The world we live in today is one in which change constantly affects almost all areas of our lives. One of the biggest aspects of this change is the shifting of power and influence from an older generation to a younger generation. The term Centennials refers to those who were born after the year 1997. Centennials are the first generation to be living in this new millennium. This group represents the global youth, and with a population exceeding 2 billion, Gen Z or Centennials are one of the largest and most influential audiences for marketers to reach. In order to capture this large consumer base, producers and marketers must understand the goals and driving forces behind the Centennial population.
Understanding the Difference Between Gen Z and Millennials
An Uncertain World
One of the primary aspects that marketers must understand about Centennials’ mindsets is recognizing what kind of environment and culture Centennials are being raised in. In essence, Centennials’ pasts hold the key to predicting their future decisions. Currently, Centennials are growing up in a world dominated by unknowns and unpredictability. Whether it’s the slowing of global economies or the shifting of societal class structures, change and ambiguity have become the norms for the world that Centennials are living in.
Because of this uncertain world that Centennials are growing up in, Centennials represent a population that is not as idealistic as past generations have been. Growing up in a world plagued with complexities and challenges has resulted in a generation that is well-acquainted with the hardships of life. As a result, Centennials have shifted their own definition of true success to focus not on what you get in life but whom you meet, what you do, and who you are. Since material wealth is oftentimes temporary in an ambiguous world, Centennials promote the immaterial, permanent aspects of life rather than seeking materialistic goals.
A Changing Population
Another factor that is impacting Centennials is the fact that the overall global life expectancy is continuing to lengthen. People are living and working longer than they did in previous generations. The fact that many mature adults are working well past the traditional retirement age then presents several points of contention between older and younger generations as they contend for control of different markets. Instead of a younger generation simply succeeding an older generation, multiple generations now hold fairly prominent places in society and consequently exert a large influence over that society.
This changing consumer base then presents a complex challenge for producers and marketers as they must navigate the intricate relationship between different generations. Centennials do not want products that are designed exclusively for youth, yet they do not want products targeted directly toward older generations. Rather, Centennials want the option to indulge their youth or cultivate their maturity. For Centennials, numerous options are key.
A Technological Web
An additional driving force behind Centennials’ thought processes and views of the world is their access to technology. Today, people of all ages have the ability to access almost any information from anywhere and at any time. The Centennial generation represents the first generation to not know a world without such free access technology. In modern society, even very young children have access to cell phones, tablets, and computers.
Marketers have been capitalizing on this prevalent access to information. However, marketers must learn that Centennials do not prioritize quantity over quality. Rather, Centennials are seeking better, if fewer, options when it comes to purchasing products. In fact, the practicality that characterizes this generation results in Centennials not being enamored with passing trends or fads. Rather, Centennials want products and brands that promote something genuine and unique.
Centennials are a very open and accepting generation. They celebrate creativity and experimentation, while resisting stifling rules that past generations established. Marketers then have the freedom to be quite creative with their branding and marketing as long as they do not sacrifice brand integrity for clichés. Centennials are a powerful generation of individuals who are willing to engage the world on hard issues. Unwilling to take a backseat, Centennials desire an audience who will listen to what they have to say and who will work with them to see positive change happen in the world.