Global centennials: The next wave of influencers, disruptors and consumers

July 10, 2019
Industry News
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What do brands need to know about this important generation?

Centennials have already eclipsed Millennials as the global cohort driving trends, and they’ll soon be a core consumer group across a variety of categories. As the oldest of the generation turns 21 this year, it’s time to ask how brands keep pace with their values, beliefs and expectations to avoid being left behind.

Meet the Centennials: Vigilant, resourceful, and open

Centennials are vigilant because they recognise that social, environmental, political and financial concerns abound, and that hiding from them won’t make them go away. In the UK, 66% of Centennials say they’re planning to put money away for their family’s future in the next 12 months (2017 Kantar Consulting Global Monitor).
Centennials expect and value diversity in all aspects of their lives, from culture to politics to gender to race to sexuality to ability. They live by the slogan “you do you”, giving themselves and others permission to be different and to express those differences.

Carving their own path

Centennials, like previous generations, are being shaped by their formative years. Growing up in a time of resource scarcity and disruption, Centennials have been shaped by a lack of control in a disruptive world, exposure to diverse ideas, and the ability and pressure to always be connected. They are digital dependents, never having known a world without Google.

Millennials, especially older Millennials, were shaped by rapidly evolving digital technology and a more open global world. The volatility Millennials experienced created positive expectations for their futures. The volatility Centennials are witnessing has more negative effects, creating downward pressure on incomes and increasing inequalities.

Centennials will have to be smarter about managing their lives and planning for their futures just to stay where they are, let alone achieve relative affluence. Both Centennials and Millennials demand more from the brands they choose: they are purpose-driven, looking for the ‘why’ behind the brand.

Connecting with Centennials

1. Think “Mobile First”, but not “Mobile Because”

Centennials are used to getting information and entertainment when, where and how they want it, with 85% in the UK reporting using a mobile phone to access the internet. But just because it is possible to be constantly connected doesn’t mean they want to be on their devices all the time. Just over a third of UK Centennials say they use their phone too much, about the same as global Millennials.

It is therefore critical for brands to offer genuine value in exchange for the time spent engaging with them. Brands looking to connect with Centennials must think mobile first when building content and commerce platforms, but user experience and good design are critical. Centennials are quick to move on when your experience doesn’t provide what they want or need.
2. Acknowledge that the social shopping revolution has arrived

Centennials are expanding the definition of shopping to include their digital networks. People they have never met IRL (in real life) often have as much influence over their product choices as a friend or family member. But Centennial shopping isn’t just about following influencers and taking their recommendations. This generation is taking advantage of shopping opportunities on their social networks. Driven by social shopping trends and capabilities from Asia, global Centennials will make shopping through social media a mainstream experience, rewarding companies that make it the easiest to connect while buying, while amplifying the reach and fame of the most trusted influencers. At the same time, however, they are moving steadily away from social media to social messaging. One lesson they have learnt from Millennials is the pitfalls of growing up in front of a digital audience.

3. Expect, and prepare for, outsized influence from Centennials and youthful markets

Centennials may be young, but their technological skills usually outstrip their parents’. Many families look to their younger members to gather product information, compare reviews and advise on the purchase process. Global Centennials are passionate about keeping up with what’s going on in the world, and their beliefs drive their purchase decisions.

As Centennials age into young adulthood, they will reshape categories and upend industries. Brands that know where to look can begin to read the signs, and anticipate how Centennials will influence their future. Understanding this generation’s values and motivations is a critical first step in setting yourself up for success, as Centennials take the reins and drive global markets.

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