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16 May 2016

Marketers, it's time to meet the Centennials



A growing blindspot in the marketplace is the continued association of Millennials with the youth lifestyle, but it’s time to the face the facts – the era of Millennial youth marketing is over.

As Millennials quickly age out (the oldest now being in their mid-30s) a new generation of youth – Centennials – is moving in and bringing a decidedly different dynamic to the market, one that will create new rules for the marketplace and have influence beyond their size and years.

Centennials (born from 1997 to the present day) represent approximately a third of the world’s population, according to global census figures. Unlike their predecessors, Centennials are growing up with a less idealistic and more pragmatic edge. They’re facing situations that Millennials didn’t have to deal with until early adulthood, and, as a result, they are growing up far more savvy, in graver times when choices are limited and success is harder to come by.

Centennials are poised to reinvent what it means to be young. They are displaying different wants and needs from previous generations of teens. Instead of struggling to fit seamlessly into the social matrix, they’re focused on being true to themselves. Credit is given to those who manage both to be authentic and to stand out among their peers. They possess a more mature mindset than we’ve seen with teens of the past. Of course, Millennials today also value individuality and authenticity, but as teens they were more focused on fitting in than standing out. Centennials are taking their drive for uniqueness and individual identity to a place far beyond other generations at this age.

But before marketers start to hone in on this new generation, it’s important to note that Centennials are driven by three core values:

1. Openness – Living by the motto: ‘You do you’, they give themselves and others permission to be different, and express those differences how they see fit. The Future Company’s latest TRU Youth Monitor shows that 87% of US Centennials would prefer to

live in a society where people accept different beliefs and values.

2. Resilience – Coming of age during challenging times has made Centennials learn that hard work and grit are the keys to success in today’s world. They know they will face roadblocks, but are prepared to overcome them. Some 87% agree that they enjoy and celebrate life despite its many obstacles and challenges.

3. Realism – Well acquainted with limits and constraints, Centennials have grounded, realistic expectations for themselves and the way the world works. For example, 70% agree that it’s really hard to get ahead in life without a degree.

The rules that Centennials have set for themselves apply to brands as well. For Centennials, the drive to stand out isn’t simply a quest for attention – it’s about being recognised as their own person, with unique skills, experiences and opinions. Authenticity is often cited as an important value for today’s teens, and standing out is a way to show comfort with your individuality.

Unilever’s Lynx, a brand known for depicting caricatures of hyper-masculinity, is embracing this mindset with its ‘Find Your Magic’ campaign, whereby it encourages young men to “find what makes you, you. Then work on it.”

Marketing with the Millennial mindset just isn’t going to cut it anymore, so marketers and brands need to consider these the three golden rules of Centennial marketing:

1. Open your doors

The most diverse generation in history, Centennials have grown up in a pluralistic, polycultural society that values diversity and acceptance of differences. Brands that emphasise their more welcome, open and inclusive sides will be those most likely to win with this demographic.

2. Anticipate empowerment

Millennials were largely respectful of institutions and the marketplace, but Centennials may be less patient. An ever-growing number of tools allow them to create their own workarounds if your brand doesn’t spot and eliminate friction before they do.

3. Loosen the reins

Mobile-first consumers with a desire to change – not just work – the system, Centennials will use their know-how to gain control if left unsatisfied. Be ready to relinquish some control of your brand and work with them to drive your strategies or tactics – or risk them taking you out of the equation altogether.

Centennials aren’t looking to connect with brands who try to stand out by simply being loud, colourful or flashy. Standing out requires analysing your category and finding gaps in products and brand personas that you can genuinely fill. It requires grabbing their attention through passion for your category, for a cause and for Centennials themselves.

By Mark Inskip, Global CEO, The Futures Company


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