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You say tomato, I say tomahto. I say Millennial you say Gen Z.

Marketers Beware: Gen Z and Millennials aren’t so similar after all.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for all the brands out there who have been told that Gen Z are millennials on steroids, you’ve been fed #FakeNews. It’s time for the marketers who have simply been lumping the two “digital” generations together to learn the difference between them, which in turn will ultimately lead to a major difference in your marketing returns. 

To spend, or not to spend, that is the question

While millennials grew up during an economic boom, Gen Zers spent their childhood years in the Great Recession. This has had a drastic difference in what they value and how they spend their money. Millennials tend to be driven by the entire experience of buying a product, whereas Gen Z is motivated by purchases that stretch the value of every dollar.

Sephora is a close to perfect example of a brand successfully catering to both the Millennial and Gen Z customer by offering a well curated in-store shopping experience filled with beauty experts, IRL classes on topics such as brow shaping and the ultimate lesson on winged eyeliner, as well as mobile checkout stations (for when the regular checkout lines get too long for a Gen Zers less than short attention span).They also offer a seamless online experience filled with user-generated product reviews, as well as free shipping (on purchases over $50) and an option to add free samples to any order.

But Gen Z’s innate frugality and tech savviness makes them the ultimate experts at finding great deals. Offering special VIP-like incentives and bonuses such as free shipping or free samples is a great way for brands looking to woo the Gen Z customer. And it can’t hurt when courting Millennials, but throwing in a truly unique aspect to the shopping experience, such as in-store education and products curated by experts, is the cherry on top for the Millennial crowd.

Beyonce vs Bethany Mota

Millennials grew up plastering their bedroom walls and school lockers with posters of Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Danielle Fishel, and whoever the latest hot Hollywood casted teenager was that month.

Meanwhile, Gen Z came of age having their hearts and follows captured by everyday people, such as Bethany Mota and Ryan Higa, who were able to become stars with the simple click of the record button on their iPhone and Android devices and an upload to what was once Vine or YouTube. 

While Beyonce, Kanye West, and Katy Perry may work for getting marketing messages out to the millennial crowd, it’s not going to cut it for the Gen Zers who grew up listening, watching, and following social media influencers.

Download our report, Gen Z: Decoding the Digital Generation, and see  why you  can’t take one-size-fits-all approach with Gen Zs.

Marketing focusing on celebrity endorsement, such as Taylor Swift for Keds, is worth investing in for brands looking to court the older Millennial set, but when it comes to Gen Z, authenticity and credibility is key. According to a report by Google, 70 percent of teen YouTube subscribers see their favorite YouTube influencers as more relatable than traditional celebrities. For Gen Z, influencers are more than just afternoon entertainers.

I don’t have a short attention span I just... oh, look a kitty!

Waiting over sixty seconds for a dial-up modem to connect you to the wonderful world of AOL (something most Millennials grew up with and no Gen Zer would ever experience) is a lifetime compared to waiting a mere seven seconds to click “skip” on a Bank of America ad in order to watch a bunny rabbit get a bubble bath. In a world where the funniest meme and hottest eyeshadow have always been a mere click of a button away, it’s clear to see why Gen Z’s attention spans are almost half that of the millennial generation (eight seconds vs twelve seconds).

Gen Z’s impatience is due to a lifetime of instant gratification. They won’t have read this far. And it has major implications for brands. While millennials are more likely to put up with an unsatisfactory online experience or inattentive salesperson, Gen Zs will just up and leave to the next best competitive brand without a second thought. As mentioned in the Ad Age X UNiDAYS report “Gen Z: Decoding the Digital Generation,” Gen Zers are 60 percent more likely than the average consumer to hang up if the phone is not answered within 45 seconds, and according to research conducted by ContentSquare, 60 percent of Gen Zs will not use an app or website that is too slow to load and sixty-two percent won’t use an app if it’s difficult to navigate.

For Gen Z, instant gratification trumps loyalty, which is notably different from the Millennial generation. Meanwhile, the majority of millennials are willing to put up with computer glitches and more than a 24 hour response time if it means getting the brand they know and love.

For Millennials, non-traditional loyalty programs that focus on experiences vs the traditional punch-card programs seem to be the way to go. Starbucks’ “Starbucks Rewards Program” is a great example of a loyalty program that successfully targets the Millennial customer’s desire for experienced based rewards. Forgoing traditional transactional loyalty metrics, Starbucks engages shoppers with music downloads, games, a stars system and free coffee.

Moral of the story: You can’t kill two smartphone-loving birds with one marketing strategy

Taking even the slightest generational differences into account, such as an eight vs twelve second attention span — as ridiculously short as they both may seem — will make a drastic difference in how successful you are when marketing to them.

 So you may say potato and I may say potahto, but you need to treat these two different generations as such or you may as well call the whole thing off!


Samantha Klein
Samantha Klein
Contributing writer for Gen Z Insights

Exclusive Report:

Gen Z: Decoding the Digital Generation

Do you have what it takes to connect with a generation who lives and breathes the Internet? Now you will! Download this powerful report, and you’ll find five mind-blowing myths to change the way you market to Gen Z forever.

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