Tired of hearing about Millennials? You’re not alone. 53% of Americans agree with you, according to a recent study by Mintel. In fact, even Millennials are sick of hearing about themselves. We’ve been hearing about this generation for so long, that many don’t realize they’ve grown up and right out of the coveted 18-21 year old trendsetters demo. There’s a new kid in town and while her name is still being determined (contenders include: Centennials, iGen, Gen Z) you’re going to want to start paying attention.

Great, you say. You’ve just tailored your brand’s marketing to make sure it’s relevant to Millennials, without alienating the Baby Boomers and now you’ve got to start all over with the next group? (Sure, you forgot about Gen X, but it’s okay, they understand, they’re used to it. They’ll just let themselves in with their latchkey and start dinner.) Well, the answer is “yes.”

Here’s why.

This new generation is made up of roughly 55 million kids and young adults ages 9-21, account for 17% of the US population, and harness $44 billion in spending power. They are the technology generation. Not only do Centennials not remember a time before Internet and smartphones, they don’t even remember dial up. They are coming of age in an era when WiFi is speedy and always available, and they have less patience than older generations for technology and brand experiences that are not fast, responsive, and seamless. Centennials are digital natives, mobile first and often only, and are savvy in regards to protecting their privacy and their ‘brand’ online. Centennials have grown up with the expectation that they can select content on demand with little (Hulu, YouTube) to no (Netflix) commercial interruption. Is this generation lost to advertising just as they begin to crowd out Millennials in the Holy Grail marketing segment of 18-34 year olds? Are they different than anyone who’s come before them?

Well, yes and no (this is the don’t panic part). First, while Centennials certainly don’t want to waste time watching irrelevant ads to get to their content, not surprisingly, nobody else does either. Across generations, people are now used to skipping or avoiding ads all together. Universally annoying is seeing the same ad repeated many times, particularly when indulging in a binge session of a favorite show. We can respond with better targeting through platforms like addressable TV – marketers using first-and third-party data to target specific households and serve ads only to those likely to find them relevant. Additionally, the rise of content marketing will continue to be a powerful way to reach all generations. The better opportunity is to create long-form storytelling relevant to the show’s content to be created and released across episodes. Done well, it becomes entertainment itself, integrated into the viewing experience, even appreciated and anticipated.

Additionally, everyone wants to be entertained by advertising, whether through humor, being introduced to new music or the type of storytelling that goes viral every day. The number one attribute Centennials enjoy about advertising is humor. Humor has always been a key way to engage consumers and holds its appeal for this next generation as well. Tailoring humor to the style of content being enjoyed will be more impactful than trying to figure out what tweens find funny this week. Being introduced to new music is second only to humor in what makes advertising enjoyable to Centennials. While music is important across generations, the interpersonal connection available through shared music events is a key desire of both Millennials and Centennials—witness the explosive growth of music festivals. This taps into the power of shared real life experiences being sought by both generations.

So while there are similarities that can provide your brand with multi-generational marketing savings, there are a few key differences. Where Centennials are unique lends great opportunities for savvy brands to understand them and speak directly to them:

HEALTH

Each generation has a core message from societal forces telling them how to be “better.” Gen Xers were told to “Just Say No,” and not drive drunk, Millennials were encouraged to protect the environment and excel in school. Centennials have learned that healthy living (through the war on obesity, nutritious school lunches, and exercising) is the key to happiness. Almost 7 in 10 of those ages 18-20 are motivated to live a healthy lifestyle to feel better, be happier and look better. As this generation grows into being the primary grocery shoppers, restaurant selectors, and product purchasers for themselves, a brand’s ‘better for you’ cred will be vital to attracting them. Brands who count on the indulgent, unconcerned with nutrition, 18-22 year old will need a new game plan.

DIVERSITY

Each generation has gotten more diverse than the previous one, and Centennials are no exception. As an example, nearly 25% of this population is Hispanic compared to 18% of the general population. They are used to understanding and embracing diversity in ways other generations do not. Strides forward in society such as marriage equality, transgender awareness, and the parenting trend away from strict gendered toys and activities all have contributed to an awareness of a wide variety of lifestyles. Whereas other generations may have “tolerated” differences, Centennials celebrate them and expect to see all representations of people in their entertainment and advertising. This is far beyond merely showing racial diversity in ads. Centennials expect brands to take a stand and be accountable for not only showing diversity in race, orientation, relationships, and abilities but also creating customer experiences and brand communities that are truly welcoming to all.

SNAIL MAIL

Over 8 in 10 Centennials say they love getting stuff in the mail. For a generation with overflowing digital inboxes, the novelty of old fashioned tangible content arriving at their door with their name on it is an opportunity to stand out. Girls especially are interested in the trend of catalogs transforming into lifestyle magazines with relevant content. American Girl Magazine is a shining star in this category, engaging more than 350,000 readers every month. From stylish clothing to organic produce with recipes, this generation is excited about personalized attention arriving at their door.

So, while Centennials may be the new kids on the block, this isn’t to say that Millennials should be ignored (and who wants to throw away the last decade of research reports anyway?). As they evolve into new life stages, brands can utilize the core commonalities with previous generations to provide opportunities for relevant multi-generational marketing that will also speak to Centennials. Tapping into these specific insights can put your brand in the right place with the right message to cultivate the next generation of purchasers just as they come into their own.

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Sources:

  • Mintel “Marketing to the iGeneration” April 2016
  • Bulldog Reporter “Five Game-Changing Loyalty Marketing Trends in 2016” April 26, 2016
  • Adweek.com “How American Girl Dolls Became Such a Surprising Success” April 2016
  • Adweek.com “Here’s How Honda and Political Candidates Revolutionized Digital Targeting” May 2, 2016

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