Centennials. Heard of them?



April 20, 2016

As a management consultant, it’s my job to solve problems.  Of course it’s more complicated than that, but at the end of the day my success or failure hinges upon adding value for clients who have high levels of accountability and a low tolerance for wasted time.

Consultants are everywhere; what characteristics make one more successful than another?  Intelligence, experience, and capability are obvious, but they’re table stakes.  Ante up with authenticity, honesty, and curiosity and you have a seat at the table.  Double down on an insatiable drive to stay in front of (or at least acutely aware of) ‘what’s next?’  Now that is a game-changing consultant.

Knowing what’s coming next may seem like magic. How can I possibly solve problems before they arise or answer questions that’ve not even been posed yet? While I won’t give away the secrets behind our Futures practice, I will delve into an example: the mystery that is the next generation and how they will impact each and every organization that exists today.

I’ll be the first to admit that kids have never specifically impacted the way I approach business. If you’d told me that someone not old enough to vote (or even drive!) would have more than a minor impact on the way my clients do business, I’d have tried not to laugh out loud. Because for me, up until a few months ago, generational forward thinking ended at that ever-vilified, oft-studied generation: Millennials. And I assumed, foolishly, that everyone after them would be just a younger version – a Mini-llennial.

But these kids – these Centennials – are definitely not just younger Millennials. Far from it. They are their own powerful force. They have unique habits, ambitions, and values. Beyond that, they are your customers, employees, consultants, and competition of tomorrow.

And they’re going to totally disrupt the way you do business.

So who are the Centennials?

  • In 2015, Centennials, arguably but generally categorized as those born post-1995, made up 25% of the population. This makes Centennials a larger population than either Millennials or Baby Boomers. Their numbers will almost double by 2020.
  • They have tremendous buying power, estimated around $44B and growing.
  • Their attention spans are around 8 seconds. That’s shorter than a goldfish.
  • They have no recollection of 9/11.
  • They’ve grown up as children of the Great Recession.
  • They’ve never lived in a world without the internet or social media. They’re the first true digital-native generation.

While there’s a whole bunch of research about the generation itself, an informal poll of my clients and colleagues told me that very few of them understand just how much of an impact this powerhouse generation will have on the business that they’re conducting today. And none of them are doing anything about it.

So, a couple of weeks ago, our North Highland Seattle team put a panel of eight intelligent, engaged, and passionate kids, ranging in age from 12 to 18, in front of 75 local business leaders. With the help of our moderator Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, we dove deep into their beliefs, their desires, their views, and even their shopping habits. Our thesis was simple:  this generation has a lot to say, a powerful voice that could teach us something – and we should listen.

These kids did not disappoint.  Over the next four weeks, I’ll share our learnings with you. I’ll pick a topic a week, weave in some of our proprietary research and some that exists in the market, and give you strategies to help address the tidal wave of change.

Not convinced you should care? Here’s a teaser:

  • Centennials see right through creative marketing ploys. They expect #realtalk and ultimate personalization from brands.
  • A few brands stick out as winners to Centennials – and they told us why.
  • Centennials have money to spend and they’re spending it much more wisely than you might expect. Value is greater than trend.

It’s no secret that your business is changing faster than ever. Your customers have choices – and they’re making those choices in the most connected, fast-paced, and option-saturated environment of all time. You can either chase the trend after it’s too late to recover or let me do what I do best: help you understand what’s next (in reality, what’s now), why you should care, and what you can do to stay competitive. Join me!