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.

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.”

Seeing Is Believing: Why Visual Search Works

Gen Z and millennials have embraced this way of shopping, and it’s time brands did too

Instead of text-based searches and sifting through pages of results, visual search enables enhanced, modern interfaces that help curate and review buying options faster, which comes naturally to Gen Z and millennials. Thanks to the convergence of computer vision, machine learning and neuroscience, visual search is helping marketers meet these customers where they are by returning the most relevant search results based on similarities (e.g., color, style, shape, etc.)

With 90% of information processed by the human brain being visual, and that brain’s ability to identify images it’s viewed for as little as 13 milliseconds, brands using visual search are definitely onto something. These companies are not only feeding the new generations of shoppers’ craving for automation, they’re also opening the window for all generations to test the visual search waters.

The ‘easy’ button
Research shows that 62% of millennials are more interested in visual search capability than any other new technology, and that over 600 million visual searches are done on Pinterest every month. The process finds customers looking for products with a photo or other image versus keywords that are typically used in search engines. They can simply take a picture of the item, upload it to a visual search engine and be presented with the similar items available to purchase. It’s as easy as that.
For example, using an uploaded image of a blue prom dress, a visual search would enable someone to shop for an identical or similar dress online. And because visual search engines rely on neural networks that leverage machine learning, these engines are constantly expanding their fields of experience. As they become “smarter,” these search engines deliver more accurate, relevant results to shoppers.

From Pinterest to Bing to Amazon
Many online brands are successfully using visual search. Pinterest Lens allows customers to use their photo of an item to find out where to buy it or search for similar products, all while viewing ads for options for sale on other platforms; Google Lens recognizes objects and details via a camera; and Bing Visual Search allows consumers to search for specific elements within images (versus having to sort through a list of results) by clicking “visual search.”
Amazon has been in the visual search game since 2019, when it introduced StyleSnap. Shoppers click the camera icon in the upper right hand corner of their Amazon app, select the StyleSnap option, and then upload a photograph or screenshot of the desired outfit. StyleSnap presents recommendations for similar items on Amazon that match the look in the photo, factoring in parameters like brand, price range and customer reviews.

Putting visual search to work
For performance marketers, visual search provides a new channel for reaching Gen Z and millennial consumers who either don’t want to use text-based searches or are seeking new, automated ways to find stuff online. With these new highly visual consumers, and many search engines already offering visual search capabilities, this capability has become an opportunity that direct marketers can’t afford to ignore.
Consider this: Visual results are going to show up higher in a search engine’s rankings. That means your results appear faster, are seen more often and get better conversion rates than non-visual results. Younger generations of shoppers already love visual search, but it won’t be long before all consumers take to it and come to expect it. With 35% of marketers already planning to optimize their own websites for visual search, one can assume that number will only continue to grow in 2021.

As companies look for new ways to harness the attention of younger, tech-savvy shoppers, visual search may rise to the top as an effective way to align the creativity of the human brain with advanced technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence. And with visual search conversions providing 85% higher returns than textual search results, the more “visualized” your brand becomes, the more customers you’ll be able to attract and engage online.

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.

Gen Z Advertising Dos and Don’ts for Marketers

Every day, advertising trends are emerging. These trends and tactics are newly developed as a means to best reach a target audience, whomever it may be. As such, advertisers are utilizing new marketing methods to reach the newcomers on the scene of consumerism: Gen Z. Here are some vital dos and don’ts advertisers should take into account when advertising to the Gen Z audience.

Gen Z Dos and Don'ts with Marketing

DO: Seek to Make an Authentic Connection With Consumers

Authenticity is paramount to a brand’s success in selling to the Gen Z audience. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, making connections has a whole new meaning for Gen Z, with the rise of technology. Social platforms have allowed for connection to feel more personal and more real than ever. As advertisers, taking advantage of this can make all of the difference. The more personalized social media marketing tactics present today make it inherently easier to reach your consumer. As a result, brands are more closely connected to their consumers than ever. Using this close contact to maintain an authentic relationship will go far with Gen Z. Interact with us and stay transparent; keep it real.

