Connecting with Gen Zers and Millennials? They Receive Messages Differently


Though “Millennial” continues to be the catch-all term for “young people,” a new generational cohort has emerged: Generation Z. The differences between Millennials and Gen Z run deeper than their age brackets.

They receive messages differently.

Adam Scott writes at Forbes that a failure to acknowledge key differences between the groups results in a failure to connect. Scott says, “In order to successfully market to Gen Zers, it is important to recognize how this new set of consumers differentiates from the previous generation.” It is wrong to assume that Gen Zers are exactly like their predecesors, the Millennials.

Scott identifies four key areas of difference between Gen Zers and Millennials. They are:

  1. How they understand authenticity.

  2. How they regard influencers.

  3. How they respond to advertising (applicable to churches who send direct mail pieces, buy social media ads, etc.).

  4. How they relate to brands.

How does Gen Z differ? Scott explains.

First, Millennials and Gen Zers both value authenticity. They want to be real, and they want others to be real with them. But Scott says, “Gen Zers desire even more transparency from companies and distrust obvious forms of traditional advertisements.” In his experience as a marketing consultant, Scott has found Gen Zers are seeking more information about companies and their products, and this has led the businesses he works with to shift their emphasis to educating customers rather than sales, demonstrating how their products can help the person in their life.

For churches, it is helpful to remember that Gen Zers prefer substance over style. Thus, you must not only invite Gen Zers to participate in the life of the church through your communication pieces, you must help them see and understand why following Jesus leads to life.

Second, Gen Z’s disinclination toward traditional marketing has led them to prefer the direction of those they encounter on social media sites like Instagram or YouTube. These people are called social media influencers. While your church won’t invite Kylie Jenner or some other celebrity to recommend your congregation to others (I don’t think), you can communicate using these tools more locally. You can encourage members of your fellowship to tell their friends about their experiences as a disciple by using social media stories, broadcasts, or images.

Third, and once again regarding printed marketing or advertising, Scott points out, “In a poll, 67% of millennials revealed they would visit a specific website to receive a discount code. Only 46% of Gen Zers surveyed stated they would go to this length for a coupon. Similarly, 71% of Millennials noted an online advertisement has directly led to them buying an item. A mere 59% of Gen Zers said an advertisement had that much of an effect.” Gen Zers are more immune to ads.

As a leader, consider how you steward your communication budget. Where do you spend your money? How do you try and raise awareness of your church community in your town or city? What is your goal with your communication pieces?

Your church may still pay for a listing in the faith section of the local paper. They do provide a little bit of exposure. But you may consider instead ways you can spend that money to greater effect, like printing a good looking t-shirt for a special event that people will continue to wear and share stories about for years to come.

Lastly, Scott writes, “Gen Zers are not as label focused.” They aren’t as loyal to a brand. The same was said about Millennials not long ago. People connect to churches not because of denominational identity, but more often because of their relationships with people. If you want to make those connections run deeper, you’ll have to make an effort in teaching what makes your congregation, and your wider ecclesial tradition, distinct.