It’s Time to Get Woke: Marketing to Millennials and Gen Z



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These days you will rarely come across someone who does not know what a millennial is, but if you happen to be one of those unicorns, a millennial is anyone born from 1981-1996. Generation Z, on the other hand, consists of anyone born from 1997 to date. You may be thinking that with a one-year gap between millennials and Generation Z (often referred to as Gen Z) there isn’t much of a difference, but you would be wrong. Working in advertising, it is imperative that we understand the differences between these two generations and how they consume content so that we can effectively market to each.

Marketing to Millennials

One can easily assume millennials are constantly attached to their phones, and while a large portion of millennials is, we have to remember that the oldest millennials are 39-years-old. This is not to say that this specific age group isn’t tech-savvy, but they are definitely not on par with younger millennials or Gen Z.

According to USC Dornsife, only 23% of millennials are “extremely tech-savvy and heavily consume streaming content and online video content.” The study goes on to explain that out of all millennials, only a mere 15% are genuinely engaged online.

So, this begs the question: How do we capture their attention when so few are actually engaging with content? To put things simply, you have to target millennials by appealing to their wants. In a post by SocialMediaWeek.Org, some best practices for marketing to millennials are:

  1. Millennials want to experience your brand.
  2. Millennials are highly susceptible to word-of-mouth marketing.
  3. Millennials want your brand to care.

These best practices seem simple enough, but we have to consider how many brands are actually executing them. NPR conducted a small focus group in 2015, and the goal of the group was to discover how one should market to millennials. Along with this, NPR wanted to figure out which brands were marketing effectively by millennial standards.

For example, the millennials from the study believed Warby Parker has marketing figured out, especially when it comes to Warby Parker’s socially-conscious endeavors. In the USC Dornsife article mentioned earlier, research shows that a whopping 87% of millennials are willing to purchase goods from a brand that is socially or environmentally conscious. One should also note that in both the NPR focus group and the USC Dornsife marketing research, the fact that Warby Parker is considered affordable is a major bonus for millennials as 77% percent of them are financially conscious.

As many of you know, purchasing glasses from Warby Parker can be a completely immersive experience, which is exactly what millennials crave. The company allows you to pick five pairs of glasses that you may be interested in. The brand then ships the five pairs of glasses to you, and you are given a week to decide which pair works for you. After this, you make your selection and send the rejections back.

So, to sum it up, Warby Parker really has millennial marketing covered.

Marketing to Generation Z

Adobe states that on any given day, you can find 55% of Gen Z individuals using their smartphones for up to five hours a day. Even more staggering, Adobe reports that a good 26% of the Gen Z population uses their smartphones for nearly 10 hours a day. With numbers this high, it is easy to think that simply using social media channels can attract those that fall into the Gen Z category, but this generation is in a league of its own. Theses younger consumers crave authenticity, uniqueness, and transparency above all else. Generation Z refuses to lower their expectations. The best practices for advertising to this generation, according to AdAge, are to:

  1. Be unapologetically unique
  2. Bring back the good ole days
  3. Rethink classic supply and demand
  4. Become associated with “lit” people (that means “cool,” for you older readers), but not the obvious ones

As someone who falls into the Gen Z category, I can personally attest to the accuracy of AdAge’s best practices. Those of us in this Gen Z world thrive on uniqueness. We no longer engage with the fads that have often plagued other generations. Show a Gen Z something different or edgy, and we are all in.

This is evident in the 2017 Axe campaign that targeted social norms and toxic masculinity in one swoop. Axe took the world by storm when they created a spot based on Google search suggestions that started with “Is it ok for guys to…” This performed well, particularly among Gen Z, because Axe stepped outside of the box and targeted Gen Z in a new way. Econsultancy included this Axe campaign in its article regarding campaigns that successfully targeted Gen Z where it noted that “one-third of Gen Z survey respondents agreed that gender does not define a person as much as it used to.” This ad was heavily supported by most people, but especially Gen Z, because it was unique. They were also able to get celebrities on board, and it heavily touched on inclusivity.

Key Takeaways

What this all boils down to is yes, social media is where you should be to garner the attention of both generations, but the way you have to approach each is different. Millennials aren’t consuming content at the rate Gen Z is, so any content put in front of them has to be able to catch their attention in a matter of seconds. If you’re trying to target Gen Z, the key is to be unique but not to try too hard.