Don’t Blur the Lines When Marketing to Millennials and Gen Z

Smart performance marketers are making the distinction
between these two generations of consumers

Adweek

Gen Z is standing apart from millennials more than ever.
Getty Images: RGStudio

When developing marketing plans, it’s all too easy to lump different generations of buyers into similar categories, hoping to hit them both effectively with broader messages. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work with millennials and Gen Z which, on the surface at least, may seem easy enough to put into the “under 41 years of age” category and hope for the best.

Dig down deeper and you’ll see that there are some clear distinctions between American consumers aged 26-41 (millennials, or Gen Y) and those aged 10-25 (Gen Z). Here are five differentiation points that performance marketers should factor in when creating advertising and content for millennial and Gen Z consumers:

Gen Z likes to disconnect

While millennials came of age along with technology, most Gen Zers have been using it since they were infants or toddlers. “Phones have transformed from a way to communicate with friends and family from a distance into a doorway giving people and companies 24/7 access to each other—and all the information in the world—with the tap of a finger,” writes Stefan Pollack in Forbes.

This might indicate a love of digital interaction on the part of younger consumers, but in reality they do enjoy talking face-to-face: “It seems that while using technology can provide an escape for millennials and older generations, the escape for digitally native Gen Zers is to disconnect and be in real life,” according to Pollack.

Social media: Boredom killer or connectivity tool?

According to Relative Insight, Gen Z finds value in the connectivity of social media. They use Snapchat and TikTok to keep up with what’s going on with family, friends and colleagues. They’re also using newer platforms like BeReal, which has been downloaded more than 43 million times since its launch in December 2019 and has grown its user base by 315% as of August 2022. Not to be left out of the party, TikTok recently rolled out TikTok Now, which emulates some of the core features of BeReal’s platform.

Unlike Gen Z, millennials view social media as a place to scroll through their feeds to stave off boredom and kill time.

They spend differently

Gen Z is more apt to put a small financial windfall in the bank or purchase gifts for loved ones, Relative Insight says, and tends to place a lower value on pricy items and material possessions. Millennials think differently and are more apt to invest in a fun vacation or a designer bag.

“This could imply that, because they have greater financial security in their daily lives, they think they deserve a treat,” the report points out, “or that they put less cultural emphasis on the importance of saving money, and they really are the entitled generation.”

Authenticity is a must-have for Gen Z

Citing recent CM Group research, Alexandra Pastore of Women’s Wear Daily writes that Gen Z buyers are practical, ambitious and focused on education. They like to buy from companies that are authentic—right down to their designs, brands, products and social impacts.

“In the past, the images people saw in media were aspirational and out of reach for many of them,” Allison McDuffee writes in Adweek. “More recently, consumers have become wary of meticulously curated and perfectly polished content. Consumers are now searching for genuine, human connections and the accompanying imperfections: A selfie without makeup, a look behind the screen or a vulnerable moment with fans.”

Online versus in-person

Shopping habits are another major differentiating factor between these two generations. Millennials prefer to shop online while Gen Z enjoys browsing and buying in physical stores. “If you’re targeting Gen Z,” advises Jennifer Herrity of Indeed, “consider ways you can bring more people this age into your stores with social media-worthy experiences.”

Keeping both the generational similarities and differentiation points in mind will only become more important for marketers as they work to reach and engage with younger consumers. As you plan your next campaign, try to avoid blurring the lines between these two distinct consumer groups.

Are You Using Social Media to Inspire Younger Buyers?

Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly turning to social networks for advice.
Here’s how performance marketers can leverage this trend.

Adweek

Performance marketers looking to capture the tech-savvy market have to consider speed, efficiency and social change.
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Whether they’re following accounts that inspire them, perusing videos, researching products or connecting with their favorite brands, the younger generations of American consumers are clearly influenced by social media. More of them also want to become influencers, start their own businesses and get involved in new hobbies.

Millennials and Gen Z will often go first to social media platforms like TikTok, Pinterest and Instagram to learn and get advice before making a purchase or taking on a project. With millennials standing to inherit more than $68 trillion from baby boomer and early Gen X parents by the year 2030—setting them up to potentially be the wealthiest generation in U.S. history—and Gen Z projected to hit $33 trillion in income by 2030, performance marketers should be paying attention to these trends.

Here’s how performance marketers can leverage this trend in a responsible, deliberate manner.

Stepping up their games

Social media companies are clearly aware of these trends and are finding new ways to optimize their platforms. In February, for example, TikTok launched a new feature called Collections, which allows users to organize their favorite videos into folders (Instagram implemented a similar feature in 2019.)

The Collections feature allows users to save recommendations and sort them into useful categories, making it easier for them to quickly return to ideas and recommendations.

