Tomorrow’s Target: Marketing to Centennials

by Sara KneeSocial StrategistPublicis Kaplan Thaler

Sara Knee
Publicis Kaplan Thaler

Gen Z. Post Gen. Centennials. Whatever you call them, they’re the next big thing after millennials. They make up 23% of the population and they’re about to enter the workforce, cementing themselves as a major economic influence. Even though Gen Z is roughly same size as the millennial generation, marketing with the millennial mindset isn’t going to resonate with this generation, which is more realistic, risk-averse and cynical than the one before.

Gen Z were born realists. While millennials were born into an era of a rising middle class, centennials have seen economic instability undermine the middle class. They do not believe, as millennials did, that they will do better than their parents. Centennials have seen existing systems fail and have watched polarized politics make government less efficient, so they’re more likely to work around the system to get things done.


Despite growing up with such uncertainty, centennials are self-assured. Whereas millennials share with large audiences on social media to gain approval, centennials are more likely to share to smaller, more selective audiences, and less likely to seek social approval through their digital lives.

Centennials are also diverse and polycultural, and theirs is the first generation with a minority majority population—there are more minorities born in this generation than any single majority.


So what will it take to market to this generation?

Short, frequent messaging
If you think millennials have a short attention span, just wait. With an average of 8 seconds, centennials’ attention spans online are only 2/3 of an average millennial’s 12 second attention span. To reach Gen Z effectively,  you’ll need to communicate like they communicate. Gen Z expect to receive short and frequent messages, so you must deliver messages frequently and easily (both easier to understand and easier to digest). With centennials using a more intuitive, visual language than older generations (think emojis), you’ll also need to think about communicating through images. Using their communication style will make your message more effective in the limited time you have their attention.

Cross-platform programming
As the first true digital natives, centennials don’t just love their devices, they depend on them.  And the devices they depend on aren’t just the big three that millennials turn to (television, mobile & desktop).  Centennials reach and rely on those devices but also tablets and gaming consoles. They will also be early adopters of emerging wearables. Successfully marketing to this generation now and in the future means coordinating your brand’s message across platforms, while staying contextually relevant.

Self-assured, individualistic and polycultural centennials are a more diverse generation in both behaviors and beliefs than their predecessors, which means you need to not only talk to them as they like being talked to, but you need to deliver messages relevant to the particular centennial you are talking to.

After growing up in such financially unstable times, centennials look for value, both when it comes to price tag and what value the product provides in making their lives better.

Centennials are slow to trust established systems, which means they’re wary of traditional, one-way brand messages. Earn their trust by allowing them to share their experiences and adjust their preferences, or design authentic branded experiences that align with their interests. Giving centennials control over their experience with a brand will make them more comfortable.

Centennials may be a more skeptical and realistic audience than the generation that precedes them, but they can still be reached by the brands that meet their expectations.

Source: The Futures Company

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