5 things brands need to know about centennials

Gen Z, post-millennials or centennials. Call them whatever you want, but this demographic — born roughly between 1995 and 2008 — is increasingly emerging as the most scrutinized bunch among brands and marketers, stealing the spotlight from millennials.

And why wouldn’t they be? They’re 2 billion strong worldwide, represent about 26 percent of the U.S. population, and are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in the country’s history. They also already have $44 billion in purchasing power (in allowance, that is).

But as a focus group by Omnicom-owned consumer consultancy C Space revealed, they only care about brands that fit seamlessly into their lives and connect them to things they care about most. This means brands need to dispel old forms of marketing.

“With millennials, we’d started dumbing down content from 60 seconds to 30 seconds to 15 seconds and then 10-second snaps, six-second Vines and 140-character tweets,” said Gayle Troberman, CMO at iHeart Media. “With this generation, we’re telling clients to flip that model and make storytelling longer and more engaging.”

Here are the five things marketers should know about this new cohort:

Screens are natural extensions of Gen Z.
According to Pew, members of Gen Z often toggle between as many as five screens at once, with 91 percent of them saying they take their devices to bed with them. This isn’t a surprise considering that eMarketer estimated that in the U.S. alone, 22 million 12- to 17-year-olds will own a mobile device this year. Just like the millennials preceding them, being constantly connected is a necessity.

But they acknowledge the ill effects of technology, too.
Members of Gen Z are digital natives. But C Space’s focus group acknowledged that they need to disengage from technology. Further, a study by agency Sparks & Honey found that Gen Z is aware that their screen time may be excessive, and nearly 59 percent of them admit to spending too much time online.

“They love impermanence, and that’s driven by an awareness of privacy in the surveillance age,” said Sean Mahoney, vp and editorial director at Sparks & Honey. “They will consciously disconnect from data, signaling that programmatic will become obsolete in the near future. Brands will need to find different ways to track and react to them.”

They value fun but value privacy more.
Gen Z seems to understand the implications of a careless tweet or snap and are intent on keeping their online lives private. Their indifference toward Facebook — with almost 29 percent thinking it isn’t “cool” anymore — is known. They’re far more drawn to messaging apps that are more private, such as Kik, or that destory messages, like Snapchat. They are also fans of anonymous gossip apps like Secret and Yik Yak and fake Instagram accounts, where they’re free to explore their lives and friendships unfiltered.

And expect more from brands.
According to Havas People, centennials are the first generation that appreciates brands as a concept. They see the benefits of brands that offer useful services such as Google. ComScore’s most recent mobile report for those aged 18 and older — including older centennials — also found that while they’re reluctant to download apps for brands, they do download those that pertain to their daily habits, like buying coffee.

“Having grown up with mobile, they are immune to traditional forms of mobile advertising,” said Evan Wray, co-founder of branded emoji keyboard company Swyft Media. “They appreciate experiences, and marketers have to think outside traditional tactics to get their attention.”

Audio is making a comeback.
One trait that Gen Z shares with millennials is that they are heavy consumers of audio, whether it’s music, podcasts or concerts. Marketers who use audio to reach this cohort will win, said Gayle Troberman, CMO at iHeart Media.

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