TikTok’s core offering feeds millennials’ and Gen Z’s desire for inspiration. Upon pulling up a video, users can instantly see what a restaurant looks like inside and who’s recommending it. “It allows for maximum vibe reconnaissance,” Mashable points out. “And if someone made a TikTok on it, and it came up on your FYP [For You Page], chances are it’s something you’ll actually enjoy and the information is up to date.”

4 tips for Success

Performance marketers looking to capture the tech-savvy market that’s turning to social media for inspiration can’t just advertise and sell products. They also have to consider speed, efficiency and social change versus just spending time polishing up their marketing messages. And knowing that Gen Z are all under 25 years old—and as young as 10—positively influencing behaviors is also important.

Here are four tips for success:

  • Step up the pace. Your Gen Z customers are used to a fast pace, so get onboard with it. They also have shorter attention spans and tend to be highly influenced by what they see and interact with on social media.
  • Know your platforms. According to a recent YPulse, Ad/Marketing Effectiveness report, TikTok (27%) is the top place Gen Z is seeing ads that influence them to make a purchase. That’s followed by YouTube (17%) and Instagram (13%). Millennials, on the other hand, respond best to Facebook (16%), YouTube (15%), Instagram (14%) and TikTok (9%) ads.
  • Support social change. Gen Z and millennials both care about making a difference and leaving a smaller footprint on Mother Earth. They’re also involved with social causes and tend to look favorably upon organizations that put an effort into environmental, social and governance (ESG) causes.
  • Be authentic. Younger consumers can see right through the glitz, glamour and overpolished marketing messages. And when they’re getting their information from friends, connections and influencers, it’s not hard to figure out which brands do and don’t deserve their hard-earned dollars.

Want to Attract Younger Consumers? Just Be Yourself

To most effectively tap into Gen Z and millennials,
personalized and transparent communication is key

Adweek

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The consumer is more and more aware every day of marketing “hype” and language that is not authentic to the brand or corporate mission. Gen Z and millennials are acutely aware of this and will expect nothing less and can see through it all. This differs from their predecessors on many fronts. They’re digital natives who think greener, expect more from the companies that they buy from and love authenticity.

Currently aged 10-25 (for Gen Z) and 26-41 (for millennials), these consumers have a lot of buying power—and are accumulating even more—and a habit of aligning their purchase decisions with their own personal values. However, Gen Z and millennials are more aware of cost of living and finances and so they research and put a lot of thought into purchasing decisions to make sure it not only fits their personal needs, but also fulfills social and societal needs.

Gen Zers, in particular, are very intentional about those decisions; they think before they buy.

“Gen Z has let us know—loud and clear—that they are passionate about making a change and fighting for the values they believe in,” BigCommerce pointed out. This opens the doors of opportunity for performance marketers to share the mission and values of their brands.

“Or take it a step further and partner with a charity or cause your brand is passionate about,” the publication added. For example, it says one direct-to-consumer shoe manufacturer teamed up with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to gift a pair of pink shoes to those impacted by the illness illustrates the company’s understanding of what younger consumers want from the brands they buy from.

More personalized ads, please

We all know personalization and micro targeting has become more and more prevalent, but it is a “must have” instead of a “nice to have” at this point for marketers. “While 57% of millennials and 43% of baby boomers said they liked personalized ads, a whopping 81% of those in Generation Z said the same,” in a study conducted by Unsupervised.

Gen Z is a huge user of social media, and that the medium as a whole has evolved quite a bit over the last few years. Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram are the main platforms where Gen Z spends its time, and TikTok ads are a good starting point for performance marketers looking to leverage this trend. In fact, all four social media platforms are good vehicles for reaching consumers of all ages.

Personalized ads are a great opportunity for companies that want to reach and engage with younger consumers and when done effectively, accurately link relevant social content to brands with the same values and end up with a completed sale.

Speaking with images instead of words

The emoji has taken on a whole new level of communication and there are even varying levels of enthusiasm within the emoji universe. If you didn’t know that the thumbs-up emoji was meant to denote passive aggressiveness, or that some people like to speak mostly in emojis on social media or when texting, then it’s time to listen a little harder to what younger consumers want, respond to and engage with. But don’t worry because you’ll be in good company; entire industry sectors are also trying to figure out what they need to do to get the attention and wallet share of more Gen Z customers.

The wine industry is a good example. According to the Wine Market Council, just 14% of Americans aged 21 to 30 drink wine on a weekly basis, and 11% drink it occasionally. Compare this to individuals who are aged 30 to 39, 20% of whom are weekly wine drinkers. Much like performance marketers are digging down deeper to determine how to attract and retain more Gen Z and millennials customers, this entire sector is doing the same.

“The wine industry still has work to do in order to attract younger generations in an increasingly competitive beverage alcohol landscape,” SevenFiftyDaily reported. “This will involve not only revisiting the lessons of the past, but [also] employing new tactics for each new generation as it reaches legal consumption age.”

The bottom line is that creativity and effectively communicating to reach your target audience is not a new concept but the importance of keeping up with how Gen Z and millennials want to be communicated with is key for marketers and a successful and long-term brand relationship.

