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Generational Marketing - Millenials and Gen Z

By admin 15 December 2017
Generational Marketing - Millenials and Gen Z

Let's talk Millennials and Gen-Z.

And, I'll try not to mention avocados...

Launching a brand or even an idea can be really daunting. How will it be received? How will your audience react, respond and interact with you? And, if they do react, will it be in the way you wanted? When it comes to marketing to a target audience one of the first things to work out is the generational category into which they fall… Yes, as well as slotting ourselves into pre-judged class, race and geography we are also subdivided into decades of birth. It's unavoidable and it is vitally important to not ignore this specific audience categorisation.  So, what does it all mean, is it true and how might it affect your campaign or promotion?


What is generational marketing?

Generational Marketing is an approach to marketing which utilizes generational segmentation in marketing strategies and communications.   

What is the definition of a generation?

The literal description of a 'generation' is simply a group of people born around the same time and place. These people tend to show similar preferences, traits and values throughout their lives. If you can define who they are and what they value you are given a powerful insight into what certain individuals connect with and respond to. There are big differences between the generations and it is important to identify what these differences are.  

What are these 'shared characteristics'?

Generations have shared experience, predominantly, they experience the same trends at the same time. Online trends, means of communication and mobile are all things that each generation has experienced differently. These birth-cohorts have a unique experience which only they identify with and so develop their own influences, values and outlook. Once you understand that, you are given insight into how to connect with certain people. For example, if I was likened to Tom from Myspace as an indicator of my relevance I'd probably be offended, whereas my Mum and 15 year old niece would just stare at me blankly and ask 'your space?&rsquo

Now for the two that will be the focus of this article...

  • Millennials aka Gen Y

Born 1977 to 1995. Millennials have been born into a world undergoing rapid technological change. They are less concerned with 'community' as those before them and are more involved in money, fame and image... Millennials do have some positives though, they are more open-minded and more supportive of gay rights and equality etc. They are also more expressive, confident and liberal and far more receptive to change. As a millennial myself I will admit that I pride myself on being open-minded and concerned with world affairs but, I'm more likely to put a nice pic on Instagram than attend a community watch meeting. The 'self-centered' approach that is often given to Gen Y’ers may also be something to do with the coinciding rise in individualism and self-confidence.


  • Gen Z, iGen or Centennials

Born 1996 and later. They are the global generation that has never known a world without technology or the threat of terrorism. They have grown up with social media and the internet as their seventh sense, early adopters of all things digital and are now seen as the pop-culture leaders!

Who is your main audience and why?

There tend to be two key Gen’s that are targeted online and that's these two. Why? They are much more influenced by media and social. Not because they are more gullible, but because they are more immersed in it. Millennials currently make up the largest percentage of the workforce and are also the largest group of customers. Gen Z, are following quickly in their footsteps!

Firstly, you’ll have heard a LOT of talk about the Millennial, perhaps something about a Millennials evil yet lazy plot using nothing but an avocado? (First and last mention of the dreaded avo). A Millennial is born before 1995 and reached young adulthood in 2000ish.

Secondly, there's this Generation Z, the 'youths' of today or the 'post-millennials'. Now, these guys are slightly less pigeon-holed... They are still accused of being lazy by the older generations but they also have some differences. By 2020 Gen Z will account for 40% of all consumers.

Many brands are still (understandably) focusing on millennial marketing but Gen-Z is set to dominate...

So what are the key differences between these 2 key demographics and how does it affect your approach?

If you take a look at when these generations were actually born and when they grew up you start to find the roots to the fundamental differences.

Millennials came into adulthood in a recession and have had financial instability hammered into them from all angles. They were born to parents who achieved whilst they themselves struggle to buy a house. As well as this, they witnessed the cultural and social punch to the stomach on September 11th, 2001. This generation was old enough to witness and never forget the day that threat to our lives and culture was brought into the mainstream… I know, this is doom and gloom but also very relevant. On a lighter note, this generation was part of the tech revolution. Millennials remember fighting over the phone line to use dial-up and playing solitaire to pass the time. They were then subsequently wowed by the emergence of wireless and iPhones.

giphy-downsized (3)

from giphy.com

Gen-Z have been born into a time where technology is a given, having information at your fingertips is the norm and the explosion of bouncing cards when completing solitaire does not give them a thrill. They were also born into a generation that does not remember the actual day of 9/11. They did not witness the shift in culture or remember the change in airport security because they can’t remember any different.

Though there are only a few years between it is worth remembering the foundations on which theses cohorts are set.

