For marketers, young people are a coveted demographic. Millennials and Gen Z represent an enormous (and growing) amount of purchasing power and, thanks to the internet and social media, they’re accessible in more places and more ways than ever before.
Marketing to Millennials isn’t the same as marketing to Gen Z, though. Beyond their different needs and tastes, these generational groups approach online advertising and purchasing differently, and brands and marketers will have to adjust if they want to reach them effectively.
Generation Z is made up largely of teens — those born from 1996-2010. Millennials, born between 1980 and 1995, are a little bit older and are now beginning to buy homes and build families. From different attitudes toward ad blockers and celebrities to unique perspectives on online video and multi-tasking, Millennials and Gen Z are forever changing the face of marketing, albeit in very different ways. Here are the key differences between marketing to Millennials and Gen Z that advertisers should know.
Gen Z consumers and users are looking for authenticity in marketing. Sixty-three percent of Gen Z users want to see real people in advertisements, and 70% of teens on YouTube say that they relate to YouTuber creators more than traditional celebrities. By comparison, only 37% of Millennials said that they prefer real people in ads, and 40% of Millennials said that they believed their favorite YouTube creators might understand them better than their friends.
Gen Z isn’t immune to the influence of celebrities, though — in fact, 29% of Gen Z is heavily influenced by celebrities (versus 19% of Millennials). But in the age of crossover stars when influencers are also becoming mainstream stars, Gen Z’s definition of “celebrity” is evolving.
A survey of over 1,400 people found that 74% of Millennials shop online at least once per month while only 49% of Gen Z could say the same. There’s no question that Millennials are doing more purchasing online, but a major contributing factor is age, as many Gen Z users aren’t credit cardholders, nor do they have a need to purchase items online regularly.
Millennials are also more concerned with price and, as a result, more apt to respond to bargains and deals — a survey found that 67% of Millennials were willing to visit a website to get a coupon, but only 46% of teens were willing to do the same.
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Gen Z and Millennials both spend a lot of time looking at screens — about 17 hours each day. But habits during screen time differ between Millennials and Gen Z users. Where Millennials’ favorite website is Amazon.com, Gen Z users are more excited by YouTube.
Gen Z users are spending a lot of time watching online video, too. Seventy-two percent of Gen Z visits YouTube every day, compared to just 52% of Millennials making daily visits to the platform. The same trend holds true for streaming. Forty-seven percent of Millennials stream TV for over an hour each day, compared to 51% of Gen Z users.
Online ads are a major focus for brands and marketers looking to reach these younger users in digital spaces. Polls suggest that online ads are more effective among millennial users, though. Seventy-one percent of Millennials said that they’d been exposed to an ad for a company before making a purchase, but only 59% of Gen Z users said the same.
Millennial users might be more aware of online ads given their tendency to shop online more frequently, but another contributing factor might be that Gen Z users are slightly more likely to have ad blocking software installed. Marketing to Gen Z through traditional online advertising is even more difficult than marketing to Millennials via the same methods, either because of where they spend time online, how they spend that time, or, more likely, a combination of the two.
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A frequent talking point surrounding younger generations is attention span. It’s true that attention spans are short and getting shorter. Millennials have an average attention span of 12 seconds. For Gen Z, that number has shrunk to just 8 seconds.
It’s not just about time, though. Gen Z is also splitting attention between more tasks and screens. Millennials use an average of three screens, but Gen Z users average five screens. This provides more opportunities to reach Gen Zers in different ways, but it comes with a danger: If content fails to capture the attention of a Gen Z user in 8 seconds, they’ll likely skip, scroll past, or ignore advertising content.