Forget Gen X, Y, and Z... It's Now Gen C

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | July 24, 2011

There are ten of us in our immediate family – me, my husband, our two daughters, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren, who range from age 9 to 20. When we all get together at a hotel or resort for our annual sojourn, it seems as if we fill every electrical outlet in site. PCs, Macs, iPods, e-readers, Mobile Phones, multiplied by ten, equals at least 30 chargers that might need plugging in at any one time. That's because we are all – repeat, all - members of Generation C.

We are no longer Baby Boomers or Gen Xers or Gen Yers. Those monikers defined us by the year in which we were born. We had no option in to which cohort we were place. We were described by our age. But no longer. Now, thanks to a myriad of converging forces, we can all become members of the same generation – one that is defined by choice. We can choose to be members of Generation C. And we have done so

The Gen C nickname had its genesis around 2004 when trend watchers began noticing a new type of consumer emerging – one that crossed age boundaries and defied traditional segmentation strategies. These individuals were not necessarily similar in age, but were in their attitudes, values, interests, and certain personality traits. And they all were digitally connected. In other words, they formed a psychographic or psychological cohort that required a totally different approach to thinking about consumers – one that could include every one of every age and could, in essence, stretch to every corner of the market.

To begin thinking about how your hotel can embrace the opportunities emerging from the Gen C trend, it is important to understand its five basic drivers:

  1. Longevity. Simply put, there are more people living longer. By 2030, when all surviving baby Boomers will be over 65, there will be 72 million
    seniors, about 20 percent of the population. As this is being written, the
    U.S. population clock reads 311,332,287, while the world population is
    nearing the seven billion mark.
  2. Mobility. There are dozens of statistics about how many people move every year, ranging from 10 to 25 percent. No matter what the actual
    number, however, even a small percentage represents a large group of people
    who leave friends and family behind to live in unfamiliar surroundings.
  3. Resurgence of Family and Friends. The iconic Normal Rockwell images of families and friends have always been part of the American lexicon. But it
    seems that, since the tragic images of 9/11 were seared into our hearts and
    minds, there has been a renaissance in our need to stay in touch with those
    who are important in our lives.
  4. Celebrity. Andy Warhol pointed out, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." If you ever doubt the truth of his statement,
    just look at the proliferation of TV reality shows and video clips on You
    Tube. I recently read somewhere that everybody has creative inclinations,
    but until now, we haven't had the guts or the means to go all out.
  5. Technology. Hardware and software companies have given us the technological and content-creating tools to leash this pent-up creativity
    with cheaper, yet ever more powerful technologies. We now have the ability
    to create, produce, and participate.

So what does all this mean for you and your hotel? First, if means that you have to rethink how you segment your markets. Gone will be the days when hotels just categorize by leisure, business, and group. As any traveler knows, the line between work and leisure time has been virtually erased; it's just home-away-from-home time now. Gone, too, will be the days when age is the defining market element. Your 60-year old Boomer guest belongs to Gen C because she is heavily into Facebook and YouTube. Your Millenial guest is a member of the same generation because he constantly Tweets and is a mayor on FourSquare. Both of them Skype, look for their Groupon offer on their mobile phone, search travel options online, and use word-of-finger instead of word-of-mouth as their way of telling family and friends about your hotel. Remember when you thought that a happy guest would tell six to ten others while a disgruntled one would tell twice that many? In the Gen C world, that reach grows exponentially and it goes worldwide. Gen C also believes that connectivity is a basic human right; they want to be securely connected anywhere and anytime and at no extra cost to them. So having complimentary WiFi service throughout your property is considered a necessary, not a luxury.

As important as these elements are, however, Gen C is looking for a compelling hotel experience. Compelling experiences are memorable, they are what excite guests, and they are about which they tell others. But compelling is also the gestalt of the whole hotel experience – every guest touch point, from the decor to the service, melt into its totality. Therefore, if you ask guests about their dinner experience, and they say "the whole evening was wonderful", they had a compelling experience. If they say, "the food was great," or "the service was good," they just had an experience. There is a big difference.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.