How-tos for Generational Marketing to Millennials vs. Gen Z

Millennials and Generation Zers have both broken out of a shell that generations prior were determined to mold themselves to. This fact, along with their closeness in age, have led many to believe that they have a lot of commonalities that can accommodate similar generational marketing strategies.

Millennials and Generation Zers are both notorious for shaking up the status quo in more ways than one. They’ve both broken out of a shell that generations prior were determined to mold themselves to. This fact, along with their closeness in age, have led many to believe that they have a lot of commonalities that can accommodate similar generational marketing strategies.

While they are adjacent generations, the qualities in which they have gained notoriety differ, especially as consumers. The rise of the newest wave of consumers, who make up roughly 40% of all customers in the market, is certainly creating changes as Gen Z’s desires are not perfectly aligned with their older generational neighbors. The people who make up this group were born between 1997 and 2012.

At the same time, this does not imply that advertisers should stop pushing their marketing efforts toward Millennials. Simply put, Millennials largely contribute to the U.S. economic capital with a generational wealth estimated at $24 trillion. This group is made up of people born between 1981 and 1996.

With these statistics in mind, it is important that brands learn how to make the most of both unique generational consumer behaviors. Here are different elements advertisers should keep in mind when targeting a Millennial vs. a Gen Z demographic.


Before we break down the differences these two generations have as consumers, it’s important to acknowledge they do still have quite a bit in common. First, both groups are well-versed in social media and the amount of time they spend plugged in doesn’t vary too drastically.

Even at an average of 20 minutes less per day, Millennials were young and impressionable when the age of the Internet came to be and, as such, they are just about as savvy in social media as is Gen Z.

Second, both generations place importance on diversity, equality, and progressive social values. In contrast to generations prior, Millennials and Gen Zers have questioned many social norms that Boomers and Gen Xers have accepted as reality.

Though there are undoubtedly many similarities in the grand scheme of things, these generational differences must also be considered in order for marketers to successfully cater to both.

Attitude Toward Spending

Interestingly, the way Millennials’ and Gen Zers’ finances differ is quite great.

Many Millennials were young adults when the Great Recession hit the U.S. in 2007. Growing up with a poor economy at large taught this group to place value on quality over quantity, as they remain mostly optimistic about their personal finances.

With Gen Z being quite young at the start of the economic downturn, this generation adopted the notion of practicality and financial preparation from an early age.

How Can Brands Successfully Cater to Both Spending Behaviors?

For Millennials, quality over quantity means they are looking to invest their money in brands that create a unique product or experience that will noticeably enhance their quality of living. Millennials are inclined to do significant research before making a purchase, ensuring they’ve found the most beneficial product or experience for them. This is good news for marketers, as Millennials are constantly on the lookout for the next best thing to help them in their everyday lives. All brands need to do is prove they are the ones Millennials should be investing their time and money in, and they may have customers for life.

For Gen Z, it’s best to get right to it. Let the consumer know exactly why the product or experience is the best one for them and why it’s worth the money. As previously mentioned, this generation is very focused on responsible spending as a result of their early memories of the Great Recession. So, if you want to sell to Gen Z, make sure you keep your brand’s feet firmly planted on the ground. Approach selling in a practical manner and make sure your product has a clear purpose for its consumer.

Feeling Connected Through Social Media

It is apparent that both generations are avid social media users, and the feeling of connection that social media creates is well enjoyed by both. However, the ways they best receive those feelings of connection vary.

Millennials feel most connected through the more traditional sharing, pinning, and forwarding; predominantly on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Gen Zers have had social media at their fingertips for the majority of their lives and, as a result, they consume more media on fewer platforms. This group is very visual and prefers rapid consumption, mainly through Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and, most recently, TikTok.

How Can Brands Leverage Connection in Their Marketing Efforts?

Millennials prefer the more traditional social media platforms and sharing techniques, because they’re easy ways to feel seen and heard. Brands can leverage this in their customer journeys through interaction: asking consumers questions, encouraging them to communicate in comments sections, and more. This creates a space where Millennials feel valued and contributes to their attitude that a brand can better their lives on a deeply personal level.

Gen Z’s short attention span makes their marketing needs exclusively geared toward them. Cut to the chase and get down to benefits of the product — this is the best way to reach them on their preferred social platforms. Utilizing influencers for brand marketing is an effective way to connect to this audience. With 10-second Instagram stories and #sponsored posts, brands can use their preferred social platforms to connect in a unique way that feels authentic to Gen Z.

