Too often, marketers confuse the two youngest generations. These are the generations that grew up on the internet, that created many of the “memes” that have blended into pop culture now. However, there are distinct differences between the cultures of both generations and the marketing tactics that will be effective for them. And in 2023, we should all know by now that no “millennial” is in high school.
Learn the difference between millennials and Gen Z so that you can market to them more effectively.
Millennials vs. Gen Z
Millennials are the generation that grew up around the turn of the 21st century. They were born between 1981 and 1996, putting the youngest millennials at the age of 26 today. Although millennials are still typically considered young adults, these are not teenagers. Millennials are most often working professionals, some of whom have families of their own.
These are the “90s kids,” the ones who grew up as the internet was becoming a household staple and were often teenagers around the popularization of social media. Millennials also came of age in economic collapse, making many burned out with the 9-5 capitalistic routine.
Gen Z came after, once social media was the name of the game. Gen Z was born between the ages of 1997-2012. Many Gen Zers are still in school now, while others are beginning to enter the workforce. Gen Z, or “zoomers” as they’re sometimes called, will make as many friends online as they do in person, giving them a more global perspective of the world. As they also grew up in a very politically divisive climate, Gen Z tends to be passionately interested in social justice.
Marketing Towards Millennials vs. Gen Z
There are many overlaps between these two generations: internet culture, dark humor, expanded awareness of mental illness and normalization of therapy, a focus on diversity and social justice. These are the similarities that often lead to the two groups being lumped together. However, your marketing approach will need to be different when marketing to a millennial audience as opposed to Gen Z. Let’s break down how they respond to these different areas.
Both Gen Z and millennials spend a considerable amount of time online. Millennials are said to spend roughly 7.5 hours online each day, but Gen Z can often spend 10 hours or more online. This is due to the rise of increasingly smart phones, giving them the internet at the touch of their fingertips. While both are likely to make mobile purchases, Gen Z is the most likely generation to make those purchases.
Social Media Platforms
Social media marketing is important for both millennial and Gen Z audiences, but you may need to take a different approach for each. Millennials got in on the ground floor of social media, with platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and Tumblr. Today, they are likely to be found on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn — the latter mostly for professional reasons. These are the trusty old standards where they have built followings and experience in using them.
However, Gen Z was able to get into social media after more options had come into the game. Gen Z often populates the more dynamic social media platforms, such as Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and of course the fast growing Tik Tok. (Many millennials, on the other hand, were initially reluctant of Tik Tok because of its differences from a similar predecessor, Vine.)
Pricing and Discounts
As we’ve stated, Gen Z tends to make the most online or mobile purchases of any generation. That said, Gen Z is less swayed by discounts and special offers than millennials. Both generations grew up in times of recession, though in the case of Gen Z, they were often born into it; on the other hand, millennials were typically born in a time of economic surplus and watched the recession happen in real time.
One thing that shows practical sensibilities about money in Gen Z is the fact that they like to compare prices between different products before making a decision. This generation has grown up able to search for products on Amazon and other major online retailers. They may be more likely to compare a few different products before making a decision.
Millennials and Gen Z both tends to spend far less than previous generations. However, Gen Z makes fewer purchases by far and tends to be more frugal than millennials. A report from Ernst & Young showed that 74% of millennials made online purchases in the past month, with only 49% of Gen Z saying the same. You may have to work harder with Gen Z than ever in order to incentivize them to make a purchase.