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Get ready for: the festive marketing season

Gen Z are primed and ready for a festive season like no other.

Friendsmas, gifting ethically and self-care are on the agenda for Gen Z this year, as they approach one of the most unusual festive periods they’ve ever experienced. Here’s how Gen Z will be celebrating in 2020.

Gen Z core values will be front and center

Gen Z has been at the forefront of a lot of big conversations within the past year, and they’re unlikely to leave their values behind just because of the holidays. They’ve been paying close attention to the brands that got it right during the pandemic, and were often the online voices drumming up support for brands that provided tangible, measurable support to local communities during a lockdown and beyond. More so than any generation before them, Gen Z isn’t afraid to protest with their wallets: we already know that around a quarter would boycott a brand based on ethical conflicts. But on the flipside, 70% of US Gen Z will make the effort to buy gifts from brands who responded well to the pandemic, with just over half of UK Gen Z making the same pledge.

The festive marketing season will need to account for key Gen Z issues, such as climate change.

Of course, ethical gift-giving goes beyond the COVID-19 response, encapsulating values that existed within student networks long before 2020. Gen Z led the push to buy from black-owned businesses as a way of supporting the BLM movement, and they’re also very conscious of the environment. “This year I’m especially prioritizing eco-friendly and sustainable gifts”, says Amanda, a Bioengineering student from Loughborough, UK. “My ideal gift to receive would be a donation to a charity working towards fighting climate change. I don’t need anything at the moment, but the planet does!”

The “treat yourself” mentality will be strong

This year has been a tricky one – particularly for new students, many of whom are starting their degrees in total lockdown, unable to experience the usual excitement and mixing that comes with that first semester. It makes sense, then, that just over half are looking to pick up gifts for themselves during the festive season.

There’s a strong case for festive self-care this year. The Gen Z calendar is usually jam-packed with social events and meetups, but as they adjust to spending more time at home, they’re likely to refocus their spending on treats and pick-me-ups that they can enjoy individually. Whether it’s new tech, a luxury beauty product or high-end homewares, it’s well worth exploring self-care and self-gifting in your festive marketing.


Around the world, the festive period is traditionally coded as family time. But Gen Z have grown up in a world where connections with friends are strengthened by technology and social media. This has created a whole new trend: Friendsmas. It’s open to interpretation, but in most basic terms, it’s Christmas Day – complete with a meal, presents and festive outfits – but with your closest friends.

Gear your festive marketing towards friend-fuelled celebrations this year.

The idea of dedicating a day of the festive period to a close-knit group of friends was actually pioneered by Millenials, who are far more likely to live in shared rental homes with a group of friends. But Gen Z have taken up the baton, with 63% saying that spending time with friends is an important part of the festive season for them. Last year, 56% took part in Friendsmas event.

Of course, COVID-19 will alter exactly what Friendsmas looks like for Gen Z this year. Students are facing uncertainty over where they’ll actually be spending the holidays. But in previous years, Friendsmas has been a popular get-together for international students spending the holidays away from home, and as the festive season moves away from being religious and towards being a way to bring loved ones together, friend-focused traditions have firmly established their place.

Be mindful that celebrations with friends carry a lot of weight for students. Especially this year, a campaign around spending time with friends will resonate for those students who may be facing a festive season away from home. Friendsmas is important because it’s an alternative to traditional celebrations for some students, as well as an additional exciting date in the calendar for others.

We hope you enjoyed this sneak preview into our soon-to-be-released Festive Guide 2020. To be one of the first to get your hands on it, sign up to our weekly newsletter, Student Beans Insights.

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