Embracing Generational Differences as Marketers and Advertisers

As two groups who came one after the other, it’s no surprise that Millennials and Generation Z are very similar. Both known for questioning common ideas the predecessing generations easily accepted, the two generations have redefined marketing in a new era for brands. They value authenticity, social responsibility, and inclusion. But both have different consumer behaviors when it comes to their finances and how they connect. For marketers, it is more important than ever to optimize and strategize based on their ever-changing habits as consumers

Malls Bank on Experiences for a Successful Holiday Season

The holiday shopping season is in full swing! Where are consumers expecting to spend most of their shopping time? Not at a mall, according to the Synchrony Financial “2017 Pre-Holiday Study.”

The holiday shopping season is in full swing! Where are consumers expecting to spend most of their shopping time? Not at a mall, according to the Synchrony Financial “2017 Pre-Holiday Study.” The study shows that about 50 percent of consumers expect to do their holiday spending in a store, but out of that, only 38 percent of in-store shoppers plan to do that shopping in a mall.

Synchrony Holiday Shopper Insights In-Store PurchasesWhere will shoppers go instead of the mall? The majority of consumers (66 percent) say they will spend some time going to mass merchandiser retailers (e.g., Walmart, Target, etc.) and half of store shoppers say they will visit a stand-alone specialty apparel store.

The benefits of going into these stores are the one-stop shopping element. Mass merchandisers have a wide variety of items available at a relatively low price. So, you can buy a sweater for grandma and a toy for little Johnny without a lot of walking around. Stand-alone specialty apparel stores have the benefit of available parking and more personalized service.

Synchrony Holiday Shopper Insights Via GenerationsIf you do venture into the mall, the people you are most likely to see are Gen Z and Millennials. Those aged 18- to 25-years old are the ones who intend to spend the most time at the mall this year, with over 40 percent of them saying they will shop at a mall. The Gen X and Baby Boomer populations (aged 36 to 65) are the ones who say they will stay away. Only 33 percent of this population say they will be mall shopping.

Retailers have been putting an increased focus on strategies to get consumers to walk through their doors. Many retailers now give shoppers the ability to order online and pick-up in-store. This not only saves time for the consumer, but also gives the store the opportunity to up-sell or cross sell other items. Other retailers have been putting interactive experiences and restaurants in their stores to increase the “fun” factor. The last time I walked into a Williams Sonoma store, they were cooking an entire turkey dinner!

The future of the mall depends on maximizing these experiences. There are malls that have added restaurants, art installations and even amusement parks as part of the effort to draw more foot traffic. Many retail experts feel that the survival of the mall lies on its ability to attract shoppers with innovative services and entertainment, in addition to stores and products.

* Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and not necessarily of Synchrony Financial. All references to consumers and population refer to the survey respondents from the Synchrony Financial 2017 Pre-Holiday Study unless otherwise noted.

How to Train and Retain Your Millennial Workforce in 2017

As we wrap up budget season and plan for 2017, one question should be on the minds of sales leaders: Is your company prepared to effectively train and retain your Millennial sales force?

Millennial marketerAs we wrap up budget season and plan for 2017, one question should be on the minds of sales leaders:

Is your company prepared to effectively train and retain your Millennial sales force?

As of 2015, the Millennials are the largest segment of the workforce. They learn differently, work differently and think differently than previous generations. And as Generation Z begins to enter the workforce, many sales organizations will have four generations working side by side:

  • Baby-Boomers (1945-64)
  • Gen X (1965-80)
  • Millennials (1981-95)
  • Gen Z (1996-2010)

So, is your company well positioned to handle the needs of your Millennial sales representatives?

Consider how your company stacks up against the following statement:

To inspire the millennial learners of today, sales training must be accessible anytime, anywhere and in ways that are structured, yet flexible, personalized, interactive, stimulating and social.

To compete in the war for talent, effectively on-board, develop and retain Millennials, we believe that the above statement outlines the absolute minimum for leading companies over the next two to three years.

Let’s break it down:

1. Accessible Anytime, Anywhere

Millennials want answers now! Millennial learners have grown up as digital natives; Millennials turn to Google for instantaneous response to any burning question they may have. Whether during the workday, or at 9:30 p.m., “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

2. Structured

Millennials crave structure. Many started in structured soccer at the age of three and grew up with parent-arranged “play dates.” No other generation has grown up with this much structure. As a result, Millennials continue to yearn for structure within their careers. Contrary to popular belief, they are not looking for “participation trophies,” but rather, want to compare how their results stack up to the developed competencies for their position. They expect structured sales processes from which they can learn, master, and be measured against.

3. Flexible

Millennials prefer to learn from a variety of channels and formats: e-learning, mobile video, virtual classrooms, and podcasts should be used alongside direct coaching and instructor-led, in-person training.  A comprehensive curriculum that leverages a variety of these formats engages Millennials more effectively, resulting in greater retention of training concepts.

