I

f anyone wants you to know the answer to this question right now, it’s Gen Zers. They’ve made it painfully (and hilariously) clear that they want nothing to do with the Millennial age group or their avocado toast. Periodt. 

Gen Zers have ruthlessly roasted Millennials in the comments of a TikTok video posted by @mayalepa, a Gen Zer who stated that she does not want to be bunched into an age group of people who “thinks the Harry Potter movies are a personality trait.” 

Other Gen Zers hopped into the comments, dragging Millennials for being the cringiest people to ever walk the planet. These comments were screenshotted, posted on Twitter (for all the Millennials to see) and went viral within hours, starting one of the best social media battles we’ve ever seen. 

Spoiler alert: Gen Zers definitely won. Sorry, Millennials, go console yourself with a $6 latte. 


In part, we agree with Gen Z: there are many obvious differences between Gen Z and Millennials. Most obviously: the age and stage difference. 

Anyone who was born between 1980 and 1996 is considered a Millennial, putting the oldest Millennial at 40 years old and the youngest at 24 years old. There are roughly 80 million millennials in the U.S today.

A Gen Zer is anyone who was born between 1997 and 2009. The oldest Gen Zer just graduated from college and the youngest just started middle school. There are about 90 million Gen Zers in the U.S today. 

Besides age, Millennials and Gen Zers have completely different attitudes, motivations, and perspectives that influence some of the most important aspects of their lives. (Think education, employment, worldview, buying habits, etc.)

So, let’s walk through some key differences between Millennials and Gen Z. To help illustrate our points, meet Ethan and Mila.  

Ethan is a 30 year-old Millennial, and Mila is a 17 year-old Gen Zer. We’ll walk through important aspects of their (hypothetical) lives to demonstrate some of the important distinctions between Millennials and Gen Z. 

Childhood: Digital Adopters vs. Digital Natives

Ethan (Millennial): Ethan grew up as a true 90s kid. While The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Full House frequently appeared on his television screen, so did the 24/7 news cycle. With that came horrific events such as 9/11 and the Columbine shooting streaming into his living room in realtime. 

Due to new technology and increased interconnectedness, Ethan and his age group were more exposed to the atrocities of the world than any other generation that preceded. Ethan’s parents chose to closely monitor Ethan’s usage of the family computer in hopes of protecting him from online evils. 

Mila (Gen Z): Mila was born and almost immediately learned how to use her mom’s laptop and dad’s cell phone. Connecting to WiFi is one of Mila’s innate skills, and she feels completely comfortable using and navigating the internet. Mila, and the rest of Generation Z, are considered to be the first true digital natives.

Because Mila and her parents have been accustomed to using the internet and mobile devices, Mila grew up without as many online restrictions as compared to her Millennial-counterpart Ethan.

Mila was able to use the internet without too much restriction, and in turn, she taught herself how to navigate the online world, oftentimes better than her parents or other older relatives. When it came to social media, Mila (like much of Gen Z) was a self-starter and self-instructor, allowing her to grow in empowerment and confidence while online. 

Additionally, unlike Ethan, Mila was raised during the Great Recession. Mila experienced her parents struggle to keep a job and pay off debt. This experience leads her to look at life and especially financial decisions differently than Ethan.  

Mindset: Idealist vs. Realist 

Ethan (M): Ethan is an idealist. Growing up in an economic boom, Ethan does not overly concern himself with penny-pinching, and he will pay extra for a good experience. Ethan values finding his dream job and will risk stability to go out on a limb for a better opportunity. 

Mila (Z): Mila is a realist. She makes pragmatic and careful financial decisions due to her family’s experience during the Great Recession. She values stability over risk when it comes to employment. Mila is not as optimistic as Ethan about her future career and finances. 

Social Media Usage: Spectator vs. Socialite 

Ethan (M): Ethan’s first social media account was his MySpace page. He constantly posted updates about his life and got to chat with his friends in real-time. As new social media platforms emerged, he made accounts for each so he could stay connected with his friends and family and the ongoings of their lives. Currently, Ethan’s favorite social media platforms are Facebook and Instagram. 

Through his social media accounts, Ethan is able to stay informed about world events and what people from all over the world are thinking and doing. Ethan and other Millennials are known as “global spectators” who were more attentive to the rest of the world than previous generations. 