Despite the Bear Market, Younger Generations Should Embrace ‘Buy and Hold’ Strategies Crypto, Neobanks, NFTs

The economy is looking even more dire, and there are lessons
performance marketers can take away

Adweek

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Most financial planners would steer their client away from get-rich-quick investment approaches and instead advocate for “buy and hold” strategies. In most cases, the latter involves finding reliable workhorses of the stock market and then hanging onto them for years or even decades.

Generations Y and Z have a different idea about how they want to build their assets. From cryptocurrency and bitcoin to NFTs and other digital assets, younger investors are forgoing blue chip stocks that their parents and grandparents used and taking bolder, riskier moves with their money.

Some of the shifts can be traced to the rise of “neobanks,” or those fin-tech firms offering up apps, software and other technologies that help streamline mobile and online banking. According to Forbes Advisor, neobanks—which specialize in checking and savings accounts—tend to be nimbler and more “transparent than their megabank counterparts, even though many of them partner with such institutions to insure their financial products.”

“The advancement of digital banking and the rise of neobanks is creating a new paradigm of how younger millennials and Gen Z want to interact with their finances and investments,” Nasdaq has pointed out, adding that the adoption rates for neobanking are high in the U.S.—a trend that’s supported the expansion of cryptocurrencies, digital assets, digital wallets and digital real estate.

“With digital-only finances and tools, the realm of possibilities for investing extends beyond the physical,” Nasdaq also stated. It went on to say that mainstream consumer brands are also shifting brand equity into the digital world; Walmart is launching cryptocurrency and NFTs and Nike is creating shoe NFTs for the metaverse. “Other brands have rushed to claim space in the metaverse, even while the future of the metaverse remains unclear.”

They’re already digital-savvy

Credit the digital-savvy Gen Z and the younger end of the millennial generations with driving higher interest in electronic-based investment options. Already used to communicating on social, learning remotely and basing important decisions on virtual peer reviews, these consumers gravitate toward options that older generations didn’t have when they were in their 20s and 30s.

Take NFTs, for example. Used to indicate ownership or usage right of a unique asset—typically art, music or a video game item—”these tokens are built and managed on a blockchain, the same digital ledger technology system utilized by bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,” as explained by The Motley Fool. Younger investors have taken to NFTs like a moth to a flame, so to speak.

According to YPulse, 13% of people aged 13 to 39 have purchased NFTs and 28% have bought cryptocurrencies, the latter of which further proves the Gen Z and millennial thirst for alternate, digital investment options. This research “found that between crypto, NFTs and digital land, more young people have made digital asset investments than have invested in stocks.”

“We also found that overall, young people don’t believe that they can build wealth the same way that previous generations did,” YPulse added, “making new avenues to making money more attractive to them.”

Time to sharpen your pencils

Right now, performance marketers should be watching the trends, sharpening their pencils and coming up with new ways to attract, serve and retain these digital-centric generations of consumers. Accepting cryptocurrencies as a payment option is one method to lean into this trend. There’s a massive digital opportunity for fin tech, banks, financial companies and other brands that can meet consumers where they are right now. It also opens up the opportunity for even more brands or influencers to be able to play in this space and leverage their hip and cool business approaches.

From exclusive branding opportunities to VIP offerings to specialized experiences, younger generations of consumers want it all. And while the boundaries may be down for marketers right now, the environment is evolving quickly, and companies are catching on. Keeping up and staying out in front of the digital metaverse requires effort, energy and resources, but the payoff can be significant for marketers that jump into the emerging space now.

Harnessing Gen Z’s Summer Travel Wanderlust

It’s all about marketers inspiring choices, spontaneity and loyalty rewards as the summer approaches

Gen Z Travel AdWeekChadchai Ra-ngubpai/ Getty Images

 

With travel restrictions waning and the summer season beckoning, millennials and Gen Z travelers are thinking beyond the “staycation” ideals and are laying out plans to see various cities, states and even countries in the coming months. As they break out of their shells and begin exploring their options, these consumers are taking a different approach than they did two years ago.

A recent Forbes article highlighted the notion that “travelers want to spend big and go far” in 2022, and 78% of those asked said travel was one of the top activities they missed the most. Travel in 2022 will be significantly higher than in past years: 62% of survey respondents wanted to take two to four trips this year. The piece also emphasized millennials as driving major travel trends, like bucket-list trips to exotic locations such as the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. Dream destinations are ultimately most desired by millennials and Gen Zers, and two-thirds of those surveyed preferred a once-in-a-lifetime vacation over purchasing a new car.

Gen Z is ready to spend more on travel

Avail’s State of Travel in 2022 survey suggests Gen Zers, rather than millennials, are leading the charge in the return to travel—and furthermore, that 72% of Gen Z respondents plan to invest the same or more in travel this year than pre-pandemic. An equal percentage of Gen Zers say they’re already planning or may splurge on a big trip this year, versus 68% of millennials, 60% of Gen Xers and 51% of baby boomers.

