If you’ve been paying attention to business news over the last couple of years, you might have been exposed to the idea that the reign of the Millennial is already over, and that Centennials are the ones you should aim your marketing toward. However, it does highlight the importance of understanding Centennials. In today’s article, we’ll answer the questions, “Who are Centennials?” and “Why do they matter to my brand?” as well as provide insights into how to reach them.
The Youth Today
Still wondering, “What is a Centennial?” If you’re from an older generation, you might think you know, and you’re probably very confused about their conjunction to Millennials. Centennials are people born around the turn of the century, but in this case, we’re talking about the 21st Century rather than the early 1900s. Also referred to as Gen Z, most outlets peg the beginning of this generation at 1995 with an end at 2008, making the bracket roughly 8 to 21 years of age. However, like most modern generations, the years can get a little fuzzy, and there’s also a good number of people who consider the leading-edge Centennial to be no older than 18.
The most notable fact about this generation is this: They’ve never known life without our modern understanding of technology. For them, there’s always been cell phones and the internet, and that does a lot to shape the way they see the world and their place in it. It’s affected their attention spans (although this, too, is debated), but it’s also changed the way they view key concerns like data privacy. Furthermore, they’re attached to their devices. The plural is purposeful — they often have five devices, and they use them simultaneously to multitask.
In addition to being technological natives, Centennials also have the unique perspective of growing up in the shadow of major terrorist threats and financial crises, making them more serious — and in some ways, more careful — than their older counterparts. In fact, national averages for crime, drugs, and teen pregnancy are down among this generation. It can be all too easy to write this generation off as a bunch of kids, but make no mistake, it’s not a generation you should be underestimating.
What They Mean for Business
Right now, Centennials make up 23% of the population in the U.S., and while most of them might only be earning an allowance, that doesn’t mean they’re weak in spending power. In fact, they represent a heady $44 billion in purchasing power from that allowance alone. This is without taking into account just how much influence this generation has on their family’s purchasing decisions. Even when mom and dad are the ones spending, Centennials play a big role, and not just when the purchases directly concern them, either. They are a major influence on how their parents spend money on themselves, too, and in total, they influence about $600 billion in family spending.
How to Engage Them
When marketing to this generation, you need to remember you can’t just follow a marketing trend, because Centennials are the leading proponents of speedy changes in platforms, technology, and so much more. The insights we list below are only the beginning of what you need to consider when developing your outreach.
Not Being Mobile Is Not an Option.
We’ve already mentioned this is a generation of digital natives who use multiple screens like they were born to it, and it’s a point we can’t emphasize enough. Centennials spend just over 15 hours on their phones per week, and are four times more likely than any other generation to recommend that the age most appropriate for a kid to receive their first smartphone is 13 years. They’re also most likely to say using smartphones in social settings is perfectly acceptable. Plus, a quarter of device multitasking is likely related to what they’re watching on TV and 26% of their multitasking involves searching for products and services, so even when your advertising is on a traditional format, mobile is vital.
Social Is an Imperative.
This is another point that can’t be understated. Centennials came of age in a world where social media was already a strong communication tool, and while they’re not always on the platforms you’d expect (a quarter have left Facebook, but both Instagram and YouTube along with newcomers Meerkat and Snapchat host a healthy portion of them) they live and breathe social to a point where they already understand how to leverage it both for and against brands. Becoming an influencer is natural for this generation, and they use it to great effect, rallying friends and followers alike to the causes and brands they care about most.
Reviews Are Also Key to Decisions.
Despite the fact that 62% of Centennials don’t leave reviews (and we would tend to speculate this has to do with their age), 95% of them read reviews before they buy. Of that, a good portion (64%) will read four or more reviews before they make their decision. However, don’t take these statistics to mean that you need to have all good reviews all the time. Centennials expect to find bad reviews, and roughly 60% go looking for bad reviews first. That’s because a brand with an untarnished reputation is, in their perspective, likely to be faking that amount of positivity.
Accelerated Change Means Accelerated Sales Cycles.
Technology has made finding information, and thus finding solutions, easier than ever. If your brand isn’t ready with an answer, be that a product or service, then Centennials are extremely likely to find their own solution to the problem, and it probably won’t end up involving your brand. Millennials might have been what spurred the fragmentation of the path to purchase, but Centennials have grown up with that fragmentation and they use it to the utmost advantage.
Pragmatism Doesn’t Mean Cynicism.
Just because they’ve learned to be careful doesn’t mean that Centennials have learned they should never trust anyone. Brands that prove their worth earn their trust and loyalty, and they’re some of the drivers behind the C2C economy (i.e., consumer to consumer) or share-economy. They grew up in relatively difficult atmospheres, and they’re more willing than other generations to compromise to a point in order to find mutual success in otherwise opportunity-starved landscapes.
They Learned Lessons from Millennials.
Quite simply, Centennials have observed the tribulations of their siblings and parents, and they know privacy is a value to be concerned about, potentially more than what they might receive in exchange. They know to do their research to find the best quality at the right price, but they’re also incredibly practical about it. They’re also taking long-term goals into account because they’re concerned about their futures in light of Millennial struggles with education, finances, and job opportunities. This extends into the trend toward selecting ethical brands that we’ve seen among Millennials, with 76% of Centennials concerned about the effect humanity has on the planet, while another 60% want their jobs to influence the world.
With these insights into understanding Centennials, it’s time to sit down and take a good look at your audience base, not just in the present, but also who you intend that customer set to be in the future. In the ever-evolving marketplace, reaching Centennials now could mean generating the loyalty you need to support your brand in the future.