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4 Ways to Successfully Market to Centennials

Jaime Lee

Head of Content Strategy @ AdRoll

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As a direct-to-consumer (D2C) business, one way to build business is to create a strategy to attract the attention of different generations. The latest generation to come of age is the centennials, aka Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012. Today, they are ages 8 to 23. The older centennials are not only in the workforce; they also represent a large part of the consumer market. In fact, by the end of 2020, centennials will make up almost 40% of all consumers, while influencing about $4 billion in discretionary spending. 

This explosion highlights how important it will be for your business to connect with this generation and stand out from your competition. Here are four ways to successfully market to centennials. 

 Quality > Price

For centennials, quality dictates their brand loyalty, but a long-established brand, or even a large following, doesn’t necessarily build trust. This generation is fixated on their individuality, embrace diversity and love a tailored personal experience. 

Rather than telling them how great your product or service is, you must show them. For example, bring a more authentic approach to testimonials by incorporating the real voices of your loyal customers on video, and then disseminate that video across your social channels and on the web. Another way is to tap into influencer marketing, where you find key leaders to represent the brand and inspire others. If you go the influencer route, be sure to keep close tabs on their activity to avoid any unexpected or embarrassing communications that may potentially hurt your brand. 

Social Media

Because centennials have always grown up with the internet and a smartphone, they have a hunger for educational and personal experiences. With millennials so into social media, it should come as no surprise that Gen Z is into social media, too. However, there are a few key differences in how to market to them.

Unlike millennials, Facebook isn’t as exciting for centennials. They love Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, so you can tailor your strategies, and their experiences, to these channels.

  • With Instagram and Snapchat, come up with short, entertaining videos and images that illustrate what your brand stands for. Check out this Oreo video, Burger King video, and Reebok video for examples and inspiration.
  • YouTube, on the other hand, is less restricted to length but can be extremely powerful. One strategy would be to bring in a YouTube personality this generation can relate to, connect with and maybe even know, such as a well-established vlogger from a particular industry. Or, come up with a powerful video that tugs at the heartstrings, such as this one by Chick-fil-A.

Ever-Present Communication

Because centennials grew up with technology, they expect instant feedback and results. That means answering their questions and finding them powerful solutions on their terms. Make sure they can directly communicate to you at all times, and that you are always present to answer their questions right away. 

In their minds, if you aren’t present to answer their questions, you aren't dedicated and can’t be trusted. A high-quality product or service only gets you so far with this generation: They crave personalized attention and meaningful connections.

Amazon is a good example of providing a positive online experience. While you can get just about anything you want on Amazon, the buying process is enhanced with recommendations of other things to buy based on current or past purchases. Think of it as the candy and gum at the grocery checkout, and how tempting it is to buy something else just because it’s adjacent to paying for your groceries. Amazon also has live 24/7 chat and is known for meeting customer expectations through fast delivery and hassle-free returns.

Another example is Warby Parker, which has transformed and accessorized the eyeglasses experience. Whether it’s their high-level, in-store customer service, or shipping you five different frames to choose from, Warby Parker offers a transparent journey for consumers. And, through their Buy-A-Pair, Give-A-Pair program, more than 5 million pairs of glasses have gone out to those in need. This level of sustainability is something centennials embrace.


Centennials are a more frugal generation, but they’re also more aware. They won’t deal with waste or excess. That means your brand must be direct and plugged into social issues, and demonstrate that you genuinely care about social issues in order to get centennials on board.

Google is the largest corporate renewable energy provider in the world, gives grants to passionate and committed social media initiatives, and provides employee gift matching and paid time off to volunteer. Another example is Disney, whose social mission is to strengthen communities “by providing hope, happiness, and comfort to kids and families who need it most.” They've done this by giving more than $332.8 million in 2018 to nonprofit organizations helping kids, families, and communities, donating over 61 million books to schools and children since 2012, and reaching a five-year global commitment in 2018 to spend $100 million to help reimagine the patient journey in children’s hospitals. 

Taking Your Business to the Next Level – Strike While the Iron Is Hot

With centennials so into individuality, personal experiences, trust, and instant communication and feedback, you must find a good balance between establishing an emotional connection, creating compelling content and demonstrating a strong community. 

Connecting to centennials and getting their business can be challenging, but it’s necessary for survival. As you move forward, tap into these four marketing strategies so that you can build your brand and grow your business.

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