Social, Technology and Attention Span

According to research, there are three main factors that shape a generation: their age, societal norms and TECHNOLOGY. Gen Z do not know a time without it, they favour streaming and are actually less responsive and unused to live broadcasting and the dreaded ad break! They consume their data and entertainment in snippets, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat and even Vine (RIP) are prime examples of this. Due to this, Gen Z, though in tune to process information quicker, are also likely to have a shorter attention span than Millennials. Don’t let these goldfish memories deter you though, these Gen-Zers have a fast, highly selective eye and become obsessively engaged!

A perfect example of a this is the new(ish) addition of Snapchats ‘Featured’ stories. A perfect, quick and engaging way to grab attention. The main attraction here is down to the fact you can skip the story and subscribe to the publishers you are most interested in. You can tailor your own content and news to what you are interested in and simply tap to skip if you’d rather see what's next.

giphy-downsized (4)

from giphy.com

Still wondering what contrast technological interest and understanding can make? Members of the Silent Generation (born before 1945) are most likely to read and react to newspapers, not social media and blogs! Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) are more likely to use traditional online sources, Gen Z and Millenials are more accustomed to instant gratification and are more likely to get their information online. ALLgenerations use online searches before purchasing a product or service!

Money and Bargains

This aspect to their characters is firmly rooted in the economic and political landscape into which they were born and in which they became young adults. Millennials care more about prices than Gen Z and this is inevitably down to an upbringing during the recession years. A staggering 67% of millennials said they'd go to a website in search of a discount coupon as opposed to only 46% of Gen Z's! Who doesn’t have a quick scan on ‘Vouchercodes’ before doing ANYTHING EVER?!

Expectations and reach

Gen-Z is more global… they are actually considered the first ‘global-generation’ as they were born into the age of the internet rather than the old ‘modem-noise-millennials. Kids today could actually be seen as having morein common with their international peers than with adults in their own country. The global reach and influence are definitely worth bearing in mind, never underestimate the Gen-Zers! Remember Generation Z have never lived in a world without internet! Their barrier to real-time information and events has been pretty much non-existent.

This global reach and infinite and immediate access to material mean that Gen-Z has high expectations of you. There has been a shift in loyalty to business that permeates into the Millennials too. If you are not providing what they want they will move on to the next, it’s about being loyal to them as opposed to them being loyal to you. In fact, the idea of gaining additional access and priority through loyalty is a hard one to maintain unless you are a prime luxury and established company. If they've got to work for it? Expect that short Vine-induced attention span to flick over to the next offer.  


How can your brand engage with Gen-Z and how does it differ from the Millennial

I'm hoping the above has made some sense and given some clarity as to who and what these key generations are.... And so, without further ado, how exactly do you connect with these people? I'm guessing a lot of people reading this will be millennials (is that because I’m an ignorant and self-involved millennial myself?) So the main focus is how to entice the oh-so-complicated youth of today!

Tone of voice and morals

As consumers, Gen Z are early adopters of social networks. They are the first to jump on new technology and trends and are suspicious of conventional approaches to adverts. This combination of interests and traits make them both exceptionally engaging and reachable BUT also, due to this vast access, you need to catch that attention! You are looking to connect and be friends! Rather than talk at them try to talk with them, allow for easy interaction!

With this in mind remember to approach it informally. Don’t dumb down but don’t go old school. This generation wants a relatable, honest and down to earth voice. They want an intimate and more personal relationship with a brand. So engaging in an open, honest and authentic way is paramount! The Huffington post has got this concept just right, renaming the famous acronym 'ROI' from Return On Investment to Return on Interaction. Make sure you have resources in place to build quality relationships.  

Don’t go in with your LOLS and your SMH though, and DEFINITELY no ROFL’s, you’ll just get the same reaction you gave your Dad that time he said ‘coolio’... In fact, these acronyms are evidence of being nothing more than a try-hard. The youth of today want to be treated as grownups - so do it. Be authentic and respectful with just the right level of relatability and have fun.



This is a GIVEN and due to Google’s imminent changes in mobile first indexing, it is paramount that you relay any content in a mobile-friendly and shareable fashion! Though it seems to be a secret as to when it will actually be released, Google will roll this out within the next year. But it's not all about SERPS, it’s thinking about how your audience can receive, engage and most importantly enjoy what you’ve got to say. Remember that this will mainly be on a smartphone!

The effects of social media

Gen Z has a completely different relationship with social media. For generations before them personality and values lay in health, financial prosperity and relationships BUT studies show that 40% of Gen Zer’s say their happiness is directly impacted by social. So, if you’re looking to make a connection with this demographic think about how your social content could give them a lift and make them happy. Make them feel awesome, support them, tell them they are great.

