Will Robbins, TY Work Experience Student, Insight Team, Bord Bia - Irish Food Board
The term ‘Centennial’ describes a member of today’s youth cohort, an individual aged 19 or under. I, along with 2.68 billion others, fall into that category and feel that I am well positioned to give my views as to what is important to us as a demographic.
Research by Bord Bia has branded Centennials as realistic, hardworking and open individuals. While I agree with the last two, I have to disagree with idea of realism being one of our core values. The study says “well acquainted with limits and constraints, Centennials have grounded expectations for themselves and the way the world works”. I strongly disagree with the above statement and would say, on the contrary, that the opposite is true. In my opinion, the limits and constraints of the world are now fading away, leaving centennials free to be who or whatever they want to be.
The old life script of finishing college, working in a 9 – 5 profession, getting married, retiring and then dying has become outdated and is increasingly being challenged by centennials. Members of Generation Z want more from life, and are looking to the new wave of entrepreneurs and social media influencers for inspiration. In this way, the expectations centennials set for themselves are anything but grounded. Centennials also seek to challenge the way the world works as they search for solutions to society’s most harrowing problems.
Hard work is indeed a value held dear by centennials. Having grown up through the recession, economic instability is all that we know. With most families impacted by financial troubles in recent years, centennials have emerged as a hardnosed demographic armed with the knowledge that hard work and grit are the keys to success.
Being open is also very important to centennials. As more minority groups emerge, centennials are prepared to protect the rights of each and every individual. We saw this in the Gay Marriage Referendum of 2015 when this country’s youth cohort led their elders towards social justice. In this new generation, discrimination is not accepted and being unique is encouraged.
While it may be perceived that centennials spend more frugally than those before them, they are happy to spend money on the things that they feel are important. Don't believe the hype around why certain retailers had a flat quarter. It doesn't signal that consumer confidence levels are waning or that young people have less disposable income than before, it merely points to a culture that is starting to spend time and money differently.
For example, Centennials eschew luxury goods for sustainable ones; prefer buying organic and fair trade; and they're a lot more willing to shell out money on experiences that enhance their lives (and their Instagram and Snapchat feeds) rather than on material things. Experiences are also what people increasingly use to define themselves across social channels. Take a spin through your Instagram and Facebook feeds, and you're more likely to see a friend's trip to Thailand or pictures of their boyfriend on the beach in Tulum versus photos of a Vuitton bag or a brand new Rolex.
When they do spend money on material things, they want to know what they’re paying for, with 40% of Centennials saying they are unlikely to purchase a product that doesn’t have photos of people using it and 95% of Centennials reading online reviews while shopping. Knowledge really is power for this new generation of consumers.
Keeping these insights in mind, how can brands appeal to Centennials? Well, there are many ways of doing this...
Empowering Advertisements are very popular among the youth of today. A number of brands have tried their hand at this, some have been successful and others have failed spectacularly (dare I mention the Pepsi advert). Notable successes in this area have been the ‘like a girl’ and ‘imagine the possibilities’ campaigns launched by Always and Barbie respectively. When done with taste and skill, these Ads possess an unparalleled share-ability. The two mentioned above amassed an impressive combined total of 90 million views.
Sell the experience, not the product. The new generation of experiential consumers are less concerned about spending money and more concerned with using it to enhance their lives. American fast food chain Chipotle have taken a chunk of the market share from more established competitors like Taco Bell and McDonald’s not only because they offer a healthier option with more emphasis on quality ingredients but also because they offer the consumer a customizable experience every time they set foot in the store.
Use influencers. Influential teens, especially bloggers, possess a degree of authenticity impossible for a brand to ascertain. Brands like Taco Bell and Louis Vuitton have collaborated successfully with these beloved figures to give them increased relevance, credibility and reach. This allows brands to connect with a demographic about which they would otherwise have little knowledge.
To stay afloat in this new world of consumers, brands will have to act with both innovation and integrity while offering a unique consumer experience and a wide range of peer reviews on the product.
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