Get with the times: marketing to millennials and Gen Z

marketing to millennials & gen z

Consumer attitudes change with time and world events. Because each generation is a reaction to the ones that came before it, knowing your target consumer is essential to your marketing strategy. So, how do you pitch your product to the young market? Here’s what you need to know about marketing to millennials and Gen Z.

Similarities between marketing to millennials and Gen Z

The generations that crucially define the consumer market at this time, Gen Z and millennials, are digital natives. That is, they grew up in the information age. Here are the common factors to note while approaching them:

‘Traditional’ doesn’t work

As a millennial myself, I grew up with TV advertising. And as much as I hold them dearly for nostalgia, no one watches TV anymore, definitely not Gen Z. Just as traditional ads won’t reach them, traditional aspirations also don’t apply to them. Millennials and Gen Z don’t care about the stuff that matters to older generations, like status and luxury. Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to be apprehensive of big names and corporations. They are more likely to be attracted to eco-friendly, ethical and value-driven brands.

Peer opinions matter

Social media is not just about connecting with friends and sharing pics anymore. Beyond just entertainment, it lends itself to professional networking and marketing. Millennials do most of the marketing, and Gen Z does most of the buying. Brands use influencers on social platforms to connect with consumers on a peer level. In this scenario, sharing on these platforms is the ultimate word-of-mouth. With polls, shopping tags, comments, and ratings, social media makes it easy to research products and services. Thus, in a way, every purchase is meaningful. Bottomline: mastering monetisation through social media will be your strong point if your target is Gen Z.

Differences between marketing to millennials and Gen Z

Age, of course, is a factor that sets the two apart. A quick scroll down your feed will tell you that most millennials think Gen Z is out of control. In return, Gen Z wants millennials to know that Potter-mania and reruns of FRIENDS need to retire already. But as far as buying behaviour goes, the following are the forks on the road.


The oldest Gen Z-ers are 25. So, they’re looking for value for money. According to a report by Deloitte, 46% of this generation lives paycheck to paycheck and aren’t too convinced of investment savings. Most millennials, conversely, are seasoned in the workforce and no longer in entry-level jobs. Therefore, they can afford to spend more and make bigger purchases.

No filter

Gen Z wants more transparency and authenticity than their millennial counterparts and shies away from over-produced, aspirational posts. When McKinsey, the global consulting firm, surveyed consumer behaviours among this generation, the results showed one common aspect: they prioritise sincerity in a brand. While social media has overburdened both generations with all kinds of messaging, Gen Z has an even lower attention span and is, therefore, quicker to make judgments (cancel culture, anyone?). The takeaway is that you must build accountability and transparency into your brand values rather than just using them as a marketing strategy.

Brand loyalty

There is more brand loyalty among millennials than Gen Z, who are after the next big thing and expect brands to be creative. Gen Z’s progressive attitudes include a thirst for multiculturalism, inclusivity, and sustainability. Brands which deal with these and other issues that matter to them will take the lead.


The two generations are also typically on either side of the table right now. Gen Z is more likely to respond to social media ads. Besides Gen Z, millennials are the best at understanding digital native needs. Therefore, millennial brand owners are all about providing services that require less money, less time, and are hassle-free. While Gen Z is said to make up 40% of the consumer population, millennials are actively stepping into their role as service providers.

Strategies for marketing to millennials and Gen Z

Here are some things to consider when marketing to this demographic.

Get the right influencers on board

When choosing brand ambassadors and influencers to be associated with your brand, you must not look at popularity alone. Instead, ensure that they share the same values that your brand stands for—someone who sincerely stands by your product because they also believe in it. We don’t want a repeat of that time when LeBron James complained about his phone on Twitter while he had a 100-million-dollar endorsement deal as the Samsung ambassador. You also want to ensure that these individuals are popular with these generations. For example, not many ordinary young folks cared about the Dior fashion show until this year when Dior signed BTS member Jimin as a brand ambassador.

Short videos

TikTok, YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels—keep the messaging simple, make it a video, and grab their attention. These apps work in the first place because these formats cater to their short attention span and provide fast entertainment that attracts both millennials and Gen Z. Place quality over quantity. Use humour or tell a story to grab attention quickly.

Add fun to the mix

‘Fun’ is relative, but here are some ways to add this much-needed element:

  1. Be light, direct, and cheeky.
  2. Let Ryan Reynolds be a role model to us all.
  3. Embrace your brand’s personality, and be brash and bold about it.
  4. Think of your brand as a person.
  5. Let your Twitter handles have sassy characters; your Instagram posts be witty; your TikTok posts trendy.

It’s also easy to get called out and cancelled, so your personality needs to be politically correct. For your product to be Insta-worthy, you must uphold the right values. It would help if you frequently tell your brand’s backstory to your target population. Make sure to use more local lingo instead of trying to market yourself as part of/ similar to a giant corporation.

Have physical shops

While their shopping research is mainly online, millennials and Gen Z-ers also do their shopping in actual shops. Even though post-pandemic shopping habits may mean more online shopping, the physical experience is hard to beat.

What NOT to do

While working on your strategies for millennials and Gen Z-ers, make sure that you don’t do the following:

Be hypocritical: You have to walk your talk. Even if you’re a giant corporation, it’s much more difficult to cover things up in the age of digital marketing. Brands have been called out for resorting to tokenism to project inclusivity, unethical production practices, and inauthentic branding.

Be inaccessible: Millennials and Gen Z-ers generally are impatient with digital platforms. So your website needs to be easy to navigate. Include physical and website addresses in your promotional content. If you can devise an app without glitches, all the better. 

Be an award-winning industry leader: While these terms may appeal to previous generations, they signal a lack of individuality and perhaps even a sordid history to young folk.

Not pick a side/try to please everyone: Be clear and outspoken about your values. Trying to be diplomatic or neutral comes across as inauthentic.

Successful campaigns

Here are some companies that have successfully incorporated Gen Z and millennial values into their image and marketing campaigns:

SheinThe online clothing store is famous for its affordability and accessibility. Moreover, they are an old hand at using influencers for marketing.

Parade: The underwear brand has been promoting body positivity, and inclusivity like Victoria’s Secret never has.

Madhappy: The streetwear company has been actively working towards mental health destigmatisation.

Starface: Talk about embracing personality! Starface skin care products are easily identifiable due to their simple but unique brand logo and packaging.

Nike: Traditional brands could learn a thing or two from Nike about keeping up with the times. They took a clear stand with their ‘Just Do It’ campaign, featuring Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback and social activist. And it paid off.

Are you a millennial or Gen Z-er? Which is your favourite brand, and what do you like about them? Let us know!

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