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Guest Post - Marketing to Millennials & Gen Z: What's the Difference?

Millennials (or Gen Y) include everyone born between 1981 and 1996, and Gen Z is defined as everyone born after 1997, which makes it the largest and most ethnically diverse demographics. That's about 64% of the population!

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The following post is a guest contribution from MarketSplash - a digital marketing and design magazine company.

The world we are living in today is quite different from the one we knew last year. It is being reshaped by coronavirus and it’s hard not to notice. We’ve been through a lot since January, the aftermath is still unclear and we have an endless number of issues to contend with as we move forward. We are facing changes to the way we work, study, travel, shop, visit our hair stylists or eat in restaurants - the changes are felt throughout every aspect of our lives.

We don’t know yet how exactly we will be marketing to Millennials and Gen Z in the near future, but we can take a look at how it’s been happening till now, considering the demographic targeting approach.

Millennials vs. Gen Z: Similarities

First, let’s identify what age groups are referred to as Millennials and Generation Z. Millennials (or Generation Y) include everyone born between 1981 and 1996, and Gen Z is defined as everyone born after 1997, which makes it pretty clear that we are talking about the largest and most ethnically diverse demographics that make up 64% of the world’s entire population - or 4.7 billion people. Though we know that these two generations have a lot in common since both are tech-savvy, with Gen Z particularly valuing brand authenticity (according to report by CNBC), they have been shaped by different times and events, and most brands prefer to market to them through demographic segmentation. These “different times” suggest that each generation experienced unique historic, social, economic, and environmental events that shape their buying habits. Talking about such particular events for Millennials and Gen Z’ers is beyond the scope of this article, but there are some things worth mentioning in regards to marketing to these audiences.

According to the 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Gen Z Purpose Study, 87% of surveyed Gen Z’ers are worried about the environment, while 90% believe companies should drive positive change. Because of this, brands viewed as inauthentic brands actively promoting and doing good might not resonate with Gen Z. Both Millennials and Gen Z love Instagram, but while Millennials mainly use it to share images and engage with their friends and bloggers, Gen Z  likes Instagram for its Stories feature. According to the statistics, Gen Z’ers are known to be the main content consumers out there. They consume up to ten hours of content every day - including 70 videos on average. The information has to be quick and easy for consumption and Instagram seems to be the right platform for that. It makes sense to mention that Gen Z loves to create video content of their own. They enjoy curating visually supported stories to share with their own audiences. These stories tend to be short. While Millennials don’t mind long-form written content, Generation Z is not the same. If their attention isn’t captured within the first few seconds of reading or watching, they most likely will proceed to the next piece and never come back.

Therefore, when you create content for Gen Z, create short articles, full of visual elements. Gen Z’s attention can be captured successfully by videos, branded images, simplified graphs, and stats. Using visual content is recommended because they will respond better to it and the message you are trying to get across might register better.

Favorite Platforms

One of the best examples of what kind of social media platform Generation Z is mostly attracted to is Tik Tok. This app is relatively new, but it has been downloaded over 1.5 billion times on the Apple Store and Google Play and currently has about over 800 million active users worldwide - leaving behind such giants as LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat. There are plenty of Millennials who have no idea what Tik Tok really is, but a Gen Z’er not knowing what TikTok is - well, that’s pretty unlikely. With intelligent algorithms that provide the high functionality of the app, Tik Tok is definitely setting a precedent of how a social media platform of the future will be designed. The app allows its users to create and share micro-videos enhanced by a filter, background music, and their own sound recording on top.

There are a few current trends within Tik Tok, including lip-synced songs, memes, and comedy videos. You can post about anything including fitness, hobbies, travel, culinary art, photography, etc. - all categories are gaining enormous attention and lets anyone who is able to creatively adapt their content to a 15 seconds long video model become overwhelmingly popular and get thousands, if not millions, of followers. If you are an association that is trying to increase the Gen Z membership - TikTik might be a great way to connect and engage with prospective members. Since they respond well to short videos, are aware of what TikTok is and a lot of them are already using it, all the right tools are already in place. With Tik Tok, you can employ the technique of Branded Hashtag Challenges which are themes generated by brands or different businesses associated with a promoted hashtag. The goal is to set users off to create videos around the theme and when shared, these videos become a part of a brand takeover ad or in-feed native ad campaigns.

