I was reading an article recently that looked at the different generations and the differences between them. Specifically between Millennials and Generation Z. The article found that a majority of marketers believe that you can market the same way to Millennials as you can to Generation Z.

But that’s a misconception.


Defining the Generations

Let’s start with the different generations because sometimes it’s tough to keep track. As a marketer, it’s good to know who you’re marketing to before you start marketing.

I’m going off of Neil Howe and William Strauss’s definition of generations simply because I feel like it fits what I know the best. It gets a little fuzzy when you deal with people on the cusps of each generation. Some identify with the generation before or after them better than the one that they’re in.

According to authors Howe and Strauss, these are the generations:

  • 2000-?: New Silent Generation or Generation Z
  • 1980 to 2000: Millennials or Generation Y
  • 1965 to 1979: Thirteeners or Generation X
  • 1946 to 1964: Baby Boomers
  • 1925 to 1945: The Silent Generation
  • 1900 to 1924: the G.I. Generation

The exact dates of each generation vary from agency to agency. The Center for Generational Kinetics has dates for each generation that are different from the ones offered above.

The Population Reference Bureau also has different, but similar dates. The only problem is this reference is often a little behind because it goes off of U.S. Census data.


Why the Difference in Generations Matters in Marketing

So why do you care?

Marketing is all about creating a campaign that speaks to a potential customer and convinces him or her that your product is the one to buy. The best way to speak to a potential customer is to understand him or her and speak to the customer in a language that he or she will understand.

Each generation is different because it grew up with different social and technological situations that impacted their lives. For example, Millennials grew up with technology unimaginable before that time. It’s during those 20 years that cell phones were created and began to become constants. It’s also when the internet became a household word and video game consoles were something almost any family could afford. It was a generation that thrived on connectivity.

While Generation Z probably hasn’t known anything but connectivity in their lives. Some if not all of them spent their formative years watching tablets and cell phones instead of televisions. This generation operates in a world of wi-fi and handheld devices.

It’s these outside influences during formative years that help shape a person, their shopping, and buying habits.


3 Tips for Marketing to Millennials

If I could tell you how to market to Millennials successfully, I would be rich. This is a question that has plagued marketers since the generation acquired purchasing power. Each millennial is so incredibly different that it becomes difficult to pinpoint what does and does not work.

But don’t give up. There are a few things you should think about when you’re creating a marketing campaign that targets Millennials.


Look at Me

Millennials are often harshly called the “Look at Me” generation because many of them love being the center of attention. That’s why Instagram and Instastories are so popular and social media networks continue to grow.

Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s still something that you need to work into your marketing. When creating a campaign think of ways that you can highlight and feature your audience so that they become your marketing campaign.


Shout Your Story

Millennials are looking for companies that align with their values, which is why it is more important than ever that your company be very aware of who and what it is. Millennials view your company as a person with beliefs and a story. They want a story that they can relate to and they want to support a company with beliefs that align with theirs.

You want to avoid hot topics like politics, but supporting causes that most people can get behind like combating hunger or adopting animals from pet shelters are great ways to create an identity for your company.



This is one that I think isn’t used enough. Millennials have a great sense of FOMO, a.k.a. Fear Of Missing Out. You can use this to your advantage in marketing by offering specific items for a limited time or collectible items that you can only get once. Sports teams do this very well when they offer commemorative bobbleheads if you go to one specific game or collectible items if you go to a series of games.

Pair a special offer with a coupon or savings deal and you should have a winning marketing campaign.



Marketing today is much more complex than it was 50 years ago when you just stuck and ad in the newspaper or put up a billboard. Now you have to worry about social media sites and websites and Google searches. You need to blanket the internet just to have a chance to get heard. It’s a tough business.

But all the marketing in the world isn’t going to do you any good if you don’t know your audience first. One of the first steps to doing that is knowing what generation you’re targeting. Not only will it tell you where to reach your clientele, but it will also help shape your overall marketing campaign.


Written by Erika Towne