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TikTok marketing to Gen Z vs. Millennials

Welcome to the wild, wacky world of TikTok, the app that has become a cultural phenomenon, a bottomless pit of entertainment, and the core of many brands' social media marketing efforts. Combining catchy tunes and audio clips with user creativity, it's fun, quick, entertaining, and infinite. This app is the perfect cocktail made for the people of this generation, boasting a carefully curated algorithm targeting the Millennial and Gen Z brains. 

While Millennials and Gen Z are often grouped together as the 'younger' internet generation, they have had very different life experiences. It seems TikTok permeates across all age groups, but there is a generation gap there that visibly reflects in the behavior of each demographic on the app, and the content surfaced to them.


TikTok user distribution

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What are the differences in TikTok user behavior between the two demographics? What are the differences in their content preferences? How does each group respond to different types of content? What are the trends seen in content consumption and content creation

And most importantly, what does this mean for your TikTok marketing strategy? 

TikTok users spent around $2.3 billion in 2021. There is so much opportunity just waiting to be tapped. If you play your cards right, TikTok could be a major driver of growth for your business, both in terms of sales and community engagement.

Millennials vs. Gen Z 

Millennials are the OG Internet Kids. They were born between the early 80s and mid-90s, so they're currently all grown up and in their late 20s to early 40s. They're the ones who remember dial-up internet days and AOL instant messenger but have also adapted to the digital age. 

Gen Z, aka the Zoomers, are the new kids on the block. Born between the mid-90s and early 2010, they're young, they're fun, and are currently between 9 and 26 years old. They're the first generation that grew up with smartphones attached to their hands and social media flowing through their veins. Gen Zers tend to be digitally connected, fluid exploratory, politically aware, and not afraid to challenge traditional institutions.

Understanding Millennial and Gen Z behavior on TikTok and what it means to TikTok marketing

If you're targeting everybody, you're targeting nobody. Knowing your audience and understanding their behavior is your golden ticket to effective marketing.


TikTok shopping behavior worldwide

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While it's easy to throw them into the same basket with the "internet generation" tag and make your marketing easier and less cumbersome, your brand risks losing out on the nuances that get you the results you really crave. You have got to understand the way they think.

While the app is the same for all users, regardless of demographic, differences arise in their behavior on the app, and everyone has a different experience. Take a look at the individuals followed by Millennials vs. Gen Z in this graph:


Categories that Gen Z and Millennials follow on TikTok

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Let's compare Millennial and Gen Z user behavior on TikTok and understand them better.

DISCLAIMER: Take the statistical inferences with a grain of salt; these are patterns of preferences observed on average in a demographic and may not represent the entire population. 

One-sided entertainment vs. interactive content

Millennials tend to consume content, while Gen Zers are often the creators of that content. This may be the most fundamental difference in the lens through which the two demographics view TikTok. For Millennials, Tiktok is a source of entertainment. They open the app and entertain themselves by scrolling. It is more one-sided and consumption-centric. More "media" than "social," if you will. 


TikTok content consumers and creators by age

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Gen Z, on the other hand, uses TikTok as more than just an entertainment consumption platform; they use it to communicate. It is a medium for video-based dialogue, it's used to express opinions and build communities of like-minded individuals. 

For Gen Z more so than Millennials, TikTok enhances socializing by creating opportunities for group activities like dance challenges and trends. It is almost like an extension of themselves, a virtual personality, a platform for self-expression, and a creative outlet. It checks all the boxes as a multi-utility platform for Gen Z. 


Gen Z stats

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Marketing implications

Capturing the Gen Z market is much easier when you tap into the more social aspects of the app. As a brand, creating trends and challenges that allow for interactive activities is a good way to reach this audience. You can even create a filter and unique hashtag for your brand and incentivize people to use it. It's fun when everyone gets in on a trend and when friends can meet up and learn a dance for TikTok.

As we continue to discuss the trends between these two generations, remember that TikTok is a valuable source of user-generated content (UGC). This is especially true if your brand utilizes a UGC platform like Pixlee TurnTo that allows you to collect, permission, and reshare TikTok content from fans across your marketing channels.

Nostalgic and Aspirational vs. relatable and trendy

While both generations tend to trust and consume authentic content from real people like them (UGC), the style of that content differs slightly between the two groups. While Millennials prefer content that is idealistic and aspirational, Gen Z'ers connect more with raw, unfiltered content. Millennials also enjoy throwback content; they're old enough to relate to "the good old days" now. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. 

Gen Z grew up with social media, people communicating with other people, not brands. They love content that gives you a peek into others' lives. They have grown up with access to the internet, been exposed to a vast array of information, and have developed a more critical eye toward traditional media and large corporations. Raw and authentic is what speaks to them.

It's important to note that the power of authentic content in marketing is continuing to rise, and brands should not just stick to traditional advertising methods when targeting Millennials. Test out different content types on TikTok to see what resonates best with your audience. 