DON’T: Stick to Surface Level and Hope the Consumer Comes Knocking

With the tools at hand, not only is it easier than ever to make authentic connections with consumers, but it’s also more important than ever. The deep-rooted marketing tactics that credible companies have long used must be challenged to continue on successfully. Unless a brand’s marketing efforts dive deeper and seek to strike a chord with the emotions of Gen Z, they’ll likely have little to no luck. Remaining surface-level with the message advertised, along with how and what marketers choose to share about their products, just won’t work for a Gen Z audience. As consumers, Gen Z will never resonate with a brand unless there is a deep connection or story that sells the relationship between them and your product. This can only really be done if the campaign messaging hits hard on the reasons why it will truly enhance the lives of Gen Zers.

DO: Genuinely Care About Social Responsibility

One of the more exciting trends Gen Z can’t get enough of is social responsibility. Gen Z cares about the world they live in and the people in it, and are hungry for change to make a better tomorrow. They crave equality and want to help. Though these initiatives going mainstream have inevitably created some misconceptions, the overall adoption of these ideologies by brands is still a positive change, and Gen Z is excited about it. Whether products are ethically sourced and sustainably grown, or a company openly expresses its pro stance for transgender equality or that of female women employees, Gen Z feels incredibly satisfied to see these topics being taken on and embraced by brands.

DON’T: Stretch the Truth About Giving Back

If a company is moving toward more socially responsible initiatives, but isn’t quite there yet, that’s OK. The one thing that’s important to keep in mind as brands work to adopt more sustainable and socially responsible initiatives is to not stretch the truth. Becoming a socially responsible company does not happen overnight. As consumers, younger generations understand that. But during the process, brands should not market their products as sustainable or beneficial to a social justice cause, unless they truly are. Doing so will cause brands to look inauthentic to Gen Z when they do some online sleuthing and quickly find out the truth, ultimately driving away their business. Companies should simply state they are working toward it, and continue to do so. Gen Z prefers and appreciates sincerity and transparency as companies work toward a better future.

DO: Tap Into Trending News and Pop Culture

Pop culture is basically determined by young people. What’s cool, who’s not, and what’s funny on the Internet are some of the things Gen Z have precedence over, as generations prior have also ruled during their adolescence. This is nothing new. Tapping into pop culture can be one of the easiest ways to appeal to the Gen Z audience. Newsjacking, which is when brands creatively tailor trending news stories to bring attention to their own content, has proven successful on a number of occasions. Taking advantage of a situation for a brand’s own benefit seems intuitive and a win-win, as both the story/topic and the brand gain more exposure. However, when specifically targeting a young generation, it is vital to have a deep understanding of the topic before applying it to a brand inaccurately or overdoing it.

DON’T: Overdo the References in an Attempt to Relate to Gen Z

The easiest way to understand Gen Z is to pay attention to the media they consume. With that said, however, it’s important to remember that just because you’re in on a meme about Baby Yoda or Billie Eilish secretly being the same person as Lil Xan, doesn’t mean you can seamlessly relate to them. Though utilizing a pop culture reference can go extremely well in selling to Gen Z, it’s pretty easy to spot when it’s been done incorrectly by an older generational brand. This may seems like a simple way to get on the radar of Gen Z, but it’s really important to make sure it’s  done right. Don’t take advantage of pop culture references and don’t overuse them for the sake of a potentially easy connection. Only newsjack pop culture and trending news if it really fits in with your brand identity and if you really understand the happenings.

How-tos for Generational Marketing to Millennials vs. Gen Z

Millennials and Generation Zers are both notorious for shaking up the status quo in more ways than one. They’ve both broken out of a shell that generations prior were determined to mold themselves to. This fact, along with their closeness in age, have led many to believe that they have a lot of commonalities that can accommodate similar generational marketing strategies.

Millennial and Gen-Z Marketing

While they are adjacent generations, the qualities in which they have gained notoriety differ, especially as consumers. The rise of the newest wave of consumers, who make up roughly 40% of all customers in the market, is certainly creating changes as Gen Z’s desires are not perfectly aligned with their older generational neighbors. The people who make up this group were born between 1997 and 2012.

