I’m Not the Problem: Why Brands Can’t Bridge the Millennial/Gen Z Gap

I’m a millennial, and I’m constantly #trending and the source of the problem – whatever “the problem” happens to be that week. I face “insane challenges unlike generations before,” I am the reason there are conflicts in the workplace, and no one quite understands why I live through my phone or like avocado on almost everything.

Despite my annoyances, marketers love me. They strive to make their products “Instagram-worthy”  and invest in new ways to make me like them. They add authenticity to brands by making things totally weird or caring about social causes like saving the sea turtles. And for the most part, their companies have me hooked. I’m completely enthralled—wanting to work for, read more and buy into its well-researched products, visions and ideas.

At least, that is what I thought until yesterday, when I learned that unlike half of my fellow journalism classmates, I am not actually categorized as a millennial (#CrisisAverted? #Blessed).

As someone born in February 1997, I am actually the millennial cut-off and classified as a member of “Generation Z.” Gen Z is the largest generation of our population and media audience, where the oldest members are 21 (in comparison to the oldest millennials being 38). With such different age ranges and consumer habits, it made me painstakingly wonder why my brands and professors are still fixated on the millennial persona and not marketing to me: a realistic, tech-savvy, cautious, thrifty and independent human being.

Could it be that marketers are not realizing the audiences they’re trying to reach with all those millennial marketing tactics aren’t actually millennials?

What the millennial/Gen Z divide means for marketers

Recent data from Visa’s Consumer 2020 report thinks so, and recognized that brands need to learn the distinction between the two generations as more people from Gen Z express concerns about “knowing things rather than simply buying things.” While millennials cling to brands and care about brand transparency, Gen Z obsesses about brands that feel authentic, undefined and celebrate independence. We think differently from millennials and are driven by the specific social and economic circumstances in which we were raised. Communication to Gen Z will require a different approach than all earlier generations, with a focus on practicality, short communication bursts, and more visualized content at the cost of text-heavy communication.

Brands must adapt their marketing mindset and strategy to reach Gen Z-ers like me, or they will continue to face the same challenges of connecting with us that they have with millennials.

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Phoebe Janisch

Phoebe seeks to better the world with clear communication strategies. As an avid storyteller, researcher and University of Minnesota student, she looks forward to finding her own imaginative spark at SCG while learning from some of the most innovative mentors and organizations west of the Mississippi.


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