For years, marketers have been obsessed with dissecting the millennial mind-set. With a global spending power of $2.45 trillion in 2015, this is hardly surprising. Debt ridden, pragmatic and far more cost conscious than they are given credit for, millennials have made marketers work hard for their attention and money.
But what about Generation Z, the ‘true digital natives’ fast on millennials’ heels? Many marketers argue that millennials’ heyday is over, that it is time to shift gears and focus on this younger cohort. At nearly 70 million in size and growing, Gen Z will soon outnumber their millennial predecessors, representing 40 per cent of all consumers by 2020.
The question that remains to be answered – can brands win with both? What similarities do millennials and Gen Z share that marketers can tap into? The Lambie-Nairn strategy team has arrived at five overarching commonalities.
1. Seamless efficiency
Both generations have low tolerance for anything unnecessarily complicated or inefficient. They are used to searches at their fingertips, seamless shopping experiences and instant gratification. While millennials remember the days of dial up and are slightly more forgiving than Gen Z, they will still walk away if a product or service is too much work. Gen Z, notorious for their eight-second attention spans, do not give second chances. Either something works or it doesn’t. And if doesn’t, they are on to something else.
How can brands win with both? By ensuring all interactions with the brand are joined up, simple and intuitive. Brands must assume they have one chance to get on millennials’ and Gen Z’s radar.
Who is doing it well? Tech brands like Apple and Google are setting the bar here, integrating all their products to work seamlessly together.
2. Experiences over stuff
Millennials are prioritising their cars and homes less and less, and assigning greater importance to meaningful experiences, especially travel. This generation is far more likely to splash out on a trip to Machu Picchu than a pricey car or watch. Gen Z seemingly care even more about experiences, as it gives them something tangible to share. Gen Z’s favourite brands - Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube - are all highly visual mediums designed less around what people are wearing or driving and more about what they're doing.
How can brands win with both? By engaging millennials and Gen Z with experiential content across their favourite channels. Even if they don’t buy something, they will form a stronger impression of your brand and share their experience with peers.
Who is doing it well? Red Bull takes the cake for creating experiences, from entertaining fans with their Cliff Diving series to their annual Soap Box races.
Neither millennials nor Gen Z want to be talked at by marketers. In fact, both are actively avoiding marketing campaigns, evidenced by the 41 per cent increase in ad-blocking software over the past 12 months. As content creators themselves, millennials and Gen Z are far more likely to engage with marketing when they are active participants and contributors.
How can brands win with both? By involving millennials and Gen Z at some point in the ideation, creation and/or execution of brand development. This could be upfront insight gathering, new product development ideation or co-creating marketing campaigns.
Who is doing it well? Pandora’s recent campaign for its new Thumbprint Radio feature is a brilliant example of this. Collaborative, humorous and full of amazing dance moves, the campaign engaged youth audiences by asking them to capture their #nofilter reaction when their favourite jam comes on the radio.
4. Enabled and empowered
Both millennials and Gen Z embrace a more entrepreneurial, pioneering spirit. Today, 60 per cent of Millennials consider themselves entrepreneurs and 90 perc ent recognise entrepreneurship as a mentality. Many academics argue that Gen Z are poised to be even more entrepreneurial, as they have greater access to resources and have watched the generation before them struggle in the corporate world. Ambitious and determined, both millennials and Gen Z value brands that provide information, thought-provoking content and insight that will help them get to where they want to go.
How can brands win with both? By providing millennials and Gen Z with future facing thought pieces, content and knowledge that goes beyond product. This can be related to the brand’s industry, or macro trends impacting all aspects of business.
Who is doing it well? Virgin StartUp is a great example of tapping into this more entrepreneurial mind-set. The not-for-profit organisation provides government-backed Start Up Loans and one-to-one business advice to entrepreneurs launching or growing a business in England or Scotland.
5. Social values
The world we live in today is tough for everyone, but of all the generations, millennials and Gen Z actually want to do something about it. The causes they care about and the things they value are reflected in the brands they buy. For millennials, it’s more about sustainability, transparency and giving back to the community. Growing up in a world of same-sex marriage and transgenderism, top of mind issues for Gen Z revolve more around sexual orientation, gender roles and accepting diversity.
How can brands win with both? By having a purpose that goes beyond profit and by demonstrating the brand’s values in wider society. The most important thing here is actually doing what you say, and acting with authenticity and transparency.
Who is doing it well? Millennial values are best represented by brands like Tom’s and Warby Parkers, both of which have committed to donating a pair of shoes or glasses, respectively, to someone in need with every purchase. Fashion brands like Selfridges and Louis Vuitton are also working hard to tap into Gen Z values by creating more gender neutral shopping experiences and featuring gender-fluid models like Jayden Smith.
Of course, millennials and Gen Z are two distinct generations with distinct differences, but that is another topic for another day! In the meantime, understanding the things they have in common is no bad thing and can help marketers effectively appeal to both.