At the same time, this does not imply that advertisers should stop pushing their marketing efforts toward Millennials. Simply put, Millennials largely contribute to the U.S. economic capital with a generational wealth estimated at $24 trillion. This group is made up of people born between 1981 and 1996.

With these statistics in mind, it is important that brands learn how to make the most of both unique generational consumer behaviors. Here are different elements advertisers should keep in mind when targeting a Millennial vs. a Gen Z demographic.

Similarities

Before we break down the differences these two generations have as consumers, it’s important to acknowledge they do still have quite a bit in common. First, both groups are well-versed in social media and the amount of time they spend plugged in doesn’t vary too drastically.

Even at an average of 20 minutes less per day, Millennials were young and impressionable when the age of the Internet came to be and, as such, they are just about as savvy in social media as is Gen Z.

Second, both generations place importance on diversity, equality, and progressive social values. In contrast to generations prior, Millennials and Gen Zers have questioned many social norms that Boomers and Gen Xers have accepted as reality.

Though there are undoubtedly many similarities in the grand scheme of things, these generational differences must also be considered in order for marketers to successfully cater to both.

Attitude Toward Spending

Interestingly, the way Millennials’ and Gen Zers’ finances differ is quite great.

Many Millennials were young adults when the Great Recession hit the U.S. in 2007. Growing up with a poor economy at large taught this group to place value on quality over quantity, as they remain mostly optimistic about their personal finances.

With Gen Z being quite young at the start of the economic downturn, this generation adopted the notion of practicality and financial preparation from an early age.

How Can Brands Successfully Cater to Both Spending Behaviors?

For Millennials, quality over quantity means they are looking to invest their money in brands that create a unique product or experience that will noticeably enhance their quality of living. Millennials are inclined to do significant research before making a purchase, ensuring they’ve found the most beneficial product or experience for them. This is good news for marketers, as Millennials are constantly on the lookout for the next best thing to help them in their everyday lives. All brands need to do is prove they are the ones Millennials should be investing their time and money in, and they may have customers for life.

For Gen Z, it’s best to get right to it. Let the consumer know exactly why the product or experience is the best one for them and why it’s worth the money. As previously mentioned, this generation is very focused on responsible spending as a result of their early memories of the Great Recession. So, if you want to sell to Gen Z, make sure you keep your brand’s feet firmly planted on the ground. Approach selling in a practical manner and make sure your product has a clear purpose for its consumer.

Feeling Connected Through Social Media

It is apparent that both generations are avid social media users, and the feeling of connection that social media creates is well enjoyed by both. However, the ways they best receive those feelings of connection vary.

Millennials feel most connected through the more traditional sharing, pinning, and forwarding; predominantly on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Gen Zers have had social media at their fingertips for the majority of their lives and, as a result, they consume more media on fewer platforms. This group is very visual and prefers rapid consumption, mainly through Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and, most recently, TikTok.

How Can Brands Leverage Connection in Their Marketing Efforts?

Millennials prefer the more traditional social media platforms and sharing techniques, because they’re easy ways to feel seen and heard. Brands can leverage this in their customer journeys through interaction: asking consumers questions, encouraging them to communicate in comments sections, and more. This creates a space where Millennials feel valued and contributes to their attitude that a brand can better their lives on a deeply personal level.

Gen Z’s short attention span makes their marketing needs exclusively geared toward them. Cut to the chase and get down to benefits of the product — this is the best way to reach them on their preferred social platforms. Utilizing influencers for brand marketing is an effective way to connect to this audience. With 10-second Instagram stories and #sponsored posts, brands can use their preferred social platforms to connect in a unique way that feels authentic to Gen Z.

Embracing Generational Differences as Marketers and Advertisers

As two groups who came one after the other, it’s no surprise that Millennials and Generation Z are very similar. Both known for questioning common ideas the predecessing generations easily accepted, the two generations have redefined marketing in a new era for brands. They value authenticity, social responsibility, and inclusion. But both have different consumer behaviors when it comes to their finances and how they connect. For marketers, it is more important than ever to optimize and strategize based on their ever-changing habits as consumers