To harness this huge group’s serious case of wanderlust, marketers will have to think differently than they did a few years ago. With the oldest member of Gen Z now being 24 years old, they’re collectively new in the travel category, and 80% say they have “some responsibility” in the trip-planning process—a share that will grow as Gen Z continues to gain spending power.

Until then, marketers can attract these young travelers with better deals and last-minute opportunities that feed their spontaneous natures and buy-now/pay-later types of deals that spread any travel-related financial responsibility over time.

Harnessing the opportunity

The question is, how can performance marketers effectively reach these travelers where they are and at the time when they are ready to click “buy now” for that flight, hotel, rental or car-sharing service?

The key is meeting the consumer on their media of choice, and the younger consumer goes beyond large or well-known travel or home-share sites, reacting more spontaneously based on word-of-mouth recommendations from family, friends, influencers or the best deal that shows up online. So, there is a big opportunity not only for established travel companies, but also for emerging platforms as well.

Social media is a channel that will create interest and excitement for travel, as well as the opportunity to extend marketing offers and deals for younger travelers like Gen Z and Gen Y. A primary resource for Gen Z travelers, TikTok, serves as a hub for finding personal recommendations and things to do in whatever town they’re visiting. Comments like, “Oh, I’ve been there. It’s amazing,” can influence others to give it a try. (Negative comments on any platform have the exact opposite effect and should be monitored closely and addressed immediately.)

Gen Z doesn’t mind booking last-minute trips and activities, which gives marketers the opportunity to push specials and deals when filling up available space. Throw in a free dinner for two at a local restaurant, or a stocked coffee bar on the kitchen counter, and your offer will probably be snatched up quickly by a young traveler that wants to experience the world on a budget.

Meeting them where they are

With Avail reporting that younger generations emerged as the most eager to travel more often than pre-pandemic, it’s time to come up with new and engaging ways to attract these eager consumers.

Be sure to target the ads with deals and discounts on a routine basis and right before the trip and use geotargeting to help travelers book any last-minute, spontaneous activities once they’re on site. Know your audience, come up with your best deal and tip them over the edge.

Luxury Goods Are Becoming as Attainable as Fast Fashion

How marketers are bridging the gap between millennials’ and Gen Z’s love of upscale goods and desire for economy

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Millennials and Gen Z walk a fine line when making decisions between whether to buy affordable, fast fashion options that may not make it through more than a handful of wash cycles, and items that may cost more upfront but last longer and stay out of the world’s landfills.

Environmentally aware and well educated on the value of sustainability, these younger consumers view fashion through a different lens than their predecessors, and marketers have taken notice.

These realities are pushing clothing makers to rethink their manufacturing process, how they go to market, and even reusing and recycling their products, with sustainability top of mind. It’s also encouraging companies to emphasize the pre-buying process and offer try-before-you-buy services to generate less waste.

In a world where acquiring a few different sizes and colors of the same item and discarding what didn’t work is the norm, these smart fashion brands are focused on Coco Chanel’s mantra of “less is always more.”

Blurred lines

For now, it looks like younger consumers are divided into two camps, although the lines are blurring.

The first group enjoys purchasing from retailers like Shein for its low-cost and trendy options, while the second would rather invest a bit more in luxury goods that could last a lifetime (and even become inheritable, heirloom goods for the next generation).
To meet these various needs, some companies are serving up luxury that’s attainable for a wider group of potential customers. Gucci’s experimental Vault ecommerce shop, for example, has the option to buy now, pay later through Affirm, putting bags, accessories and other goods within reach for younger buyers. Through Vault, the company offers a curated selection, an interactive virtual experience and the written assurance that each order is “100% carbon neutral.”

Rent the Runway is another company whose business model aligns well with what younger generations have come to expect from their fashion retailers.

The ecommerce platform allows users to rent, subscribe and buy designer apparel and accessories. And while the company was founded in 2009, long before Gen Z began demanding that the world pay more attention to environmental sustainability, its wide variety of styles appeals to everyone from the high schooler looking for an expensive prom dress to the executive in need of a full suite of professional attire (but who can only be seen in those outfits one or two times at most).

Like Gucci, Rent the Runway appeals to millennials and Gen Z’s desire for high fashion at a price they can afford. It also supports good reuse and recycling of clothing and accessories through a “borrowed” model that platforms like Rebag, The RealReal and thredUp also use to successfully resell items that could otherwise be headed to a landfill. The approach truly exemplifies the “one man’s trash” idiom, and it appears to be working.

Secondhand fashion drives growth
Secondhand fashion is also bringing the younger generations to luxury goods. They’re experiencing it, enjoying it and finding the quality they’re seeking.

