Reaching the Matures: The 1st Hump in Your Generational Marketing

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | May 05, 2010

Okay, consider these three points:

  1. Whom do you think of when you hear the word Doctor? Well, if you are a
    member of the Mature generation, you probably think of Dr. Spock. Baby
    Boomers lean towards Dr. Strangelove. For, Generation X, it is Dr.
    Kevorkian, and for the Millennial generation (sometimes called Generation
    Y), Dr. Phil comes to mind, of course.

  2. Say the word gay, and Matures will start singing a line from an old
    Christmas carol, "Don't we now our gay apparel, fa la la la la la, la la
    la." Baby Boomers look to see if someone is coming out of a closet, while
    Gen X visualize a Gay-Pride parade led by a cluster of rainbow striped
    flags. And Gen Y? Why they envision The Fab Five, -- Kyan, Thom, Jai, Carson
    and Ted - stars of Bravo's celebrated TV show, Queer Eye for the Straight
    Guy.

  3. You know you are a Mature if Paris brings to mind a picture of American
    armed forces triumphantly liberating the city In World War II. You know you
    are a Boomer when Paris represented the dream destination for your
    honeymoon. You know you are a customer of Generation X when Paris was
    someplace to go for a weekend shopping trip. But you are a customer of
    Generation Y when the name Paris is automatically followed by the name
    Hilton.

Within these three examples lie the wisdom of an ancient proverb and the genesis of generational marketing for hotels: Men resemble the times more than they do their fathers. Members of a generation are forever connected by virtue of the fact that they shared life-defining experiences during their formative years - world events, natural disasters, economic conditions, politics, and technology. These common experiences created bonds that tie consumers of a generation together into cohorts with similar attitudes, values, and life skills that affect everything from how they spend, what they save, and, yes, even if they stay at your hotel. And for the first time in our history, there are four distinct generations of consumers to whom you are marketing the same product - i.e. your hotel.

The market always evolves to the different needs and values of each generation. For example, Betty Crocker introduced a line of ready to bake cake mixes in the 1950s; they flopped. This was the era of stay-at-home moms - today's Matures. To these women, who grew up during the depression and World War II, sacrifice was a virtue. Anything that was too easy was suspect. Convenience seemed like cheating. So the idea of saying they baked a cake by opening a box and just adding water went against their values. It was foreign to one of their generational markers. Finally, Betty Crocker figured this cohort value out and reformulated the mix to require adding an egg. The new mix succeeded because there was a sense of work; it was in line with their generational values.

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Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.