Millennials vs. Gen Z: The common mistake brands make with audience

Jessie Bland

20 Jul 2020

During my first experiences of agency planning, my director at the time gave me some sage advice. ‘As a planner, you must fight for the audience,’ she said.

At the time, I got it. But only years later has it really sunk in.

It’s easy to get caught up in the competitive landscape or brand stories (and don’t get me wrong, these have their time and place), but if you lose sight of the audience, your strategy will ultimately fail.

To be candid, your audience is the ‘recipient’ of your campaign. The person or persons you wish to take an action or think or feel a certain way. Stop fighting for the audience and you automatically stop fighting for the brand.

This is particularly pertinent when it comes to demographic profiling. We’ve long stereotyped millennials – with their attitudes more sensitive than the ripened avocado they so love to eat on toast.

But increasingly, it’s becoming simpler (or less hassle) to club together Gen Z (1997 – 2012) and Millennials (1981 – 1996), as if together they offer brands some kind of ‘two-for-one’ deal on ‘young people’.

This couldn’t be more wrong.

Sure, on paper, there may only be a year that divides younger millennials and older Gen Z. But it’s important to start recognising the shift changes at play in the grey area. To confuse millennials with Gen Z does this new generation a disservice.

So, here I am, fighting for this audience. And that means understanding them – and their inherent differences from those older to them.

  1. If millennials were about Instagram perfection, Gen Z are about the raw and ephemeral.
  2. If millennials were about aspiration, Gen Z are about truth and reality.
  3. If millennials were about self-definition, Gen Z are about fluidity and removing labels.
  4. If millennials were about flexible working, Gen Z are about entrepreneurialism.
  5. If millennials were about brands with purpose, Gen Z are about becoming their own brand of activist.

You can see that lumping together millennials and Gen Z as ‘the younger workforce’ or ‘the younger audience’ is oversimplifying. In fact, you’re conflating two audiences that have disparate views on the world, different content that speaks to them, and different demands of brands.

But as soon as you start to fight for your audience and find ways your brand can connect to their innate behaviours and opinions, suddenly your message will become much more relevant.

So next time you’re planning a campaign, rather than be the person that asks, ‘is this right for our brand?’, why not be the person on the Zoom call that asks ‘does this fight for our audience?’