Mila (Z): Mila made her first social media account when she was 11 years old. Now, Mila is active on several social media platforms where she and other Gen Zers can communicate and hangout in virtual settings. Currently, Mila’s favorite social media platforms are Snapchat and TikTok. 

She believes that social media can and should be used to activate social change. She also values social media because she uses it for creative expression and inspiration instead of just mundane life-updates. 

Mila is considered a “global citizen” on social media. She does more than just keep updated on world events, she communicates and activates with her global peers regularly. Mila and Gen Z seamlessly communicate with people from around the world and form communities with them based on similar interests.

Education: Undergrad vs. Certified Student 

Ethan (M): Ethan attended a traditional four-year university where he received his undergraduate degree. He now questions the value of his education as he struggles with thousands of dollars in student debt. 

Mila (Z): Mila has yet to attend college but she is considering her options. She is interested in non-traditional schooling to reduce the cost of higher education. Mila is also highly considering taking a gap year before pursuing her education to learn from the world around her before she is stuck in a classroom. Another aspect that sets her apart from Ethan is she wants to become certified in unique skills that will make her more valuable in the workforce and, in turn, secure her a well-paying job.

Career: Team Player vs. Independent Worker

Ethan (M): Ethan takes job positions that he thinks will be enjoyable and will also allow him to climb the ladder. His main motivation for employment is money. He has years of student debt payments to make and he does not mind working long hours if it means he is able to pay those off. Compared to his Gen Z counterparts, he is very optimistic about his career goals. 

Ethan enjoys his current job where he works in a collaborative environment and has the option to work remotely. He also prefers to communicate with his coworkers using online communication platforms. 

Mila (Z): Mila already has her eye on the prize when it comes to her career. She, like the rest of Gen Z, strives for job fulfillment as well as stability. She believes that if she truly has a passion for the job she is doing, it will not feel like “work.”

Mila prefers to work independently and has an entrepreneurial mindset. She considers herself a jack-of-all-trades and would like to have diverse roles in her future career. Unlike Ethan, she would rather communicate face-to-face in the workplace. 

Consumerism: Experience Seeker vs. Picky Buyer

Ethan (M): Ethan values brands that are transparent and stand for good values. His generation has a longer attention span than Gen Z, so brands can capture his attention with traditional ads and branded podcasts. 

Ethan expects a good experience when buying a product. He deeply values customer service and is willing to pay extra for an exceptional buying experience.  

Mila (Z): Mila is an even tougher egg to crack when it comes to her buying tendencies. Mila desires brands that aren’t just transparent or only provide a good shopping experience. She wants corporate social responsibility, creativity, and authenticity … all for a reasonable price. 

Mila responds best to advertisements that are short, creative, and feature “real” people. Mila is much more persuaded by a social media influencer or friend’s recommendation than an ad on her Instagram feed. She can be captivated by an interesting video, but will almost never buy something without price-checking and reading dozens of reviews. 



Additionally, if Mila is offered a discount or reward when purchasing a product, she is much more likely to buy it. Mila wants to feel like she is getting a special, money-saving offer when buying something. 

Conclusion

To group Mila and Ethan together because they belong to the “younger generations” might be a marketer’s biggest mistake (and Gen Z will be the first to correct you). When we look at Ethan and Mila’s upbringings, worldviews, social media usages, views on education, preferred career paths, and buying tendencies, it’s hard to overlook the blatant differences. 

Even though they are close in age, Ethan and Mila are sometimes the paradox of each other; Ethan and his fellow Millennials are idealistic team players, while Mila and Gen Zers are realistic independent workers. Ethan and his friends stick to the traditional uses of social media, while Mila and her followers create new ways to use social media on the daily (and as of right now, that includes making up new ways to roast Millennials). 

Understanding these key differences between Millennials and Gen Z can help your brand develop specific tactics to motivate and mobilize each generation. Show Ethan and Mila (and their respective peers) that your brand understands their generation, relates to their perspectives and can satisfy their specific needs. 

Adapting your marketing efforts to uniquely accommodate these two generations might take some extra time and effort, but it could be the key to unlocking a multi-million-person customer base. 

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