Reaching the Millennial Generation: The 4th Hump in Your Generational Marketing

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

We are Sasha Cohen, Reggie Bush, the Olsen twins, and the McCaughey septuplets. Born after 1985, we already number 75+ million, and are growing. By 2010, we will be 100+ million strong. And with our numbers, we will become a very powerful economic force as we travel, stay in your hotel, and become members of your loyalty program. