millennials vs Gen Z

Between continually shifting markets and an influx of startups popping up daily, reaching online shoppers is more competitive than ever. Knowing your audience and reaching them on an emotional level is critical to gaining their business.  

The largest share of the marketing economy now belongs to younger generations. The trick to marketing to these somewhat diverse demographics is to speak to them on their level without pandering or coming off as inauthentic.  


Today's consumers are more savvy than ever, both in terms of consumer knowledge and technology. It's essential for marketers to not only differentiate between those born before 2000 and Generation Z, but to understand their behaviors, unique pain points, and where they are in their customer journey.  


Most importantly, how do you gain their loyalty once they've become aware of your brand? Younger consumers who are armed with information and options have no problem checking out the competition if they feel that they can receive better products, customer service, or perks elsewhere.  


Marketing Statistics by Demographic 


Marketing demographics can be broken down into many segments, and each have different needs and characteristics. That's true with traditional marketing platforms, but it's even more so when it comes to social media. As platforms mature, so does their audience. The social network that was trending two years ago will be abandoned quickly by younger consumers if something more exciting and viable comes along in the meantime. We're seeing this now in terms of what's trending on TikTok versus YouTube 


Here's what you're facing in terms of demographics. 


  • If you want to reach any market, social media is the way to go. As of the fourth quarter of 2021, there were more than 1.8 billion daily active users (DAUs) across all social media platforms. The big four are still Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, with LinkedIn following swiftly behind as B2B marketers and workers of all ages search for new ways to market themselves. 


  • 88 percent of the US population over the age of 11 owns a smart phone. For those who are counting, that adds up to approximately 250 million people. A whopping 41 percent of that total are under the age of 40.


  • Mobile advertising is outpacing traditional digital marketing for reaching younger audiences. As a result, the ad spend for mobile marketing is expected to exceed $240 billion by the end of 2022


  • Next to social media, email marketing is still an effective way to reach an audience. About 63 percent of the millennial group check their email multiple times during the day, as compared to 58 percent of the Z generation. 


  • Both groups also respond to real people in advertisements, but in different ways. Those who are in the Z demographic will believe a peer over a paid celebrity 63 percent of the time. Millennials, on the other hand, appear to follow influencers more often, with only 37 percent being swayed by non-celebrities.


Know Your Audience 


Within the broader groups of younger consumers are a range of other demographics that matter, such as: 


  • Occupation
  • Education level
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Geolocation 


The more you understand and refine your marketing strategy to your target audience, the more likely you are to reach - and keep - their business. You need a generational marketing plan that's segmented and flexible enough to keep pace with changing tastes, trends, and economic realities.  


Next-Gen Marketing Strategies 


It's easy, even trendy, to lump all people under a certain age into one group and call them Millennials. But the fact is, the older range of these online shoppers are now entering their early 40s. What they care about now isn't the same as it was five years ago.


Likewise, the older segment of Gen Z has now come of age, and they're entering the market in droves.  


Your marketing campaigns should use demographic data to inform marketing decisions in four main categories: 


  • Ad spend: Use information from marketing industry sources to create an advertising budget. Demographic breakdowns are available from publications for radio advertising, email, and websites. 


  • Social media engagement: Use resources like the Pew Social Media Fact Sheet to gain a deeper insight into social media use by demographic


  • Image selection: Although telling your story is important for audience connection, an image is worth a thousand words. Studies show that younger audiences connect better with real video and images than stock footage and photos. 


  • Ad placement: Where you place your ads will also affect brand awareness and engagement. Consider that urban users have access to more public spaces in addition to online platforms, while rural consumers may only access brand via their website or mobile app. You should also consider the most popular online platforms for your demographic. 


The demographic makeup for each audience is different as well. The Millennial generation make up a slightly larger marketing audience, but Gen Z has a broader age range. In general, Millennials (22% of the population) are those born between 1981 and 1996. Generation Z (20.4%) is segmented by those born between 1997 and 2012. As you can see, all of those who could be labeled as 'Millennial' are decidedly adult, while many Z consumers are still children or just coming of age. Their journeys, pain points, and access to disposable income are different.  


Much has been written about the Millennial market since their rise to demographic dominance. It would be easy to overlook the power of Generation Z and write them off as children. However, these younger consumers total one-fifth of all online shoppers.  


The younger generation are also digital natives. Technology is something they were born with, and none of them remember a time before social media or smart phones. They also tend to be more diverse, gender-fluid, open-minded, and experimental. Surprisingly, they also have about $44 billion in buying power. Your ideal persona should reflect these characteristics.  


Here are four actionable marketing strategies that you can take right now that will reach both audiences. 


  1. Share your story. Younger generations want to be seen and feel heard. They're also highly empathetic. Tell your story in an authentic way that connects on an emotional level using images, blog posts, and video. How-to, tutorials, and user-generated content work well. 


  1. Demonstrate diversity. These demographics want to see authentic representation. Don't pander or use tokenism, but do demonstrate accessibility and inclusivity in the everyday use of your brand. It's also good to promote how your brand contributes to self-expression and self-determination. 


  1. Pick a cause. Younger consumers have to be more selective in how they spend their disposable income, and they want to support brands they can feel good about. Become active in your communities by demonstrating the ways your brand support the causes they believe in or how you give back to the community. Highlight concepts like sustainability, social responsibility, and innovation. As with everything, be authentic.


  • Keep it positive. There is a lot to fear in the world, and negativity in general is at an all-time high. Newer generations want to remain positive and have a hopeful view of the future. Avoid marketing through fear and focus on the positive.

Demographic segmentation, especially by age group, is critical to personalization and successful campaigns. The more narrower and refined your audience segments are, the more you can personalize and position specific selling points at scale. Millennials and Gen Z, while sharing some commonality, are ultimately two very different groups that require unique strategies for each. Taking into account each group's behaviors, preferences, and backgrounds will help inform and elevate your next strategy.


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