brands a lot of the time for perspective, certainty and a sense of guidance. Just look at Vogue Italia’s all-white magazine cover for April 2020. The reason for the white cover according to the magazine’s editor, Di Emanuele Farneti, was that “white is above all respect. White is reborn, it is light after dark, the sum of all colours”. Farneti goes on to explain various reasons for the white cover, in a poignant yet powerful leadership message. Universities like Notre Dame Australia have also released hugely generous cash grants to help it’s students. To me, this is great leadership. Brands often represent a big sum of people, creative prowess and a wider identity. So naturally, that leadership expectation comes with it.

What Brands Can Do: Whether it’s providing supplies (stationery, textbooks, tech) to students, cash grants like Notre Dame, or just making a statement like Vogue Italia did above, brands need to lead. By showing that we have a sense of purpose and determination, brands play a huge part in society right now – especially for younger Gen Zs looking for inspiration, optimism and a cause to get behind.

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