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So far, the story of the summer has been the economic crises unfolding around the world. Greece, which is in technical default on its debts, has been in back-and-forth conversations with the European Union. China is seeing the largest bubble since the dot-com era. Puerto Rico is also in danger of defaulting on its debt.

As I wrote in my latest MediaPost article, these economic woes have significant impact on teens and young adults in the affected countries. In Greece, youth unemployment is higher than 50 percent. As a result, young people are leaving in droves. Puerto Rico is seeing the same thing. More than 300,000—many of them young people—have left the country over the last 15 years to relocate to the U.S.. Enrollment in Puerto Rican public schools is down 40 percent over the last decade.

The same opportunity to move away isn’t available to the young people in China, where youth unemployment rate is believed to be between 13 to 20 percent. The country’s young people are well educated, but most of the jobs available are low skilled. In 2012, an estimated 600,000 Chinese youth graduated from school without job prospects.

It’s important to note that North America isn’t immune from these economic challenges. Many companies in the U.S. and Canada rely on international markets for growth.

As more Gen Z and millennial people become unemployed or decide to move, companies need to find ways to better connect with these customers. Here are three ideas I offered in my article for MediaPost on how brands can do that.

  1. Meet the needs of young immigrant entrepreneurs.

As immigration grows among young people, there are increasing opportunities to sell products to the customers who have relocated and to provide products and services to the businesses that cater to them. That’s why companies need to engage with entrepreneurial immigrants, learn about their needs, and work closely with them to support their businesses. If you’re selling a product that’s new to these customers, introduce your brand to them by providing low-risk trial opportunities. Knowing the behaviors and attitudes of these customers can help you develop more thoughtful ways of marketing to them.

  1. Work with young entrepreneurs who are staying behind.

Many individuals and organizations are focusing on job creation in order to help these troubled economies. In Greece, nonprofits are fostering a startup culture, and Athens is seeing the arrival of more incubators and co-working spaces.

The sharing economy is now gaining ground in these markets. As the economy started tanking, platforms like the ride-hailing app Taxibeat have seen a boost.

Companies should look for ways to support young people who wish to participate in the sharing economy. Provide platforms and programs for young entrepreneurs—doing so can drive revenue while continuing to build your company’s brand. A low-cost automaker, for example, could educate customers on how purchasing the car could pay for itself if the driver provides a certain number of rides to passengers every month. Empowering young entrepreneurs not only supports businesses—it also benefit brands as well as the economy.

  1. Reconsider how you market to the unemployed.

Marketing to 18- to 25-year-olds in countries where the economy is currently weak can be challenging. You need to question any assumptions you have about these customers. For one, many of your customers are probably still living at home, single with no jobs. Instead of focusing on conspicuous consumption, marketers should consider emphasizing quality, durability and value.

Consider changes in family dynamics as well. It’s likely that many parents are providing considerable support to young adults at this time, so your marketing campaigns need to speak to this audience. If families are doing more together, position your product or service as an affordable bonding experience—and something that all generations can enjoy. For instance, dinner out at McDonald’s could be a treat for a family and an opportunity to spend time together without busting a budget.


The big lesson from this summer’s economic challenges is that the world is more interconnected than ever. Companies need to evaluate their approach to Gen Z and millennial engagement as the world grapples with the economic turbulence in Greece, China and Puerto Rico. Empowering the next generation of customers is the right thing to do—but more importantly, engaging with young customers could inspire new business ideas and practices, helping build your company’s brand and driving your revenue.

Check out my article on MediaPost for more info.

The Everything Guide to Gen Z

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