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Just when you think you’ve got a handle on Millennials, here come the Centennials. Also known as Gen Z, this coming-of-age generation stands out in a number of ways. Let’s take a look.

Breaking down Gens Y and Z

First, what constitutes membership in Gen Y or Gen Z? Centennials (Gen Z) are defined as having been born after 1995 or 2000 – depending on who you ask. Millennials (Gen Y) are defined as having been born between 1976 and 1995, or 1980 and 2000 – again, depending on who you ask. We’ll get to why the exact dates aren’t a big deal in a moment.

Millennials have been forefront of marketers’ minds in recent years because they are the “largest population segment in the U.S.” – numbering 86 million, and accounting for nearly 27 percent of the U.S. total population. They’ve also been the generation to watch because the oldest Millennials are now coming into their peak spending years.

Centennials, by contrast, are in their teens. The oldest are just graduating high school or college, which means much of this generation is still in their “tweens” – and they’ve barely entered the workforce, if at all. But they’re just as major – if not more so. By 2020, Centennials will account for 40 percent of all consumers.

So what do you need to know about this young generation?

They’re connected All. The. Time.

Though Millennials are also very tech dependent, growing up with computers and other digital technology, Centennials are the first “truly mobile-first generation.” Forbes notes the distinction thusly: Gen Y grew up with the World Wide Web, Gen Z grew up with social media.

This means you’ve got to change your mind-set about mobile and its place in the world if you haven’t already. For instance, if your website isn’t mobile friendly, you’re in trouble.

It also means you need to focus on personalization, as mobile devices are viewed as a way to connect with friends/family via texting and social media. Centennials often opt for more private social networks like Snapchat and Instagram over Facebook and Twitter.

They assimilate information quickly

Yes, they have short attention spans, but because they’re used to filtering through info quickly, they’re able to make decisions quickly as well.

They’re pragmatic

Thought Catalog points out, Centennials have grown up in post-9/11 America, in a world where school shootings happen with enough regularity they’re used to heightened security in their daily lives. This makes them more pragmatic than Millennials – who were raised to believe they can do anything, and should go after their dreams.

They’re more open and accepting

Because they’re growing up in more diverse times, this generation is redefining gender norms in a way that will leave brands needing to reconsider them as well.

And these are just some characteristics of this growing generation.

Different generation, same approach

What does all this mean for marketers? Generation Z is important, and you’ve got to start laying the building blocks of your relationship with these future consumers now. But the approach – at its core – is no different than it would be for any other generation.

Any assumptions made about  Centennials are just as likely to be as wrong as those made about Millennials – and pigeon-holing the generation at large is the worst thing you can do.

Like all humans, Gen Zers have a variety of interests and passions – and there is always crossover between generations. This is why the exact years denoting each generation aren’t all that important.

Not all Baby Boomers were hippies, any more than they were all June Cleaver or Betty Draper. Gens Y and Z have a lot in common, but they are also vastly different, and within the generations are any number of segments with interests unique to them.

The entire point of social listening is to find ways to speak to each audience segment as individuals – so messaging is personalized and relevant to them. These Gen Z traits are simply a guideline to start your marketing efforts.

Getting to know this generation as they come of age will take the same social analytics tools and skill your brand has applied to Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, etc. That means you’re halfway there.

We’re ready to help you uncover insights about Centennials and all consumers. Reach out to learn how!

Image from Marco Verch

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