As more millennial and Gen Z consumers are introduced to luxury brands, they’re also appreciating those brands’ sustainability. This will surely increase their love for luxury items and lead them to outlets like Vault, which we’ll likely see more of in the near future.

While fast fashion has its place, luxury brands are coming up with new ways to meet younger consumers where they are, both in terms of financing and social responsibility. They meet these buyers’ fashion needs, developing sustainable approaches that hit those customers where their hearts are.

“As more millennials and Gen Z shoppers come into their peak purchasing power, luxury brands have an opportunity to capitalize on this growing wealth,” according to ecommerce solutions site Scalefast, noting that younger shoppers have specific buying preferences that brands have to factor in—from sustainability to personalization to social media influence—and adapt to if they want to provide the ecommerce experience that these generations expect.

This purchasing power is digitally driven and reacts to digital content and messaging. A recent eMarketer report highlighted that “Gen Z is getting older and steadily moving toward becoming the most digitally connected generation. In 2024, U.S. Gen Zers will surpass millennials in regular internet use, and they’ll do the same with smartphone penetration in 2026.”

The eMarketer report also addresses the purchasing power of this younger generation, which will only continue to grow. “In 2024, when U.S. Gen Z internet penetration will jump to 99.1%, Gen Zers will be between 12 and 27 years old. Millennials, who will be fully into adulthood (ages 28 to 43), will stagnate at 97.4% penetration.”

And these younger generations are having a significant impact on older consumers too. “These trends are not limited to millennials and Gen Z shoppers. Their preferences continue to influence older generations,” Scalefast added. “This means luxury brands should cater to younger buyers sooner rather than later to avoid missing out on the significant growth opportunities coming by the year 2035.”

5 Ways to Meet Gen Z Consumers Where They Are

It all starts with striving for social impact 

AdWeek Generation ZJ_art/Getty Images

Generational marketing isn’t easy. Getting it right requires expert knowledge, consistent monitoring of trends and a willingness to make unexpected pivots. With five generations of consumers now in the marketplace, and with Gen Z on track to become the largest cohort of consumers in the near future—performance marketers must sharpen their pencils now or risk getting left behind the generational marketing curve.

That’s because each generation has its own set of beliefs, preferences and shared experiences, all of which influence the way they think and act. These factors also impact how they buy, interact with brands and consume products and services. Attitudes and habits for Gen Z specifically are different and influenced by social impact. Whether they’re watching videos or BuzzFeed reviews to see the latest tech gadgets, looking for recipes online that they can make at home or using interactive technology to color their own hair, younger consumers expect a similar experience online and offline.

Where to watch

In late 2021, YPulse surveyed about 1,200 weekly social media users aged 13-24 in the U.S. and produced the 2022 Instagram Trend Report. “We tapped into the minds of Gen Z to learn more about the rising Instagram trends across categories including music, fashion, creators, beauty, social justice and so much more,” YPulse states.
Here are five top trends that all performance marketers should consider when developing campaigns and strategies that meet younger consumers where they are:

PJs are being replaced with “real” clothing again as consumers get back out into the world. After spending two years in athleisure, young people are making bold moves with their style choices, using fashion as a vehicle for joy, optimism and self-expression, YPulse reports. “Expect to see alt-fashion (think Goth, Dark Academic, Goblincore, etc.) reach its peak as people spend more time together.”

Natural beauty is in. YPulse’s survey found that 33% of young people are interested in learning more about and buying “clean” makeup and skincare in 2022. This includes plant-based skincare, vegan makeup, using less products on their skin in general (i.e., skin minimalism) or more manufactured from “clean” ingredients.

Games are the new malls. Quarantine fueled a boom in video games, and this isn’t slowing down anytime soon. “More young people are spending more time inside playing games, especially in those that also double as social spaces,” reports YPulse, which says 40% of teens and young adults expect to see more video game trends in 2022, and that 3 in 10 expect to livestream others playing video games.

Young consumers like the DIY approach. When quarantines kept them home, consumers across all generations learned to lean on themselves for services that they would otherwise outsource. Knowing this, companies like L’Oréal are coming up with new innovations that feed the DIY trend. At CES 2022, for example, it introduced Colorsonic, a brush-like concept that aims to make home hair coloring easier, and Coloright, an AI-connected system for salon stylists, which allows virtual try-ons and the creation of custom shades.

Technology continues to proliferate. This is happening in response to customer demand for innovative products—and because vendors have the resources needed to bring their ideas to reality. It’s been nearly a decade since the original Oculus Rift was born. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets have been slowly improving since then, as evidenced at this year’s CES show. Some of the newer entrants include Sony’s PS VR2 headset, HTC’s Vive Wrist Tracker and Shiftall MeganeX’s ultra-lightweight headset.

Performance marketers should keep these trends in mind as they plan their campaigns for the rest of the year and seek out new ways to reach Gen Z consumers where they are. Whether these young customers are gaming at home, buying natural makeup products, doing their own hair or testing out the latest gadgets, marketers should focus on establishing meaningful connections and trust with this valuable consumer group, which already boasts an estimated collective buying power of $150 billion.

COVID-19’s Impact on Millennial and Gen Z Media Habits — And How Marketers Should Pivot

Depending on their age and stage of life, the nation’s two youngest generations are getting a first taste of what it’s like to be a remote worker, home-schooling parent, or web-only shopper. Within a very short period, the way Millennials and Gen Zs buy products and consume media also has changed dramatically. And while many of these shifts — such as the changes to their media habits — can be attributed to the global pandemic, some of them may be here to stay.

COVID 19 Millennial Phone

“When U.S. advertisers pulled back spending dramatically in March, one of the earliest noticeable effects on the display ad market was falling CPMs (the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on a single webpage),” eMarketer reports. Concurrently, marketers were lowering their demand for ads and consumers were spending more time on social and traditional media properties, thus increasing the supply of impressions.

“Where we’re getting the demand right now is from people who are driving sort of more online conversions, direct response, so it’s not like we’re seeing a shift of reach and frequency dollars to us,” Facebook’s Dave Wehner said in an April earnings call. “I think what we’re seeing is people who are driving the kind of direct response actions taking advantage of low prices.”

Feeling the Impact

With COVID-19 affecting all facets of everyday life, it’s no surprise that marketing is also seeing the dramatic impacts of the pandemic. And while some of the changes simply solidify what was already happening in the market, COVID is definitely adding more fuel to the fire. For example, TikTok has become a household term in a world where just a few months ago the typical parent was unfamiliar with the short-form mobile video platform — a platform that  has become a viable channel for reaching younger consumers. The youngest Gen Zs are likely getting as much socialization as possible on platforms like TikTok and Snapchat, all while binging on Netflix as they wait out the COVID-19 threat and state shutdowns.

The crisis is going to change consumers across all age groups, and no one knows for certain what the total impact will be. What we do know is that the shifts are already starting to happen, as evidenced by the TikTok videos featuring parents and their children dancing together, and the fact that Instagram Stories usage is up 15% since the outbreak. These and other platforms are keeping people connected, and they’re also presenting new opportunities for marketers that need ways to reach their youngest consumers.

TikTok added over 12 million U.S. unique visitors in March, reaching 52.2 million, according to eMarketer. “TikTok has been on a growth spurt for several months, even before the pandemic,” the firm points out, adding that as of October 2019, TikTok’s app and websites had 27 million unique visitors, with the app alone accounting for 18.6 million. “But the month-to-month growth between February and March was particularly notable in comparison with previous monthly gains.”

What Are Gen Z and Millennials Up To?

In surveying Gen Z about its routines, media habits, and lives during the viral outbreak, Brainly found that most are turning to social media to pass the time and stay connected, with Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook getting the highest marks from this generation.

Here are other important, COVID-related trends that Hawthorne Advertising has been tracking internally:

  • In terms of social media, Millennials are gravitating toward Instagram and Reddit.
  • There’s also been a big uptick in Twitch usage over the last two months, with live performers among the most active participants on that platform.
  • More Millennials are using YouTube as an information source during the pandemic.
  • Zoom has emerged as the videoconferencing platform of choice for Millennials.
  • Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are popular “binge” targets for both Gen Zs and Millennials.
  • Fans of Instagram, TikTok, Hulu, and the Amazon Firestick, Gen Zs are receptive to pre-roll ads and other targeted advertising approaches on these platforms.
  • Gen Zs are also using GoToMeeting, Zoom, Houseparty, Facebook Messenger, and FaceTime to stay in touch with friends and family during this period.

In assessing Gen Z and Millennials’ post-quarantine media habits and content consumption, YPulse says Netflix will be their must-watch TV platform of choice, but notes that social media content could begin cannibalizing the time these younger generations spend on streaming services.

“While streaming services are reporting massive numbers of new subscribers, our data indicates that the real winner of quarantine viewing is social media,” YPulse reports, noting that a recent survey found that 48% of 13 to 39-year-olds are watching more videos on social media during quarantine, and 40% are now watching videos weekly or more on Instagram (compared to 34% in November 2019).

Get Ready to Turn on the Dime

For marketers who are trying to wrap their arms around these shifts, the best strategy is to embrace the changes and take careful note of their pace of acceleration.

Understand that when we emerge from this crisis — whenever that occurs — you’re not going to be operating in the same world that was put on pause in early-2020. Marketers also need to consider more targeted and customized messaging, as well as dynamic creative optimization, to maximize the engagement with Millennials and Gen Z audiences.

Consider this: In a recent DoSomething survey, 75% of Gen Zs said the top action they wanted to see from brands was ensuring employee and consumer safety, with 73% wanting brands to protect their employees financially. Brands that share positive messages on social media while failing to support their staff are being noticed, Vogue Business reports. “If you’re not authentic, Gen Zs will be the first to raise a red flag. If you are trying to take advantage of the moment, you will lose them so fast.”

