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Gen Z and millennials are critical to marketers

The eldest members of Gen Z consumers – born from 1997-2021 – turn 25 this year. As for Millennials (Gen Y) – born 1981-1996 – the oldest turns 41 and are now firmly entrenched in their adult lives, many with kids. These two groups are dramatically reshaping society and business. Both have tremendous influence, and even though neither have realized their full buying power, they’ll eclipse that of all other generations. With an estimated annual purchasing power of $1.4 trillion,1 collectively they comprise the future’s two most dominant consumer groups.

  • 46% of the global population in 2021 were Gen Y and Gen Z
  • 75% of the world’s workforce will be Millennials by 2025
  • 40% of U.S. consumers are Gen Z2

Gen Z was the first generation to grow up with lives completely framed by the internet.3 They were 10 when iPhones debuted. Today, according to Statista,4 nearly 84% of the world owns a smartphone. Both Gen Z and Gen Y were born into a tech-savvy era, and both have higher expectations for technology and innovation. Yet each actively responds to print marketing, with 44% reading 100% of their print direct mail before tossing.5

The right messaging is paramount

Some experts call Gen Z “the sustainability generation,”6 a generation seriously concerned with environmental and social causes. Increasingly they back their beliefs with their shopping habits, engaging only with the brands they see as aligned with their values. Nine in ten believe that companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues.7

Marketers must understand that community-driven initiatives and progressive ideals are pivotal. Many brands are integrating social and environmental themes into their products and services. According to a McKinsey study, “Over the past three years a third of consumers worldwide have expanded the scope of their buying decisions to incorporate principled values and views, using consumption to express deeply held beliefs.”8

Paper is a sustainable medium

According to Pew Research, Gen Z and Millennials are more active in addressing climate change than any other generation. In the survey, 67% of Gen Z consumers and 71% of Millennials agreed climate change should be a top priority to ensure sustainability for future generations. While 37% of Gen Z and 33% of Millennials said that “climate change is my top personal concern.”9

This makes print marketing perfectly positioned, as paper is one of, if not the, most sustainable communication method. Made from one of earth’s most renewable resources – trees – paper is easy to recycle and biodegradable. This presents a relevant messaging opportunity. Brands would be wise to promote the eco-friendly benefits of print marketing to younger consumers who wish to be seen and heard.

Over the past three years a third of consumers worldwide have expanded the scope of their buying decisions to incorporate principled values and views, using consumption to express deeply held beliefs.

Direct mail is a dominant asset

Each day, on average, the United States Postal Service delivers 173.1 million pieces of first-class mail.10 Gen Z and Millennials are the most likely to read all printed direct mail they may receive. In fact, those age 18-24 read 100% of their direct mail, while the 25-34 age group reads most of it. The good news is as younger consumers seek to digitally unplug, these stats proclaim the power of print on paper will only grow in importance.

Recent research shows print readers have longer attention spans, which makes them more receptive to print marketing. While both digital and print rely on sight, only print offers the sensory aspect of touch and feel. This tactility encourages people to dwell more on print images and stories. And longer attention generates stronger emotions that favorably impact purchasing decisions.11

What’s more, direct mail continues to enjoy a high response rate. Print drives results, with response rates for a direct mailer 37% higher than email. Postcards generate a 4.25% response rate, compared to a dismal 0.1% for email. According to Inc. Magazine, people spend an average of 30 minutes reading physical mail and a mere 11 seconds reading email.12 More than paper to print on, paper is a product younger consumers can count on to help preserve our world for future generations.

1 “Who Are Millennials,” Futurecast, Millennial Marketing, 2022
2 “6 Powerful Ways to Attract Young Customers,” Gearment, 2021
3, 5, 6, 9, 10 Annual State of Marketing Communications: Consumer Survey, Keypoint Intelligence 2020
4 ”How Many Smartphones Are In the World,” BankMyCell, 2022
7, 8 “The Influence of ‘Woke’ Consumers.” McKinsey & Company, 2019
11, 12 “6 Unexpected Ways Print Marketing Can Grow Your Business.” Printivity Insights, 2019

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Gen Z and millennials are critical to marketers.
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