by TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) If you’ve ever wondered what it means to have diamonds crushed up in your face, you’re probably an older millennial. If you don’t even know the song that’s referenced, you’re probably a silent gen or baby boomer. If you’re thinking “I luh that song, no cap”, chances are you’re a gen Z. This whole generation shandies can be confusing, but it really helps brands talk to the right group to get them to cop their product (that means buy).

At the moment, pretty much urrbody’s tryna get into the millennial (aka gen Y) and gen Z (aka iGen, aka centennial, aka post-millennial) headspace. Being the two generations who have some spending power, on top of defining what is or isn’t cool, it’s a no-brainer. You gotta know what they’re into. Oviaas. But, more importantly, you gotta know why they’re into it. Here are a few common themes that’ll help you understand gen Ys and Zs a bit more.

Intentional identity

Whooo shem. A lot of brands have been seeing flames because they were tryna be provocative but just ended up being offensive or controversial. Why? Because they don’t know how important identity is to mills and cents, and how misrepresentation is a big no-no. Whether it’s gender, race or social identity, you’ve got to understand that anybody who grew up with colour TVs or the internet don’t want to be told who they are, what they should or shouldn’t be, or even worse, how to behave.

These generations are intentional about how they choose to identify, whether they’re a racial minority or part of the LGBTI community. If you’re still thinking that kids these days are just weird and need to calm their farm, think again. Gone are the days when life goals were starting a family with two-and-a-half kids in a nice neighbourhood with a white picket fence, and a family holiday every year. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, if it’s what you want. Not everybody identifies with that, though. So, when you’re targeting millennials and centennials, you’ve got to always keep their passion points in mind.

Being the goat

Young bloods these days have a very different aspiration to everybody before them. Instead of aspiring to be whatever they want to be, or put their minds to, they wanna be GOATs. Not the rock-climbing, bleating kind that doesn’t need beard oils. They wanna be the greatest of all time. This doesn’t mean flood them with success stories, idealistic dreams of living the high life, or making them feel like, if they have product x, they’ve made it. Nope. Being a GOAT doesn’t mean being rich or famous (though neither of those would hurt). All it means is that they want everything they do, have, or engage with to be the best.

So, don’t try to sell them on how cool you are. Let them know what you’ve got to offer that no one else does. After all, if you have to say you’re cool, you probably aren’t. Harde.

Connectivity is life

We can blame gen X and baby boomers for this one. They live on the internet, smartphones, social media and the rest of that jazz. Now those same gens are the ones talking ’bout “You spend too much time on your phone” or “You’ve got to disconnect and experience real life”. But here’s the rub: for mills and cents, most of life is on the device. It’s how they connect with friends, family, current affairs, increasingly shop, and translate what Trevor really said at the Oscars.

Instead of trying to get them off their devices to engage with your products in other channels, get your product onto their devices and engage with them where they are. Unless, of course, you’ve discovered the perfect way to get tens of millions of people to change their lifestyle because of your product.


There’re a lot more nuances to gen z’khipani and I-don’t-give-a-damillennials (just made that up) that maybe understood with a bit more digging. Instead of just labelling them as 18–35-year-olds with a male/female skew, why not think of them as a fluid age group with an approach that’s gender non-binary? You don’t have to put that in your ‘target market’ slide, but thinking like that will help you to see ’ennials’ as collective individuals, which in turn will help to connect with them in a real way.


TJ NjozelaTJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) is a creative director at MetropolitanRepublic. With several years of experience in the advertising industry, he’s more than a writer; he is also a reader, a thinker, and an avid liker of things. He once walked from Joburg to Cape Town in 30 days to raise funds to buy wheelchairs for people in need. #30Days30Wheelchairs. TJ contributes the regular “Agency Life” column, in which he gives career advice for working within the advertising industry, to MarkLives.

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One reply on “Agency Life: Everybody’s favourite target audience”

  1. TJ, I love how you capture the difference in language and word choice between the generations, as well as the fact that there’s not as much difference as people think in terms of screen time and overall behaviors/needs/wants. And you’re also right, both of these factors help brands identify and speak to audiences in a way that is relevant to them.

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