Companies Are Cashing in by Targeting Gen Z, Millennials

A model makes a selfie. (AP Photo)

A recent poll shows 66% of Gen Zers say their age group is the least responsible with money, and 71% admit they’re the most susceptible to social media ads. 

Weird flex, but OK. 

Even without fluency in Gen Z expressions, it’s not hard to see how young Americans spending more time online could be convinced to spend more money on products pushed by online advertisers. 

A new report from Real Estate Witch found the data to back up that hunch, revealing just how effective social media is for marketing to Gen Z and millennial Americans. 

The report shows 81% of Americans ages 18 to 41 have made a purchase because of advertising on social media, compared to just 48% of baby boomers. 

Many brands already recognize the potential of online, viral marketing that targets younger consumers. More companies now advertise their products through influencers – individual social media users with large followings paid to market products on a corporation’s behalf. 

About 58% of Gen Zers and 52% of millennials in Real Estate Witch’s survey say they’ve made a purchase based on a recommendation from an online influencer – four times the share of baby boomers who have done the same (13%). 

Companies competing in the space are searching both for macro-influencers, individuals with over 100,000 followers, and micro-influencers, those with 10,000 to 100,000 followers, to represent them. If you’ve scrolled through Instagram or TikTok, you’ve likely come across these profiles pitching anything from clothing to investment strategies. 

The study found marketing that makes use of visual content is particularly effective. The three platforms with the highest rates of daily use among Gen Z Americans – YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram – each emphasize images and videos. 


Il Makiage, a beauty brand that leverages influencer marketing, has seen remarkable growth in recent years, with its parent company now valued at $1.5 billion. 

The company’s website features a search function that allows users to browse makeup looks by their favorite influencers. From there, customers can save the looks they like, watch influencer videos, and shop for the products mentioned in the clips. 

The company also offers a digital quiz that analyzes customers’ answers to suggest foundation shades. And new acquisitions of AI tech tools will enable an analysis of skin and hair through user photos, potentially reinventing the way young Americans shop for cosmetics. 

Another company that has utilized influencer marketing for many years is Tuft & Needle, a brand that specializes in making mattresses. Today, mattresses that arrive in a box are relatively commonplace. But Tuft & Needle played the role of disrupter when they became one of the first companies to offer them in 2012. 

Tuft & Needle’s Instagram account shows a mix of company photos as well as influencer content. Scrolling through each image, you notice the influencer photos are tagged with their username. If you click through to the influencer’s account, the same images are marked “Paid partnership with Tuft & Needle.” 

Tuft & Needle’s influencer marketing strategy is fairly seamless – it’s hard to decipher which images are professional brand photos and which are influencer marketing photos. 

That doesn’t bother Gen Z and millennial shoppers. On the contrary, it’s seen as authentic. Consumers like to see content creators they trust using the products rather than conjuring thoughts of a faceless corporation trying to win them over. 


It’d be a mistake to think that influencer marketing is only for large companies, says Kelsey Hogan, founder of the Detroit-based social media agency Small Batch Social Co. 

“Influencer marketing is an opportunity for companies – regardless of size,” Hogan said. “(User-generated content) is going to be bigger than ever before this year.” 

These trends aren’t expected to slow down anytime soon. According to data by Million Insights, the revenue forecast for social media marketing in 2028 is more than $260 billion – more than double the $116 billion in revenue in 2021. 

That could mean companies that haven’t yet pivoted toward social media marketing still have an opportunity to benefit from this evolving sales environment. But advertisers would do well not to wait too long to capitalize on this new clout economy.