Digital Marketing & Campaigns

Millennials vs. Gen Z: what marketers need to know

Written by Pim van Helten on 24, Auth 2020

Baby boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z: there are a lot of generational buzzwords to describe demographic segments. Despite their popularity, it’s easy to get yourself confused with the “who is who” and “who likes what”. This is especially true for the Millennials and Gen Z target groups as marketers often lump them together. But is this really the way to go about your marketing? 

Both target groups will have a major impact on society and the economy in the next twenty to thirty years, particularly because their purchasing power is increasing. It’s important to know what makes a Millennial different from a Gen Z-er, so you can target them effectively. These two generations hold the key to the future success of any business.

Who is who?

The easiest way to distinguish Millennials from Gen Z is by age. Although there is no straightforward age range, you can roughly say that Millennials are born between 1980 - 1995, whereas Gen Z is born between 1996 - 2010. That makes Millennials twenty-five to forty years old and Gen Z between the ages of ten and twenty-four. Picturing Millennials as fresh graduates and Gen Z as only kids, would not be the right way to portray them. 

When you consider the age difference on the largest possible scale, the oldest Millennials are forty years old, settled down and can be making larger purchases like homes or cars. While the youngest Gen Z-ers are still in elementary school, going over on play dates and will not be making purchases any time soon. 

Age is of course only one factor to look at and should function more as a basis to differentiate between the two generations. Below are five more factors that make Millennials fundamentally different from Gen Z: 


1. Technology

While Millennials and Gen Z are both comfortable with using technology, they have different attitudes about tech. Gen Z’s digital nativeness makes them unique, they basically live on the internet. 

Millennials grew up in a society where technology was less prevalent and saw how innovative technologies transformed society and daily life. From dial-up internet, walkmans and giant personal computers to being connected 24/7 on tablets, smartphones or laptops. Millennials experienced life before and after the internet. Gen Z on the other hand, don’t know life without it. 

2. Social media platforms

Although both generations spend quite some time on social media, their preferred platforms and how much time they spend on it are different. 

Millennials spend on average 2 hours and 38 minutes per day on social media. This generation prefers platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. While, Gen Z has mostly left these behind (except for Youtube) and focuses for 2 hours and 55 minutes per day on multimedia-heavy sites such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. 

3. Attention span differences

According to research our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. You might even wonder who has them nowadays?! But the truth is, attention spans are not the issue here. Creating relevant and engaging content is. 

Both Millennials and Gen Z prefer visual content over plain text. The difference lies in how much time they spend focusing on content and what content types. Research has shown that Millennials pay attention to content for about twelve seconds, while Gen Z only stays focused for about eight seconds. You could say that marketers can market slightly longer forms of content to Millennials and use shorter content like Snapchat and Tik Tok to engage Gen Z. 

4. Purchasing goods vs experiences

Even though Millennials as well as Gen Z buy less than previous generations, Gen Z is known to be more pragmatic when it comes to their financial decisions. They look for practicality and are more frugal compared to Millennials, who prefer buying experiences over just purchasing goods. 


5. Mobile rules

Gen Z is two times more likely to make mobile purchases compared to Millennials. However, this doesn’t mean that Millennials don’t shop online nor does it imply that Gen Z never visits traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Still, an overwhelming 73% of Millennials use their phones for shopping, while Gen Z sees visits to the store as an enjoyable social activity. 

As a marketer it’s important to know and understand the needs and wants of your target audience. Because if you don’t know who you are writing your campaigns, ads and content for, how can you engage them effectively? Well, you can’t, at least not in the way you want to. You might have a few lucky guesses, but in the end your customers and your brand deserve better. 

Pim van Helten

Pim van Helten


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