4. Personalized

Millennials have been told they are special. Perhaps by their parents, but definitely by the data-driven, hyper-personalized business world around them. As the most digital savvy generation to enter the workforce, they have an unconscious expectation that onboarding programs will be personalized as well. Companies can meet that expectation by beginning the onboarding process with an objective assessment, creating a Personal Learning Portal (PRP) and converting to a customized curriculum as outlined above.

5. Interactive

Millennials have grown up with control and continuous feedback … so it’s no wonder that interactive learning appeals to this generation. They crave a learning environment where they can interact with their coaches, as well as collaborate with their peers. To start, we recommend push/pull learning. A simple example would be to “push” a series of objections to the millennial learner and ask them to effectively handle the objection by video recording their response through their smartphone (see process graphics below). Statistics show that the millennial will practice their response 5.6 times before sending.  The manager then either prompts the learner to do it again or grades the response and enters the results into their Personalized Learning Portal.

  • Manager/Coach pushes a video objection to the salesperson/learner
  • Learner receives the “push” learning exercise and begins recording their response on their laptop or smartphone
  • Learner records their response, reviews it and decides whether it is good enough to send “average learner discards approximately five practice tries before sending best effort)
  • Manager/Coach reviews video response and decides whether to: Prompt for new response and Grade conversation
  • Manager/Coach grades response and posts to Personalized Learning Portal
The sample images above are a product of Rehearsal VRP
The sample images above are a product of Rehearsal VRP.

6. Stimulating

Content is everything and Millennials want to understand the “why” and connect training exercises to real-world application. Therefore, you must stress the real-world benefits of each learning experience. Let them know what they can expect to take away from their time investment, such as the skills they will develop, and how it applies to real-world challenges.

7. Social

Given the popularity of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, etc., it’s safe to say that millennial learners thrive in social environments. They are comfortable collaborating with one another and have no problem sharing personal experiences with their peers.  They place a high value on social currency (i.e., “Likes”), which is a different kind of motivational force than money.  As such, leaders who make a point to single out someone’s practice video (see No. 5) and share it on a company “Knowledge Web” will not only help other employees learn from their peers, but also motivate the employee who created the practice video to continue their good work.

While embracing the needs of the Millennial generation may seem complex, we believe that the maxim “progressive improvement is better than postponed perfection” applies. There are two types of companies we see competing in the war for talent:

  1. Those who complain about it
  2. Those who are doing something about it

At Butler Street, we specialize in developing comprehensive learning curriculum for your sales, recruiting and customer service organizations leveraging a wide variety of formats and incorporating into a best-in-class Learning Management System (LMS). It starts with our Comprehensive Learning Assessment. Click CONTACT to learn more.

Click here to read PI Blogger Bill Farquharson’s recent blog post on Millennial Sales Speak

How Do You Market to Perennials?

Gina Pell, content chief at The What, was looking for a new way to look at people, beyond their birth year, calling it “so antiquated … so 20th century.” So she came up with the classification of Perennials.

Stereotyping Generations — Millennials, Boomers, Gen Xers, Perennials… and no, I’m not talking daisies, hostas or lilies (#plantnerd).

As a subscriber to a number of e-newsletters like theSkimm, The Hustle and NextDraft, I enjoy a lot of the world and national news brought to me, in a quick-take, often sassy format. And in the April 5 issue of NextDraft, I found out about Perennials.

Gina Pell, content chief at The What, was looking for a new way to look at people, beyond their birth year, calling it “so antiquated … so 20th century,” regarding shoehorning people into just being their generation.

She wanted to regard them by mindset … something that’s a bit different for marketers, who are classically used to segmenting prospects and customers by demographics, such as age, sex, education level, income level, marital status, occupation, religion.

In a post she wrote in October 2016 — titled, “Meet the Perennials” — Pell breaks the group down into this:

We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge and know how to hustle. We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic. Perennials are also vectors who have a wide appeal and spread ideas and commerce faster than any single generation.

Who’s not a Perennial? Someone who is close-minded, and who looks at life like a timeline, i.e., “By 30 I must accomplish this, this and this. By 40 I will have a growing family and will have reached management status. By 50 it’s time to slow down.”

Okay, so, as someone who is in the upper-age bracket of the Millennial generation, this speaks to me on some levels. I get sick and tired of being lumped into a group that can span nearly 20 years (I have very little in common with a 22-year-old, much less 15-year-old). That said, I face the a lot of the same challenges: dealing with student loan debt; struggling with job security; etc.

But while writing that sentence, it made me realize: hasn’t every generation dealt with those issues, too? In their own ways?

Pell closes her post with:

Being a Millennial doesn’t have to mean living in your parent’s basement, growing an artisanal beard, and drinking craft beer. Midlife doesn’t have to be a crisis. And you don’t have to be a number anymore. You’re relevant. You’re ever-blooming. You’re Perennial.

