According to New York-based consultancy Gen Z Planet, Gen Z’s aspirations are for more than just saving the planet.
“Civic-mindedness” is becoming increasingly important to younger generations in the U.S., be it marching for Black Lives Matter, saving the planet, and most recently, buying stamps from the financially floundering United States Postal Service, according to the consultancy.
“With the Internet at their fingertips, they are constantly exposed to national and international events, an exposure that leads to distrust in government and traditional institutions for their failure to resolve social, economic or environmental issues that persisted for decades, and in turn motivates them to speak up, take actions and advocate for the changes that they want to see in the world through civil protest, volunteerism and consumer activism,” read a June report from the firm.
“Gen Z activism is, in general, a response to government’s failure to address issues that persisted for generations like climate change, police brutality, racial inequality and other issues of social injustice to which Gen Z were exposed from a very young age (in the most visceral, real-time way through their phones),” said Gen Z Planet founder Hana Ben-Shabat.
Ben-Shabat added that while Gen Z expresses similar dissatisfaction or low trust in government, in line with older generations, “the striking fact is that Gen Zers in their short lifetime are equally disenchanted with traditional institutions as those who had longer time and life experience to develop that level of distrust.”
The support for the Post Office mirrors other mobilization efforts where distinct “participants,” “leaders” and “amplifiers” are identified — and the eventual goal is policy change.
In 2018, the Postal Service reported losses of $3.9 billion, partially due to increased operating expenses — with stamp prices rising their highest on record to bolster operations mainly through the sale of postage, products and services because it receives no tax dollars to support its operations.
This was even before the fallout of the coronavirus.
At the start of COVID-19, the Postal Service reached for a helping hand from Congress, requesting $25 billion in emergency funding and additional aid, and got only $10 billion via the Treasury under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed March 27.
Now, with the election fast approaching and a majority of Americans eligible and likely to vote by mail — misinformation and verbal attacks on the Postal Service by the Trump administration, as well as controversial cost-cutting practices by the new Trump-appointed postmaster general, are drawing significant media attention.
All of that is stirring increased consumer attention in the little blue “standing” eagle. And much of that support reads as — shopping.
Over the past several months the Postal Service has observed “significantly higher stamp sales” through Stamp Fulfillment Services, especially through the mobile-friendly e-commerce site on usps.com, according to a Postal Service spokesperson.
“The spike in sales can be attributed to a combination of published news articles, trending social media hashtags [i.e., #SaveUSPS], and our own efforts to increase traffic to the Postal Store site. Postal Store revenue for the last five months is up about 90 percent when compared to the same period last year,” the spokesperson said.
According to Google Trends, breakout searches have been seen recently for “USPS coronavirus” and “USPS rates 2020,” with searches up 900 percent for “USPS merch” in the last month alone.
With a majority of TikTok’s users ranging in age from 18 to 24 years old and of voting age, according to the app’s internal data from March 2019, and teens the next largest chunk of users, it’s understandable that a 2018 report from the Postal Service also put its faith in “young people.”
“The Postal Service needs to take advantage of opportunities to encourage mail use with young adults,” read a 2018 market research report titled “Millennials and the Mail,” which reported a strong fondness for its services among that age group.
Young people are taking matters into their own hands. TikTok creators are creating hype for the merch store, on top of general awareness creation. On TikTok, there are more than 734,000 views and counting for #SaveUSPS, with #SaveThePostOffice garnering more than 270,000 views, sprinkled with teens hyping up the merch store. New merchandise spans hip-hop references and characteristic slogans like “speedy delivery” printed on T-shirts, mail carrier dog costumes, artwork themed in tandem with current stamp offerings, as well as upcoming releases, like a Bugs Bunny boxed set.
“They have learned so far that they have a voice, and that voice can be heard, have an impact, influence policy, and they will surely use it in this case, too,” added Ben-Shabat.
Brands like Patagonia, Gap, BeautyCounter, among others have picked up on this, with Gap recently putting the spotlight on youth activists and sustainability — holding a global virtual climate rally last Friday.
And it’s not going unnoticed. “We recognize consumers and businesses are using the mail and USPS services in new ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers can also continue to buy stamps at Post Offices nationwide. We appreciate our customers’ business during this difficult period. Stamps celebrate the people, events and cultural milestones that are unique to the history of our great nation,” the Postal Service spokesperson reiterated.