Marketing to Millennials vs. Gen Z

One telltale sign that a business has not kept up with the changing times is when they put Generation Y and Z in the same group. Yes, millennials were the first to rule Instagram and YouTube. But zoomers have since populated those platforms as well and now dominate the likes of Snapchat and TikTok. 

What are the differences and similarities between these cohorts? Moreover, how can marketers use such information to better cater to them?   

Key Traits of Millennials and Zoomers

Both generations place great importance on environmentalism, mental health, convenience (particularly of the digital kind), and shared values between them and the businesses they support. 

They’re avid participants of the sharing and on-demand economies, relying on Uber and Grubhub regularly. Most of them opt for reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic ones in a bid toward sustainability.

As such, their differences lie within general similarities and their stage in life.

Although more than half of millennials and Gen Z agree they’re unlikely to afford the life they want, the consequences differ. Why? Millennials are already in their mid-20s to early 40s. Many have work and family responsibilities. In contrast, many Gen Z folks are still in high school and college.

Early in 2023, a survey revealed that nearly half of millennials shifted from branded items to private-label goods. After all, many have families to feed. A smaller percentage of Gen Z made the jump. Instead, their cost-saving measures can be observed in their penchant for thrifting, which also satisfies their need to be socially responsible.

E-commerce also paints a slightly different picture. Gen Y and Z don’t mind purchasing goods outside of eBay and Amazon. They buy on social platforms like Instagram and pick from items sold by social media influencers. However, zoomers are likelier to do so than millennials. 

Strategic Marketing to Gen Y and Z

Despite their differences, millennials and Gen Z share many beliefs and habits as consumers. Since both generations embrace digital tech, businesses should apply these insights to their online marketing efforts.

Use the Right Apps and Personalities

Facebook is a household name to both millennials and zoomers, but it only remains popular with the former. Gen Y grew up along with it after migrating from the likes of Myspace and Friendster. 

In contrast, Gen Z has largely grown out of Facebook since 2022 in favor of Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram.

Both cohorts adore visual and video content (whether long-form or bite-sized). Gen Z is TikTok’s biggest audience, but it shares dominance on Instagram and YouTube with millennials. 

Businesses should stay updated with where zoomers and millennials flock for social media and videos. Doing so allows marketing departments to better allocate their funds and assess which key figures and social media influencers to tap into. 

Show Character and Be Engaging

Gen Y and Z prefer brands that showcase their identity and humanity instead of hiding behind a soulless corporate logo. Businesses should brainstorm how their story and objectives can shape their online persona, particularly on social media.

Wendy’s, for example, is one of the earliest success stories of a brand adapting to social media. For a time, they reigned on Twitter (now X.com) for being the oddball: A global fast-food chain posting tweets—and replying to ordinary people—with snarky humor and mastery of modern pop culture and the latest trending topics. 

Meanwhile, Duolingo reaped the benefits of tackling the Gen Z-dominated TikTok with their wacky green owl.

Be Open About Values and Beliefs

Staying neutral and silent about issues or one’s moral values isn’t always the best choice — even from a business standpoint. With global e-commerce, millennials and Gen Z have more brands to choose from than before. 

Businesses can set themselves apart by being vocal about what they stand for. Sensitive topics can be a double-edged sword, but Gen Y and (most especially) Gen Z are more inclined to buy from companies that align with their beliefs.

Even how companies produce and package goods matters because they indicate how they rank regarding environmental sustainability.

Millennials witnessed the digital revolution early in their lives and adapted quickly. In contrast, Gen Z was the first cohort born after this technological shift. Any business hoping for their patronage should craft marketing strategies with the ever-evolving online and offline habits of these generations in mind, especially as they age and reach new milestones in life.