Marketers Make Small Bets to Catch Constantly Changing 'Centennials'

Marketers spent the last decade enthralled with the elusive, so-called millennial generation, striving to understand its ever-changing social habits -- from Instagram to Snapchat to Periscope -- and burgeoning nonconformity, thrifty spirit and swelling hot sauce obsession.

In attempts to grab hold of the consumers also called Generation Y, Pizza Hut doused its pies with sriracha, Whole Foods announced a lower-priced grocery chain and brands everywhere looked to YouTube stars and bloggers to give their products a youthful sheen.

Even as the cohort ages and evolves, marketers are still chasing the shadows of millennials' younger selves. Consider the plight of teen retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Aéropostale, which are struggling to revamp their merchandising and marketing approaches to better attract audiences that have already largely outgrown them.

Plenty of advertisers, in fact, were caught off guard by the pace at which technology advanced culture. And as the cycle of culture continues to speed up with the next generation -- dubbed Generation Z, or sometimes "centennials" because they were born around the turn of the century -- smart marketers are looking ahead and making small, fast bets to avoid losing touch with the next crop of teens. They don't even have to look very far ahead, as it happens: With the oldest members of the group hitting 18 this year, Generation Z has already arrived.