Gen Z vs. Millennials: How Do They Differ?

When it comes to marketing, branding, advertising, and sales, much of the strategic content and business advice created over the past decade has been targeted at millennials. And while millennials are still very much a highly profitable segment of the market, businesses shouldn’t overlook the next generation: Gen Z.

Gen Z vs millenials image 33333Who is Gen Z?

Gen Z is typically used as a marker to describe anyone born between the years of 1995 and 2019. (Some say it starts at 1996 or 1997 – but you get the idea.) This means members of Gen Z are currently 0 to 24 years of age). They make up roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population and have grown up in a world of ubiquitous technology and constant connectivity. 

How Does Gen Z Differ?

From a business standpoint, it’s helpful to understand what separates one generation from the next. In particular, companies are investing a lot of money in marketing to Gen Z and want to ensure they know the difference between this group and the generation that precedes them – i.e. millennials. Here are some key points of disparity: 

1. Safe, Stability-Seekers

One of the biggest points of differentiation is that Gen Z is being raised by Gen X parents, while millennials were raised by boomers. Gen Z watched as their parents were dramatically affected by the recession of 2007, and this has shaped how they view money and jobs.

By and large, Gen Z takes fewer risks than millennials. They’re less trusting of banks, the stock market, investments, and jobs that require risk-taking. They prefer safe jobs with stability and predictability.

2. Different Influencers

Millennials were raised with cable television and, at least for a few years, no internet. As a result, they were heavily influenced by television advertisements and other traditional forms of media. Gen Z, on the other hand, has always had access to the internet. They’re far less likely to watch TV and are most heavily influenced by self-generated content on YouTube and social media. 

3. Gen Z Expects Innovate Experiences

Millennials were born at the end of an era where customer service was still pretty substandard (by today’s measure). Businesses didn’t have to offer exceptional service to compete, so they didn’t. Gen Z, however, demands innovative experiences.

“While 80% of millennials agree companies bring innovative products and services to market based on customer needs and values, just 71% of Gen Z agrees,” Salesforce explains. “Maybe Gen Z expects more innovation because they’ve grown up in an age of rapid innovation. For example, millennials still remember Blockbuster VHS rentals, while Gen Z lives in the Netflix-on-my-iPhone era.”

For businesses that want to reach Gen Z, there’s no room for stale business processes. Everything must stay fresh or it’ll lose its luster. 

4. Gen Z is Highly Pragmatic

Millennials are optimistic. They’ve been raised in an environment where people of power and influence have repeatedly told them they can do whatever they want. They’re byproducts of a participation trophy culture. (And though this says more about the boomers who gave the trophies, it’s significantly impacted the millennials on the receiving end.)

Gen Z was raised during a bleak recession and has been exposed to toxic politics on both sides of the party line. This has resulted in a much more realistic (and perhaps pessimistic) view of the world. They’re highly pragmatic and don’t put a ton of stock in hopes and dreams. 

5. Gen Z Saves Money

The oldest members of Gen Z are just now entering the workforce. Thus, it’s hard to fully grasp what the financial tendencies of this generation will be. However, early indicators suggest that they’re much more fond of saving than millennials (who prefer experiences). 

From a business standpoint, this could be good or bad. On the positive side of things, it means Gen Z consumers are setting themselves up to be able to afford bigger purchases down the road. The only negative is that they often forgo purchases now. 

6. Gen Z Likes Independence

Millennials grew up cherishing brands and proudly displaying their love for different companies. Gen Z, while not necessarily averse to the idea of brands, prefers to retain some autonomy and independence. They’re less loyal to one brand and will jump around to show that they aren’t defined by any message. This can be tough for brands, but the best piece of advice is to communicate a message of acceptance and individuality.

Narrow Your Focus

From a marketing, branding, adverting, and sales perspective, you can’t afford to lump Gen Z and millennials together. While there’s certainly a lot of overlap, there are plenty of unique differences. By narrowing your focus, you can ensure you’re delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time.


Interesting related articles: “What is the Millennial Generation?