No other generation has been put under the microscope quite like the much-maligned millennial generation, basically those born from the 1980s to early 2000s.
(As if you could draw a line in the sand when it comes to generalising behaviour: The 36-year-old millennial mother and 16-year-old Grade Niner don’t have an awful lot in common, other than being raised in the digital age.)
It’s the new favourite topic on everyone’s lips, from ‘Top millennial workplace horrors’ to ‘Monopoly strategy for millennials’ (I kid you not). And, unfortunately, the millennial microscope hasn’t escaped travel.
I had to laugh at this article in Condé Nast Traveler poking fun at Hyatt Centric’s “open concept lounge where your experience begins” (lobby), “health studio” (gym), “creative meeting spaces” (conference rooms) and “barman table” (ja, just a bar, hey).
Marketers are falling over themselves to capture the hearts and minds of the millennials and their approach has been pretty gimmicky thus far, ironic really for a generation that supposedly places value in authenticity and uniqueness.
Not being from this generation myself (age disclaimer), I’m told that the keys to magnetising a millennial lie in offering and marketing an experience that allows them to get under the skin of a destination. They are adventurous, want stories they can share with (read, boast to) their peers and are cost conscious.
This is a generation whose decisions are often based on the recommendations of friends and families via social media. A generation that has no problem making a last-minute decision to travel because they saw something on their phone while waiting for the next meeting to start. Their dependence on digital devices affects every part of their lives. Needless to say, this last-minute.com approach doesn’t bode well for employers of millennials, but that’s a whole other topic altogether.
All the time we see the suggestion that travel brands need to maintain a strong online presence and constantly monitor their social media. That they need to enhance their authentic travel experiences. And that their customer service needs to be impeccable and responsive.
But is this not the case for every generation? Does my baby boomer traveller not look for travel inspiration online? Not rely on friends and family for holiday recommendations? Not take the odd selfie and post it to Facebook?
An interesting article by Kyle Wong in Forbes Magazine says the secret to marketing to millennials is to remember that millennials are also people.
Wong says what millennials want is not very different to what every customer wants: a better customer experience or product, an authentic brand that stands for something and a digital experience that is simple, easy, friction-free and enjoyable.
He suggests, and I would agree, that it is more helpful to think about people’s relationship with travel than to segment them by age. A common dream or goal cuts across and even confounds age stereotypes and the role of a brand is to get at the heart of the needs, passions and goals of its target market, the deeper emotional drivers behind their behaviour, regardless of generation.
What about defining different bands of consumers according to emotional drivers and behaviours instead of fixating on millennial, boomer or gen xs if we, as marketers, have to segment our customers into boxes?
So instead of a magical marketing list of dos and don’ts to capture the millennial’s heart, I thought I’d give you a list to capture them all:
· Engage with them in their preferred way: It is sometimes misleading to think millennials want everything digital first. Ironically, this is the so-called generation that is going back to the travel agent, allegedly because they appreciate a ‘people first’ approach. Nonetheless, your job as a marketer is to deliver the right message, on the right platform at the right time – no matter what age group, and that also means mobile.
· Listen first, talk later: This is your opportunity to develop a trusted brand. Listen to your loyal customers and leverage those that seek to become brand ambassadors by encouraging user-generated content about your brand. Remember, they’ll listen to their peers before they listen to you. And if they don’t like what they see, you can expect 600 people to know about it within the hour.
· Do what’s right: Be socially and environmentally conscious and reflect an ethical brand. It will foster loyalty, no matter what generation you’re targeting.
· Reward loyalty: Take time to express appreciation for those consumers who are paying attention to you.
· React quickly: No matter who you are, time is money and there is an expectation that efficient service and technology will make their lives more convenient.
And finally, and perhaps more importantly, it’s all about them, not you. People want to be treated with respect and in an approachable manner. So ditch the industry lingo and think about how to communicate in an authentic way.
When you talk to your friends about a destination you’ve travelled to, do you give them a sales pitch? So in your next marketing communication, instead of highlighting what you offer, pretend you’re writing to friend who’s looking for some advice on where to travel to and give them the information, advice and inspiration that will speak to their needs, not yours – no matter what generation.