I appreciate the sentiment. But for marketers, how do you market to this group? Do you toss out demographic data, and instead focus on values? And is it worth it?

You tell me. And tell me what you think of the idea of Perennials … is it fitting, or just another buzzword-to-be?

How We Get Generations Wrong

The idea of a generation isn’t actually meant to be a label. No one who studies the topic considers your generation to be what you are or expects all individuals in it to think or act the same. That’s not the point at all.

Thinking about Millennials a couple weeks ago got me deep into a sidetrack: What the heck is a generation, anyway?

The idea of a generation isn’t actually meant to be a label. No one who studies the topic considers your generation to be what you are or expects all individuals in it to think or act the same way. That’s not the point at all.

That’s why when you start talking about “Millennials” in a room that actually has some, the first thing you hear is “Hey, we’re not all the same!” They’re not alone, “Doesn’t feel like they’re part of a generation” is one of Gen X’s iconic traits.

So what is this idea that describes people even when they swear it doesn’t?

What Makes Your generation Unique?
How the generations think of themselves. (Circa. 2010)

Generations are really a shorthand way to think about the shared experiences different age groups have had, and the way those have influenced many in that group.

Some things are unique compared to the other generations: The Vietnam War and the draft for Baby Boomers, broken homes and latchkey kids in Gen X, or growing up with smartphones while graduating over-indebted and underemployed for Millennials.

Other experiences echo in different forms for each generation: The John F. Kennedy assassination, the Challenger disaster and 9/11 serve as similarly dark, childhood/teen traumas for each respective generation.

When computers and the Internet emerged, and what they meant on a personal level, was different for each generation too. For the Baby Boomers, computers were technical disruptors of their adult lives (though not necessarily unwelcome). For Gen X, they were the cutting edge tech as they entered the workforce, and a good handhold to climb into the workforce. For Millennials, they’ve been a constant feature since childhood, no more exceptional than TV or the refrigerator.

What if this generation's dad humor is just washed-up Internet memes?
This! … actually really worries me.

Regardless of the different shared experiences, though, some age-based traits are constant. Younger workers as a whole always seem lazy, disinterested in work, and distant from their elders. That’s not a generational trait, that’s just how young people in any age enter the workforce. Not every young person, but enough that elder generations notice and complain about it, so these adjectives get attached to every new generation.

New workers don’t necessarily understand how to get along in the work environment yet; that’s just what it means to be new and inexperienced. (Frankly,  I’m just shocked the people who say it about Millennials now don’t remember hearing it about their cohort when they were young.)

The thing to remember is this: A generation isn’t a label, a category or a demographic. It’s more like a type of behavioral targeting. It’s studying how people react to their lives, and praxis is figuring out what that means to your marketing. It’s real people, and the specific events they experienced. Don’t focus on who you think that makes them, just focus on what you know: What they’ve been through and how they’ve reacted to that.

Understanding that is the difference between creating ads that speak to your target market in a specific generation, and ads that blatantly pander and make them mock you.

Why Millennials Make Great Marketers

Forget whatever you think is wrong with Millennials. Here are some qualities, which I think get overlooked, that make them the best generation yet to be marketers.

There have been a lot of articles about what’s supposedly wrong with Millennials. That’s OK, there were a lot of articles about what was wrong with Gen X, too. It happens to every generation (and here’s a selection of historical quotes to show you just how far back that goes). It even happened to the Baby Boomers.

Red Foreman calling 70s kids hippies.
Actual dialog from 1970s households (probably).

And yes, one day Millennials will be the elder generation and they will glamorize their generation’s exploits while talking down whoever comes after Gen Z. That’s just how it works.

I was born in 1977. That makes me a late Gen Xer. I’ve had the chance to work with many Millennials, though, and overall I’ve been pretty impressed with what I’ve seen.

Here are three qualities, based on nothing more than my own personal experiences, that I think get overlooked when we’re worried about who’s staring at their phones.

Taken as a whole, these qualities are why Millennials make great marketers.

1. Millennials Are True Digital Media Natives
When we’re hiring someone coming out of college for an editorial role, I’m looking for candidates who’ve been doing daily blogging, vlogging and/or social media on their own as a personal pursuit. Many Millennials enter the workforce knowing how to shoot and edit video the same way I knew how to use Word and Excel. They’ve lived with multimedia capabilities in their phones since school, and they’ve used it. They get how to build audience on social media and interact with them. They communicate visually.

One does not simply generate a meme.These are valuable skillsets that you generally only find in specialists from Gen X and Baby Boomers. Many Millennials picked them up on the side, and bring them to employers essentially for free. These bonus skills alone mean Millennials have the opportunity to move your marketing forward like no generation before them.