Picture: Getty Images
Picture: Getty Images

Research has revealed that a new age group is taking centre stage – and it’s no longer millennials.  Those born since 1993 have their own world views, beliefs and aspirations, and are called centennials by Student Village in its “Youth Culture Report”, a national study the company recently presented. This is a market that brands should be targeting, says the report, but brands need to learn how to be relevant in the lives of individuals aged between 18 and 24. 

The report debunks a number of beliefs about this generation, based on research that was undertaken in urban centres across Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, over three months.

Millennials are getting older and can no longer be considered the youth market. Centennials are the latest youth group, and are defined by the fact that they were born into the digital age. As digital natives, they’re always connected – to them the web is an extension of themselves, something that has always been there and is simply a means of communication, entertainment and education.

This is an age group that has considerable spending power; the report reveals they spend R32bn a year. It’s a market filled with opportunity for brands and one they cannot afford to overlook, which is why becoming relevant in these youngsters’ daily lives is a must.

According to the report, centennials are seen as today’s culture creators – they define their own culture, live by their own rules and tell their own stories. “Unlike previous generations, centennials are fearless and willing to take risks. They are exploring entrepreneurship earlier and their understanding of the internet and social media has made it easier for them to run their own businesses and operate them at almost no cost simply by using the web. They value money and power and strive to attain it by working smart rather than hard,” says Student Village’s Marc Kornberger. He adds that they value uniqueness, authenticity, creativity, shareability and recognition.

Contrary to perceptions, the research reveals that members of this generation are not lazy, entitled or disrespectful of authority. Rather, they look to new technologies to navigate the online world and create business opportunities. And because they set great store by wealth and power, they tend to be more enterprising in terms of finding innovative business opportunities. Moreover, they are resilient and tenacious when it comes to seeking work and hustling.

The big take-out

Student Village’s “Youth Culture Report” has revealed that centennials, born from 1993 onwards, are the new youth market, with a collective disposable income of R32bn a year.

Centennials look to technology to provide them with fun, excitement and personalisation, as well as to help them save money and offer instant gratification. Unlike millennials, who have a fear of missing out, centennials fear being irrelevant. As such they have a need to be connected to the truth.

Those in this age group care about their personal brands and personal brand equity. If fact, they are more image conscious than previous generations, which also makes them more picky (in some cases) and selective in terms of what information they share over social media platforms, which they regard as a form of social currency. They’re trendsetters rather than followers and aspire to looking and being different.

With the need to distinguish themselves from their peers, centennials aim to do things most of their friends haven’t done. It’s an attitude that has made them open to trying new experiences – and they save their disposable income to afford these experiences.

Centennials understand that the issues around politics and the country have a direct impact on their futures. As a result, they take part in discussions, on- and offline, about socioeconomic issues. A case in point, says Kornberger, is the #FeesMustFall movement. “Not only are the youth involved in these issues, but they have an actual influence on socioeconomic matters.”

The “Youth Culture Report” provides good insights into the value of this market and its influence on brands. “[Centennials] represent the largest segment of the population and they’re growing, becoming a crucial part of target market conversations when it comes to youth-focused brands,” says Kornberger, adding that it is vital to recognise this group as a diverse market with varied interests rather than a homogeneous group.

The youth market – which for years has dominated conversation around marketing and sparked multitudes of research – is becoming more relevant than ever because of young people’s ability to engage with and create culture, and thanks to their unlimited access to information.

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