Educate yourself on these changes, test out some new strategies, and strap yourself in. It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride filled with both challenges and opportunities, the latter of which will be most available to the companies that stay flexible and fluid enough to turn on a dime right along with their target audiences.

Tailoring Your Marketing Messages to Gen Y and Gen Z Consumers

Generation Y, or better known as Millennials, has been the apple of every marketer’s eye with 73 million strong, and spend a collective of $600 billion annually in the U.S. Now this group who is 24 to 39 years in age and a formidable force across all consumer markets, has another generation at their heels, Generation Z. And it is crucial for marketers to hone their strategy for communication with both Gen Y and Gen Z consumers.

Gen Z

As marketers continue developing and refining their Millennial-targeting strategies, they are now shifting their focus to Gen Z. This group of anyone 23 and younger is now coming to financial maturity, and consists of a massive and influential cohort made up of 65 million individuals. According to Gen Z Insights, as of 2020, this generation makes up 40% of all consumers in the U.S.

This youngest generation will soon outnumber the Millennials, and graduate from allowance-based buying power, bringing their own likes, dislikes, and opinions with them. But if there’s one thing that marketers should know about both Gen Y and Gen Z, it’s this: Don’t assume these are just huge, homogeneous groups who will respond to generic marketing messages.

The Millennial who turns 40 next year, for example, will have decidedly different media consumption and buying habits than, say, a 25-year-old who is just beginning to sort out life’s intricacies. Geography, gender, education level, income, and other individual attributes all have to be factored into the equation when targeting these broad, generational segments. Skip this step and you could find yourself wasting money, time, and energy chasing down way too large of a potential customer segment.

Apple, Xerox, and Nike have all found innovative ways to carve out specific niches within the larger context of both Gen Y and Gen Z. According to YPulse’s latest “youth brand tracker,” for example, YouTube, Nike, and Snapchat are the top three “top cool brands” for Gen Z, while Nike, Netflix, and Savage x Fenty claim the top spots for Gen Y.

Let’s dive into exploring generational segments, identifying some incorrect assumptions marketers make when tailoring their messages to Gen Y and Z, and highlighting some of the most effective platforms for getting messaging across to the nation’s two youngest generations.

Effective Platforms for Messaging Gen Y and Gen Z

Here are the main platforms that marketers use to deliver very targeted messages to Gen Y and Gen Z:

Connected TVs and Devices. This includes any TV or device that’s connected to the Internet and allows users to access content beyond what’s being shown on screen at the time. Connected advertising is an extension of the traditional TV buy that complements a brand’s existing presence on a specific platform. The connected nature of this medium allows companies to measure their reach and frequency across all devices, drill down into specific audience segments (i.e., iPhone users between a certain age range) and gain insights across the full customer journey.

Instagram. Not limited to celebrities who upload their well-posed vacation photos to the platform, Instagram’s photo-and video-sharing social network is actively used by nearly three-quarters (73%) of Gen Z adults (ages 18 to 23 years old). This presents a major opportunity for marketers who want to get their products in front of these young consumers, and who start forming bonds and creating brand awareness with these young adults early in their lives.

TikTok. A social media app where Gen Z vies for 15 seconds of fame on the small screen, TikTok is the fastest-growing social media app, with about 500 million regular users. Users post 15-second videos on the app, which is estimated to have been downloaded more than a billion times on app stores. Marketers can use TikTok to create a channel for their brands and then use it to upload relevant, engaging videos. They can also tap into the platform’s large “influencer” base and leverage it to expose their content to a broad, yet well-targeted, audience of Gen Z consumers.

YouTube. This well-established video-sharing platform has 2 billion users who log in on a monthly basis, including the 81% of American 15 to 25 years old. Among 18 to 34 year-olds, the platform is the second most-preferred platform for watching video on TV screens. With people uploading 500 hours of video every minute, the platform is pretty cluttered. Standing out and growing a YouTube channel requires a targeted approach that includes a unique channel name, a good viewing experience across all devices, calls to action (i.e., to subscribe, share videos, etc.), and incorporating the channel into emails, blog posts, and other social media posts to improve its ability to be discovered.

SnapChat. With 51% of Gen Zers viewing their generation as more creative than any of its predecessors, social apps like SnapChat give them the space they need to be creative in the digital world. They use it to create videos, share images, communicate with friends, and share moments throughout their days. Marketers can harness this platform to post their stories, push out user-generated content, and connect with influencers. For example, Taco Bell was an early SnapChat user that leveraged the platform’s storytelling capabilities to spread the word about new products.

Additional Social Media Channels. As a whole, social media has opened the doors for marketers who can creatively use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to connect with their audiences, build their brands, drive website traffic, and grow their sales. Because each platform has its own mission, goals, and user base, the companies experiencing the most success on social media are the ones that take the time to segment their audiences and use very specific targeting strategies for those consumers.

