A Closer Look at Generations Y and Z | Advertising Strategy

May 18, 2016

Everyone knows about millennials, but did you know they are often times lumped together with the Generation Z cohort even though they are two distinct groups with two different ways of thinking? They may only be a few years apart, but developing an advertising strategy targeting college students will be much different than how you would advertise to a kid in middle school.

A recent AdWeek article focuses on how millennials and Generation Z both respond to different advertising strategy based on their age and stage in life. Yes, their age can make a huge difference but so can their exposure to the media from a very young age.

First, a breakdown of the different generations:

  • Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are really the first generation to use computers in elementary school and continue to use them when they get home to communicate with their friends, play games, read the news and see advertisements. Generation Z, on the other hand, has been using technology since they were toddlers.
  • Generation Y prefers that companies reach out to them via email and social media. Their favorite website is Amazon. They wish that there were more branded games for them to play and the ads that capture their attention are ads that pull on their heartstrings.
  • Generation Z, those born after 1998, may not mind emails but prefer that companies reach out to them through social media and online ads. They like to DIY, watch YouTube and trust celebrities and the items they promote.

Why is this?

I strongly believe it is the way they grew up.

Generation Y grew up playing games on the computer that have the exact same format as branded games today. They grew up with movies that pulled on their heartstrings. Advertisers realize that a memory from a generation’s childhood is the golden ticket to ad effectiveness.

If someone grows up seeing ads in the Xbox games they play or the YouTube videos they watch, not only will this advertising strategy be effective now but will continue to be effective as the generation grows up.

You may be saying, like some people in the article’s comments, “Adults like Amazon because they have money. Kids like YouTube because they have no money. Why do I care what the people with no money like? When they have money I will care about them.” The reason you should care about who you are advertising to, regardless of their current financial status, is because the impression you leave on them now can last a lifetime. How many adults still eat Life cereal because they remember this commercial from decades ago? My point exactly.

Now, what do the millennials have in common? Their love for social media.

Social media is an interesting platform and it is changing and evolving at a rapid pace. Social media is appealing to millennials because they can see into their friends’ lives without actually talking to them. We can now look into celebrities’ lives, #BTS (behind the scenes) into businesses and see more of the world than we have ever been able to see before on our 4.7-inch screen.

The best advertising strategy for social media is to make an ad not look like an ad at all. Most people spend seconds looking at a photo on Instagram before they scroll to the next photo. If the photo your company posts looks like an advertisement, users will likely completely shut down toward whatever your company has to offer because they don’t like seeing “sales-y” ads in their Instagram feeds. If the ad your company posts looks like an organic and authentic photo that someone would have posted on their personal Instagram, you then have a fighting chance at someone being interested in what you’re selling.

One of the best examples of this is Teva. When their photos show up on my feed, I always give them a double tap and then look up to see who it is and can’t believe that I actually liked a photo from a shoe company. When people see your company’s photos/posts on Instagram, you want them to think, “I like their photos so much, I might buy myself a pair of Tevas because maybe my life will be that artsy and beautiful if I do!”

Millennials are a tough generation for companies to advertise to because of the complexities I explained in this post. With the right advertising strategy and knowing your audience, your advertising efforts can be more successful than ever before.

-Guest post by Commit’s summer intern, Emily Alimusa