Additionally, both generations tend to respond well to influencer marketing content on TikTok. TikTok influencers with 15K followers or less have a 17.96% engagement rate, beating Instagram's 3.86% average. 


Gen Z Stats 2

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Marketing implications

UGC and influencer marketing are powerful assets for your brand's TikTok strategy, but it's important to curate the content you share depending on which generation you are targeting with each post.

Gen Zers have shorter attention spans than Millennials

On average, millennials have an attention span that is 50% longer than Gen Z kids. In general, everyone is so hyperstimulated that even the slightest dull moment in a video will cause them to scroll past. Gen Z has an incredibly low attention span of just 8 seconds.

While Millennials may have the capacity for longer-form content, Gen Z loves a short-form banger video. A perfectly stimulating amalgamation of good visuals, catchy music, and fun personalities. 

Marketing implications

After analyzing the insights from almost any social media report, the bottom line is simple. In the case of Gen Z, this simply translates into short-form video content, easily created with a video editor and a good imagination. It's a good general rule to keep TikTok videos 15 seconds or shorter.

It involves creating the perfect cocktail of background audio, sound effects, enticing visuals, right-length video cuts, transitions, and scripting. You need to maximize the attention-grabbing element while minimizing the chances of them scrolling past.

Cautious, focused, and responsible vs. open-to-risk, impulsive, and trendy

Millennials (whether they like it or not) are growing up. They're starting families and settling into careers. They (sort of) know who they are and they know what they want. So a lot of the content that appeals to them tends to lean in the more stable and responsible direction. They love tutorial and DIY-type content, lifestyle hacks, products that optimize for efficiency at home and professionally, and products that will enhance their lifestyle. 

Gen Z individuals, on the other hand, are young, may have fewer commitments, and have a lot more freedom. They are much less risk-averse and aren't afraid of trying new things. They're on their journey of self-discovery and are willing to explore new trends, styles, products, and brands. You will find that they hop on to the latest trends immediately, they don't mind trying new fashion styles, and they love finding new ways to express and explore themselves. 

67% of Gen Z respondents say that TikTok content influences their purchasing decisions, compared to 56% of millennial respondents.

Marketing implications

You can count on Gen Z's impulsiveness and openness to new ideas to buy into new products and services. They want what's new, they want to be trendsetters, and they want to be on top of the latest obsessions that take over the internet. The 'early adopter' tag brings with it a lot of social capital. This means if you can generate hype and convince them something is cool, you've got them in the palm of your hand.

Millennials are more cautious about spending (as they should be). They are making their own money and have bills to pay, so they are much less impulsive with their buys, often reading product reviews before making purchases.

Marketing products and services with a high focus on their utility are what gets them interested. They buy what is useful and efficient, and they trust brands with an established online community that vouches for their products. This is another reason why UGC can be so valuable to your TikTok marketing campaigns.

It's also a point worth noting that Millennials have more money to spend, but only on things that are worth it. So if you can convince them that a product will be of good use to them, and worth it, you can price your products higher since they have the means to spend decent money.

Gen Z values fun, positivity, inclusivity, and acceptance

Gen Z is incredibly socially aware and holds value-driven brands in high esteem. Socially-conscious brands find massive success in the current market. They expect brands to be transparent, politically correct, and supportive of social justice causes. 


Gen Z Stats 3

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Gen Z strongly values diversity, equity, and inclusion, and this translates to the brands they support. They are very aware and vocal about the climate crisis, and value prioritizing their mental health.

While Millennials don't necessarily oppose any of this, they just aren't as active on the scene as Gen Z. It's hard to stay on top of these issues as they are so dynamic and fluid. Millennials tend to value stability, work-life balance, and personal and professional development more, and that is where their energies are focused. 

Marketing implications

The Gen Z demographic tends to support brands that align with their values and promote causes that they care about. Branding your products as "environmentally friendly," "cruelty-free," and "vegan," can help connect with your audience, as can showcasing those values through your TikTok content. 

Having a diverse group of influencers promoting your content, and showing your support for all means of self-expression is helpful as well- this will help connect with the audience and grow brand trust and loyalty. 

Looking ahead

If you're looking to make it big with social media marketing, it's important to understand that different generations have different preferences. 

With the Gen Z crowd, it's all about entertainment, human connection, and exciting new trends. Brands need to get creative and champion authenticity to win their hearts (and their credit cards).

On the other hand, Millennials are all about information. For them, it's crucial to have a clear and concise message that's still relatable and relevant. Brands need to get to the point, but not lose their touch of personality.

Think of it like a recipe for success; these are just general trends to build upon. Every target audience is unique, as is every product, and the best approach is to mix and match your social media strategies to see what works best for your particular audience. 

Understand your audience and listen to your data. Be clear and concise in your marketing messages while still being relatable and relevant to your target audience. Remember to have a little fun with it! You'd be surprised what a long way that goes. 

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on pixlee.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.

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