The Power of TV and Mail

In the rush to select platforms that they think Gen Y and Z naturally gravitate toward, marketers often overlook the power of TV, direct mail, and other mainstays. They wrongly assume that these channels don’t work with younger audiences, but they shouldn’t be overlooked.

In a world where Nielsen says U.S. consumers spend nearly 12 hours daily across TV, TV-connected devices, radio, computers, smartphones, and tablets, the opportunity to engage the younger generations from different angles definitely exists.

Americans aged 18 to 34 watch a daily average of just under two hours of traditional TV and spend an additional hour per day using apps and the web. Consumers aged 12 to 17 watch about an hour and a half of TV daily. Craving personalized, non-digital experiences, younger generations spend about 9.7 minutes reading mail daily (versus about 8 minutes for both Gen X baby boomers).

These numbers translate into real opportunities for marketers that take the time to segment their audiences versus just lumping them into different generational groups. Where you still need a presence on mass platforms like TikTok and Instagram, for example, the messaging itself must be customized, targeted, and experiential.

Not Just Another Number
Marketers who overlook traditional platforms just because they assume Gen Z or Gen Y can only be reached on pure digital platforms are setting themselves up for failure. That’s because both generations are obviously still digesting video content, movies, and TV series via cable, a connected TV device, or on a platform like YouTube.

Target your audience properly, customize it for that consumer group, sell that group an experience (not the product itself), and you’ll come out a winner.

Regardless of which platforms you’re using, remember that Gen Z and Gen Y aren’t cohesive, homogeneous groups. As you use geotargeting and other strategies to segment your audience, be sure to personalize your messages in a way that makes your customer feel like a VIP — and not just another number.

Five Steps To Navigate Gen Z Consumers’ Demand For Sustainable Products

The world is changing. And while one can point to AI, machine learning, privacy literacy or blockchain when referring to change in the world of tech and marketing, the most impactful change will come from a massive shift in consumer behavior. Brands should not wait to witness this impending shift—they need to envision it and embrace it.

The confluence of several trends will lead to a significant paradigm shift in how Gen Z will behave as consumers:

  • The undeniable effects of climate change are now upon us. Both Gen Z and future generations will endure the effects of climate change that they do not deserve unless necessary action is taken now, and there is significant momentum pushing in that direction.
  • The urgency of climate change and the realizations surrounding it have driven a rapidly increasing demand and necessity for the sustainability of goods and services across all sectors.
  • The rise of impact investors (defined as investments made into companies, organizations and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return) will allow for more ethical, sustainable business models to take shape and compete in the marketplace.
  • The slow but continued persistence of the sharing economy, the adoption of a “rent, not own” mentality and the proliferation of on-demand, hardware-intensive services (think Lime or Bird scooters) will lead to decreased personal capital expenditures.
  • The explosion of “capacity capture” businesses such as Lyft and Airbnb point to a future where each and every resource will be utilized to its maximum capacity, not only for profitability, but also to reduce the unnecessary production of new goods.

All of this points to a future where sustainable products are not an option, but rather a requirement for a new generation of consumers. According to Cone Communications, Gen Z will account for 40% of global consumers in 2020 and 94% of them believe that companies should address urgent social and environmental issues. As Gen Z rises in the ranks of the workforce and they increase their purchasing power, they will judge and evaluate products and services with an expansive and decisive set of criteria when deciding on a brand or making a purchase—and brands need to be ready to compete.

According to Greenmatch, 72% of Gen Z would spend more money on goods and services produced in a sustainable fashion. However, in order for your product or your service to even be part of the consideration set, the baseline requirement will be that your brand has a positive impact on the environment—and moreover, that your brand is fully committed to sustainable and ethical practices. Most companies want to participate in sustainable practices, but some do not know where to start. Here are five tactics a company can use to embrace sustainability and be competitive in the marketplace:

  1. Get certified for sustainability. Whether it’s B-CorpTRUE Zero WasteLEEDGreen Business Bureau or other certifications, see what’s right for your brand.
  2. Open up. Provide visibility into your sustainability model, including, for example, your supply chain.
  3. Start small. Limit new sustainable product launches to smaller, focused audience segments; include higher price points to stress test price tolerance.
  4. Iterate. Test messaging and product options with proven, direct-to-consumer playbook tactics to better understand actual product-market fit.
  5. Be real. Don’t Greenwash. If you aren’t there, don’t spin it. Talking about how your product is eco-friendly because you source one sustainable component while the rest of it is associated with toxic practices will not fly.

Consumer behavior is always changing, of course. However, this juncture in human history is wildly different given the climate changes upon us and the effect they will have on how we use our purchasing power. The future is bright, and brands will do well by preparing for this impending shift, embracing it and taking this opportunity to have a positive impact on the world for everyone’s greater good.