It’s all too easy to treat Millennials and Gen Zers as one group in marketing, however they each have distinct characteristics when it comes to shopping habits and how they view and interact with brands.

Understanding what motivates the younger generation is essential to reaching and unlocking the massive spending power of Millennials and Gen Z. Marketers that make this distinction can deliver nuanced marketing, appealing to and building valuable connections with both groups.

Who are Millennials and Gen Z?

According to Pew Research Centre, Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are people born between 1981-1996. Following Millennials is Generation Z, born between 1997-2012. Part of the young generation, both are significantly influential consumer segments driving changes in the marketing landscape, particularly in terms of spending habits.


What are the differences between Millennials and Gen Z?

Gen Z are the first digitally native generation, having known no life before the Internet compared to Millennials, who are considered “digital pioneers”. Both are technologically savvy, have high expectations of digital experiences and are particularly dependent on their digital connections.


How to engage Gen Z and Millennials

Understanding the generational and aspirational differences between Gen Z and Millennials helps marketers engage both groups more effectively.

  1. Be where they are
  2. Tap into their values
  3. Market with them, not at them


1. Be where they are

Millennials and Gen Z respond better to visual signals and creative communication. Both spend time in visual spaces, but the two have clear preferences when it comes to social media platforms.

The most significant difference can be attributed to their unique life experiences that continue to shape their social media habits.

Millennials watched the rise of the Internet and were early adopters of social media. They created their first social accounts as young teenagers and used social media to stay connected and communicate with friends, families, and businesses. Most Millennials favour familiar platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

87% of Millennials are active on Facebook, compared to just 36% of Gen Z.

In comparison, Gen Z were raised immersed in technology and seek entertainment in their social spaces, gravitating more towards video content than their predecessors. Video-first platforms like YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok are amongst their favourites. They love to follow, share, and take part in trends, often generating the next trend and viral content on TikTok.

Key takeaways

Millennials like to connect and share content with friends, whereas Gen Z want to be entertained. Be visible on the channels where your consumers spend time to build brand awareness. Repurpose brand messages across written and video formats to attract both Millennials and Gen Z. Focus on short-form video content that entertains to engage with Gen Z.

Evaluate what each generation aspires to gain from their social media usage when building your social strategy and incorporate visual UGC into your marketing mix. UGC is highly relatable and preferred over brand-created content by both groups – drawing a wider audience to maximise reach and build awareness.


2. Tap into their values

Connect with Millennials and Gen Z through Brand Values

Brands that are authentic and have a clear purpose can build greater emotional connections with their audiences. Emotionally connected consumers are more likely to purchase,  and more likely to become brand advocates. According to recent studies, 83% of Millennials say it’s important for the companies they buy from to align with their beliefs and values, and 68% of Gen Zers expect brands to contribute to society.

Millennials value authenticity, unique experiences and being real. Gen Z, considered the “socially conscious generation”, take it a step further and value independence and individuality. They want to see content that’s realistic and attainable and use social media to find like-minded people and communities.

Having grown up in an era of personalisation, both Millennials and Gen Z are globally connected, well-informed consumers. They expect digitally innovative communications from brands, and demand authenticity and brand empathy - these expectations extend to their customer experience.

Key takeaway

Go beyond transactional relationships by sharing stories about the experiential value of your products and services - tapping into what motivates Millennials and Gen Z to connect on an emotional level.

Create personalised experiences that celebrate them as individuals and empower their values across your customer journey to build brand affinity. Offer your audiences opportunities of creative expression and open two-way conversations that educate and make them feel heard and appreciated.
By leveraging UGC across your marketing touchpoints, you put your customers front and centre, inviting them in and making them part of your brand journey.


3. Market with them, not at them

82% of Gen Z trust brands that use images of actual customers

With the digital world and multiple screens at everyone’s fingertips, attention spans are getting shorter. Millennials have an average attention span of around 10 seconds. With Gen Z, it’s even shorter at 8 seconds.

Young consumers are conscious about where they spend their time and perceive advertising as disruptive. They are adept at filtering ads and insincere marketing tactics. To reach Gen Z, brands must work even harder. So how do you cut through the noise and gain their trust?

Collaborate with your audience to create a brand story that resonates with them. Make your audience feel like the person they aspire to be when they use your products and services.

Both Millennials and Gen Z trust content created by real people more than content created by brands. They want to see others like them and seek user-generated content when making informed purchasing decisions. The third annual, international study of Gen Z, conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics reveals 82% of Gen Z trust brands that use images of actual customers in their ads. As well as seeking UGC, Millennials and Gen Z are driving authentic user-generated content by sharing their genuine experiences online.

Key takeaway

Refine your storytelling and empower your audience to create your brand story with you. Millennials and Gen Z will tell you exactly what they want, so spark a conversation and involve them. When it comes to content, provide clear guidelines to your audience as to the type of content you want them to create. By doing so you can acquire UGC that aligns with your strategy and helps fuel your marketing.

Take inspiration from some of the successful UGC marketing campaigns to see how brands are using user generated content to win customers.

Marketing to younger customers may require more effort and a bit of finessing. Be authentic and reach out and involve them. Try to not only understand them, but to also demonstrate that understanding – marketing gimmicks are unlikely to work. Connect with them on an emotional level and you stand to build lasting relationships with a flow of relevant user-generated content.

Our mission at Buzzspark is to make marketing more human by simplifying acquisition, curation, and integration of user generated content across marketing touchpoints. Our UGC platform helps brands create unique experiences to engage with their audiences and build powerful communities.