As it was mentioned previously, Gen Z loves to create content themselves, so they can be easily motivated to participate in these interactive hashtag challenges. Another platform Generation Z gravitates towards is Snapchat - a multimedia messaging app with some very specific features of its own. Gen Z’ers use this platform to socialize with a large group of friends by sending filtered images or recordings that are accessible only for a short period of time. If you are a marketer who wants to engage with this particular demographic, you can do it via creating AR (augmented reality) experiences and fun filters. Snapchat has become one of those quarantine-friendly apps which has gained popularity among remotely-working Millennials due to video calls and web-conferencing-like features, as well as the ability to apply AR lenses during  video calls. This turned out to be a very useful feature for co-workers to cheer each other up during this strange time of shelter-in-place life. Snapchat reported an increase for video calls up 50 percent in late March and April versus February.

Marketers who want to reach their audience through this platform should embrace AR since this emerging technology allows brands to create a uniquely immersive experience that can be very appealing to both Gen Zers and Millennials. Now let’s see what are the most important differences when marketing to those generations.

Millennials vs. Gen Z: Differences

Both Millennials and Gen Z’ers value authenticity. Let’s see what it means for Millennials. They want committed brands with pure, natural, simple and preferably local products. For millennials, authenticity is not a trend, it’s more of an ethical choice and lifestyle. Ask yourself why there is always such a long queue of young people at locally owned ice cream shops, or why there are so many Millennials who love craft beer and made-in-house artisan pizza. Things changed when we entered the digital era. Now, when social media is dominated by Millennials and by Gen Z’ers, they both require different marketing strategies to get them aboard whatever it is that you’re selling.

One way to do so is by adapting to their specific needs and requirements, otherwise you can easily become obsolete from their perspective. The Millennial's impact on the following generation is tremendous. Gen Z’ers are picking up and emulating whatever Millennials do, but their desire towards authenticity is going a step further. Gen Z see it as a personal obligation to make this world cleaner, safer, and a better place and they have already shown evidence of an active social conscience on a very noticeable scale. Therefore, when you are marketing to Gen Z, outright selling of a product or a service might not go as well. What you should market to Gen Zers is the experience and nothing but the experience. Another point to remember is that they are very tech-savvy. Accessing information online and finding out facts about certain companies takes mere minutes - they won’t be easily fooled. After all, Gen Z’ers have a unique relationship with the most powerful force of the modern world - technology.

Generation Z spends a lot of time on social media platforms. Their social life is centered around these overarching sites where they spend hours and hours online. On the contrary, Gen Z is much less idealistic than Millennials, and much more pragmatic; they tend to treat social media platforms differently. Young adults on these platforms are constantly learning something new; they are consuming a significant amount of content, they are persistent, they want truth and justice and they want to be engaged by “real people”. So, when you want to persuade Gen Z to buy something, use an influencer who can share real experience, not just glamour. While Millennials can be more easily converted from visitors into customers, if you follow the strategy of authenticity and offer them the product that matches their criteria, the younger generation would need some real motivation for making that purchase. Another thing that differs Millennials from Gen Z’ers is Brand Loyalty. Guess who is less label focused and who doesn’t care much about brand loyalty programs? Gen Z! The younger population that live inside their comfortable echo-chambers on YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. They don’t mind buying from brands, but these brands should feel like friends to them, and gaining their trust can be tricky. Therefore, try to optimize your content specifically for the platform, where you are going to target Gen Z or Millennials. Gen Z’ers prefer video content from trustful online personas and Millennials wouldn’t mind reading a long article as long as it’s smartly written and complies with their own perceptions. Millennials actually read more than any other demographic group, so well-written content marketing should not be overlooked by marketers.

For both demographics - make all your marketing content share-worthy. It has to be relevant and interesting at the same time, so that your audience should feel the urge to share it with their own friends and subscribers. Both Millennials and their younger counterparts hate cheap marketing and fake reviews. The reaction might be different though. Millennials will simply ignore you, while Gen Z’ers will share your content with the worst comments possible and convert your online existence into a living nightmare. They have tools for that, so be careful.

Also, don’t forget about omnichannel marketing. It means that both Millennials and Gen Z enjoys visiting stores and malls, so it’s important to cultivate their in-store experience. According to a survey done by A.T. Kearney, Generation Z spends quite a bit of time in brick and mortar stores where they can disconnect from the online world. After all, Gen Z has quite a bit of money to spend and if you want to stay relevant and be appreciated, make sure that you invest your time into devising a well-crafted strategic marketing strategy.

Author Bio
Darya Jandossova Troncoso is a photographer, artist and writer working on her first novel and managing two digital marketing blogs - MarketTap and MarketSplash. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and creating art.