Millennial vs. Gen Z Marketing

The spending power in our global economy is shifting, and marketers see who’s taking the reins. Their strategy is shifting appropriately too⎯depending on your age, you may now see ads that you just can’t relate to anymore, or suddenly find that you do. Many businesses still consider Gen X (1965-1980, mature professionals) and Baby Boomers (post-World War II children, now in or reaching retirement) to be the consumers in charge. However, Millennials and Gen Z now hold substantial influence. And with significant expectations. Here’s what you need to know about who these kids are, and why their differences matter to your marketing strategy.


Who are Millennials?

Millennials, also known as Gen Y, were born between roughly 1981-1996. Their youngest demographics are in their early to mid-twenties, recent college graduates and young professionals. Their eldest are in their mid to late-thirties, in the rites of adulthood and career take-off —some are even established members of government, such as famed congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As of 2019, this generation is projected to surpass the population of Baby Boomers in the United States. This population shift is the main reason why marketing towards Millennials is so important.

During their development, Millennials experienced a rapidly changing and unstable world. They’ve grown up with technology evolving from floppy discs to smart technology, saw the September 11th terrorist attacks and the housing and financial crisis, and helped elect the first African American president and win same-sex marriage equality. Compared to previous generations, Millennials are less likely to adhere to traditional lifestyle choices like practicing religion or starting a family young. They are more likely to self-identify as liberals, are more racially and ethnically diverse, and are projected to be the most educated generation in American history. Therefore, pay attention to the values of your brand. As a more socially progressive generation, Millennials are less likely to spend time and money on companies that don’t share their values.

Also, as they’re so well-versed in technology, Millennials make up roughly half of the American advertising fields’ workforce themselves. So how do you market to marketers? For one, make sure your digital imprint is clear and accessible. Website and social media should be both informative and aesthetically pleasing, and absolutely be mobile-friendly.

Tips for Marketing to Millennials

  • Don’t market too young: remember, Millennials are adults now
  • Configure mobile-friendly platforms
  • Share real, engaging social media content consistently
  • Create aesthetically pleasing and informative websites

Pro Tip: Relate!

If you’ve seen ads targeting “90’s Kids” and “Nostalgia Culture,” then you’ve seen Millennial marketing in action! Millennials are known to be quite attached to the pop culture and aesthetics from their youth. The resurgence of the Pokémon franchise and trend of rebooting movies and television shows, such as Ghostbusters and Queer Eye, are prime examples of companies and media capitalizing on Millennials’ investment in the past that built them.

Who is Gen Z?

Teenagers! Mostly. Researchers haven’t officially settled on a cap for their demographic, but the consensus generally hovers around 1997-2010. So, Gen Z (also known as the iGeneration and Centennials) consists of budding teens to budding adults. They show similar political values as Millennials, but they’re projected to be an even larger population and even more diverse and well-educated than Millennials.

Gen Z has been similarly influenced by 9/11 and the Great Recession, but these events have made them more risk-averse than their Millennial predecessors. Having been born with the internet in their homes, they are used to having on-demand access to news, communication, entertainment, and commerce. These factors are driving the expectation that Gen Z will be an especially entrepreneurial generation.

So, absolutely optimize for mobile, since that’s the device Gen Z is most likely to consume content on. Being children of the internet, they have a short attention span for ads, and trust a more conversational voice rather than authoritative. Apps like Snapchat and Instagram are key platforms to reach them. Snackable advertising such as short videos and Story posts are perfect scrolling material for them to reach their micro-moment. Using memes and emojis in your digital content will also catch their attention.

Tips for Marketing to Gen Z

  • Optimize all platforms for mobile
  • Share short, engaging social media content
  • Strategize for Snapchat and Instagram especially
  • Use an approachable rather than authoritative voice
  • Consider incorporating memes and emojis

Pro Tip: Beware!

Gen Z is savvy and vocal. They recognize marketing efforts that try too hard to attract them without walking the walk. Just like Millennials, they want to support brands that align with their values of inclusivity, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility. Notorious ad fails like the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial, the trend of selling rainbow products during Pride month without partnering with LGBT+ organizations or charities, and overusing youth slang are often seen as empty pandering. As a large population with hefty buying power, your business can’t afford for these kids to “cancel” you.

The Future of Marketing: Generation Alpha

The children of Millennials already have their name. Generation Alpha is being raised on screen—like Gavin and Ava, sweethearts of defunct video app Vine—and with screens in their hands. They will be the most technologically literate generation the world has ever seen. They’re growing up with the development of AI, voice-recognition, and virtual reality, too. So not only will video continue to dominate their marketing consumption, advertising may become more interactive than ever before.

As the saying goes, the children are the future. Moreso, the children are the present, and we know how to reach them. Just remember to optimize for mobile, brand with aesthetics in mind, think snackable advertising, and understand that your values are more transparent to these technological generations than ever before. And for you extra trendy marketers, don’t forget the flair of cultural references and the inevitability of an artificially intelligent future. For more tips or a consultation on how to craft your digital marketing for Millennials and Gen Z audiences, contact us!