Have a deeper meaning

Gone are the days of the yuppy. Young people these days have grown up in some pretty terrible times. Millennials remember the calmer times but Gen-Z has only known a world of terrorist attack, corruption and conspiracy. AND global warming has FINALLY been recognised as a thing (about time!). They want to feel like they are doing their bit to correct this. 80% are more likely to buy a product if, in doing so, they will have some social or environmental impact. Give them the means to make the world a better place, create a campaign that is sincere and you’ll be adding a tonne of value. This one does apply to Millennials too, who have watched the world become steadily more negative and are looking to correct this.

Short and to the point

As generations that have either never not known technology or have at least had it the vast majority of years both Y and Z have consumed visual merchandising their whole lives. What have they gained from that? Well, they have become extremely good at deciphering what’s what, if they want to see it and if they'll get anything from it. Because of this, it is recommended that you curate content that is easy and makes them feel comfortable. In doing so you automatically add value to whatever you are doing. AND that’s where GIF’s fit nicely in. They work so well because everyone can relate to them, everyone finds a connection with them and everyone will find them funny in their own way. A GIF supplies a small amount of content which the ‘viewer’ will find a way of relating to them, they present an emotion to fit into your own narrative as opposed to a narrative that is specific.


From medium.com

Keep it ‘real’

It is time that brands readdressed their core values. No longer do we need to be hard faced sharks of advertising, we need the sincere, honest and open people of the world. If you can brand yourself with authenticity you are doing good! In a world packed full of corruption and conspiracy, there is a general consensus amongst the younger generations of guilty before proven innocent so make sure you are transparent and honest.   

Though Millenials and Gen-Z may be the focus, it is best to not forget that this a landscape of many cohabiting generations who respond to the world around them, spend and invest. Here’s a quick summary of the generations preceding... What shaped them and what defines them.

There are quite a few interpretations of what the generations are as well as an intricate web of sub-gens like the 'yuppy', the 'sloane-rangers' and even the immersion of the 'Lad'... These are what I've got together to give a rough guide of what's what...

  • Traditionalist / Silent Generation

Born 1945 and before. They are mostly retired, but had the strong work ethic of their parents and are now seen as the wealthiest generation. They grew up in leaner times and felt the effects of the Great Depression and World War II. They believe that you earn success through hard work, often stayed with the same employers their entire lives and expect the same loyalty in return. They are the slowest to change their habits, particularly where technology and electronics are involved… in other words, they’re probs not going to be hashtagging their daily trends. On the flip side, they’re probably better with people as they don’t do 90% of their communications through Whatsapp. And of course, SPOILER ALERT, they’re traditional in their morals, values and views and are more likely to respond to traditional forms of marketing such as print in newspapers and actual MAIL… as in by post… in an envelope…


(Strong possibility that this NOT a true representation of 'post')

  • Baby Boomers

Born 1946 -1964. Baby Boomers were born in a time of increased educational, financial and social opportunities, they are often seen as the optimistic generation. Post-war optimism permeated life, giving a sense of stability, opportunity and prosperity. This was also the time of the peace-movement, so this generation may have seen increasing social and economic equality but it was also a time of politics, war and social injustice. They experienced the dramatic shifts in social, economic and educational opportunities. Baby Boomers were the first to be born in a free NHS hospital and have been able to enjoy ‘cradle to grave’ welfare. They may have swung in the sixties and smashed down the Berlin Wall but they are often seen as the gen who were also quick to settle and buy their houses too.

It is also worth touching briefly on their marketing response. They are the last generation still BIG into brand loyalty and also tend to have a bit more spending money! They find out their favourite wine is on sale? Expect EVERY bottle they see to be bought ASAP! So, prove your item is made of infinite quality and get infinite loyalty in return. They like quality and value (go for an upsell with figures to back it) and they like REAL people. Interestingly they are the most likely to report Facebook Ads as spam and unlikely to make a purchase on their smartphones (second after the Traditionalists)… all worth bearing in mind.

  • Generation X

Born 1965 to 1976. This generation has been labelled with cynicism. Too young to have fought in any major war and old enough to enjoy a free education. This is a smaller cohort, sandwiched between two larger categories. They are the generation that broke away from core family values, saw more divorce and were not coddled… A good way to sum these lot up is to look at the characters in Friends or Bridget Jones… looking for a career, no massive problems, a balance of work and home life, coffee shop socials, self-help books… Over 80% claim to be on Facebook, Twitter and.. Myspace… hmmm. Utilise Facebook’s great targeting options with tailored ads. They have a lot of consumer experience before the invention of online shopping. They are less likely to buy into a trend and more likely to buy something that benefits society and respond well to email marketing!

giphy-downsized (2)

from giphy.com

Right, I’m off to talk about how my parents had it easy, make some plans for the 3 years of retirement I’ll get before I die and think about how my peers and I are doomed... Oh, and take a photo of the avocado I’m about to eat (obvs).