Aurora Magazine

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Is it the end of the road for Millennial-focused marketing?

Published 24 Aug, 2017 03:25pm
Is it time we shifted from our obsession with Millennials to the yet unconquered demographic of Gen Zs?
Photo: Online.
Photo: Online.

Millennials (defined as the group of individuals born in the early 1980s and reaching adulthood in the early 2000s) are probably the most studied generation to date.

The majority of market research studies, media plans and strategies focus on targeting this group of individuals. Ambitious, living in the moment, individualistic, digital natives – all these and many more adjectives are used to describe them and the clichéd list goes on.

Due to the spotlight on Millennials, the Gen Z-ers, individuals born in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, are often left out of marketers’ target audiences or bundled together with the former.

This is where we are going wrong.

What we need to realise is that Millennials are getting old; the oldest Millennials are almost 35, and even the youngest are old enough to vote. When we look at Gen Z, the oldest members of this group are barely out of high school; these tweens and teens of today are primed to become the dominant youth influencers of tomorrow, and as a result, it is important to understand the difference between the two.

Millennials were raised during the relative global peace of the 1990s, only to see the world change before their eyes by the 9/11 attacks and subsequently two economic crashes, in 2000 and 2008. They are the people who saw the birth of mainstream internet, their teenage years were defined by iPods, Orkut and MySpace.

Generation Z, in contrast, was born into a very different world, in the wake of the war on terror and two recessions; they were raised in the era of smartphones and tablets and many do not even remember a time before social media.

As Gen Z heads to college, marketers are realising they are very different from the Millennials and this recognition has given rise to an industry aimed at reaching this audience and selling it to advertisers.

Agencies such as the Pineapple Agency and Refuel, consultancies such as YouthLogic and Zebra Intelligence and media companies such as AwesomenessTV are focused on a population that has never known a world without the internet and has an average attention span of eight seconds. It is a group set to reach 2.6 billion by 2020 and has $44 billion worth of annual purchasing power (source: Sony Music Entertainment too have started their own video production company in 2013 to target Gen Z. Called Astronauts Wanted, the company works with digital influencers through brand partnerships. So how can we summarise some of the key differences between Millennials and Gen Z-ers?

Gen Z-ers have higher expectations.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, Millennials remember playing Solitaire, coming home to dial-up internet and using AOL. Generation Z however, was born in a world overrun by technology and what was taken as amazing and inspiring inventions, are now taken as a given by them.“When it doesn’t get there that fast, they think something is wrong,” said Marcie Merriman, ED, Growth Strategy at Ernest & Young. “They expect businesses, brands and retailers to be loyal to them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they are going to move on. It’s not about them being loyal to a business. Being web and mobile optimised is essential when targeting a Gen Z audience. Anything from a non-responsive website, to load times slower than a few milliseconds to an absence of live chat is enough to turn away a prospective customer.

Short attention spans.

The Gen Z-er has an average attention span of eight seconds. Living in the age of Vine and Snapchat, they consume content in bite-size doses. This does not mean that they are attention-deficient. It means that Gen Z-ers value their limited time and with tons of content coming their way, they prioritise only that which they feel truly deserves their attention.

Ability to multitask.

In spite of their short attention spans, Gen Z-ers use a shocking average of five screens compared to the two or three of Millennials (source: In school, they will create a document on their computer, carry out research on their phone or tablet, while taking notes on a notepad, then finish in front of the TV with a laptop, while FaceTiming a friend. A large part of their day is spent connecting with one device or the other and marketers need to realise that a multi-screen approach is the only way to be able to catch their fleeting attention spans.

Their choice of means of communication is different.

If Facebook was the primary choice of social media for Millennials, for Gen Z, it’s Snapchat. The unique user interface is what is key: it is a network that is both public and private, and the entire experience is handled in a mobile environment. It is therefore perfectly tuned to that instantaneous, moment-to-moment interaction users look for. Another major difference is that Gen Z-ers talk in images and emojis as opposed to text. Emojis create subtext, which allows them to have conversations in their own unique way. Sticker packs too are on the rise and according to a study carried out by Huffington Post, are set to take over from emojis as the preferred means of Gen Z communication.

They look to a different kind of influencer.

Gen Z-ers look up to a different set of icons and influencers. Millennial icons were Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Mark Zukerberg, Steve Jobs and Taylor Swift. The most followed celebs by Gen Z are a new type of YouTube Vloggers, such as Smosh, PewDiePie and KSI. It is the same in Pakistan, where Millennial influencers such as Atif Aslam and Fawad Khan are different from Gen Z influencers such as Momina Mustehsan and Mawra Hocane. It is therefore essential to know about these influencers, and who have the hearts and minds of Generation Z – especially when deciding who to link brands to.

To conclude, marketers need to understand where to draw the line in terms of marketing to these two groups. We need to keep our ears tuned to social listening and trend-watching is key. Even more important is having young people on your marketing team who know how to tap into these trends.

We may have mastered the Millennial mind but the mind of the Gen Z-er is still elusive. As they age, it will be an exciting shift in the tide of global consumer behaviour – and now is the time to prep for it!

Urooj Hussain is Associate Director Digital, Brainchild Communications. She blogs at