Published on: August 26, 2015A guest column by Russell J Zwanka
A Note from the Content Guy: I've known Dr. Russell Zwanka for a long time, and these days we share a couple of common experiences - we've both written books, and we both teach at the college level. Though, to be fair, he's a real college professor - teaching Marketing and Strategy in the School of Business at State University of New York at New Paltz. (I just play one during the summer.)
This column is adapted from his book, "A Marketing Manual for the Millennium," and I think it is particularly relevant considering all the discussions we have about marketing to various demographics. Enjoy.
It’s time for the Centennials.
You heard correctly! As soon as we totally exhausted the phrase “attract Millennials”, another group has come through and stolen our focus. It’s a group that will probably impact the next twenty years even more than Millennials.
But, who is this next group and why do we care? Where did they come from? What are their dominant traits? What are we going to do about them? When will they be in “power” in our workforce?
They are the Centennials and they are going to circle us right back to the pragmatic days of the “GI Generation”. We are going full-circle, and it’s going to be a fun ride!
First, a definition: The Centennials are the generation born from 2000 to today. They will replace the Millennials as the major buying force by 2050. So, yes, we still need to focus on Millennials; but the striking shift of culture being brought by the Centennial generation will have an impact long before 2050.
Key points of the Centennials:
• The Centennials are nothing like the Millennials. Where the Millennials were the “anti-Boomers”, the Centennials bring us full-circle to a generation that values teamwork, peer alignment, spending only what you earn, integrity, and resolve. Millennials have been termed the “selfie generation”, where the Centennials value being one unified group and only touting individual strengths as a way to contribute to the “greater good”. The next twenty years will move us right back out of “look at me” to “let’s do this ….together”.
They are growing up in tough times, and it will impact their actions the rest of their lives. Millennials had the 80’s generation raising them, where “greed is good” and work-life balance was more a saying than an actual practice. It shaped the Millennials into “boomeranging” to the opposite traits with a mixing of the same traits. A hybrid of sorts. More focused on life balance than work-life, while also focusing on living autonomously through each other in social media. If you do not see 50 “likes” in ten minutes after posting, it is tragic! Selfie, selfie, selfie! But, Centennials? They love social media as well, but have seen an economy hit the skids, a contraction to buying habits reminiscent of the great Depression, even a massive bi-furcation of the economy, with the wealthy gaining more wealth and the middle class plunging into poverty-level spending. These events have impacted an entire generation.
• The Centennials will have major “risk avoidance” in their make-up. They have seen their parents lose their whole retirement, their college funds, go into massive debt. The Centennials are determined not to get to that point. Centennials will truly be a “sharing generation”, in the sense of avoiding ownership. Ownership means tying up your cash, and you never know when you’re going to need cash. Share an apartment, share your BnB, use Uber for rides and for income, rent a gown, rent jewelry; anything to avoid placing money in a hard asset that cannot be easily liquidated. Spend less than you earn.
• “Retail Therapy” is gone. In the past, you feel bad today? Go shopping. Makes you feel better, perks you up. Something new and shiny! Not anymore. It started leaving our DNA with Millennials (notice the empty malls?) and will be totally eradicated by the Centennials. Impulse buying will be at an all-time low with Centennials. You buy within your means, you buy necessities, and you focus more on experiences than products. I’ll repeat, it is more about the experience than the product!
• Diversity had better be in your DNA. In 2006, the United States saw record births, the most births since the Baby Boomer generation. The difference? 49% of those births were Hispanic. Add the massive changes evolving around race relations, sexual preference, race preference, embracing other points of view, and we are on the verge of the largest move towards a diverse culture than anytime in history. It had better be in your company culture to embrace and respect diversity in all measures: employees, customers, products, seasons, holidays, etc. Everything matters!
Changes are coming, and they are traveling at light speed! Centennials are already impacting how we think, how we act, and how we are planning for the future. In fact, you could say the buying patterns developed in the last few years are the “new normal”. A time is upon us that values experiences, values teamwork, values the greater good, and values diversity! Hop on the wagon and let’s take a ride!
Dr. Russell J. Zwanka teaches Marketing and Strategy in the School of Business at State University of New York at New Paltz. Dr. Zwanka is currently CEO at Triple Eight Marketing, and previously taught in the Schools of Marketing and Management at Siena College in Albany, New York. Before entering the academic world, Dr. Z led the merchandising, marketing, advertising, procurement, and all customer engagement areas for multiple organizations in the United States and Canada. Dr. Zwanka holds a Doctorate in International Business from the International School of Management in Paris, France. He also holds a Masters of Science in Management from Southern Wesleyan University, and a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from the University of South Carolina. "A Marketing Manual for the Millennium" is available from Amazon here.
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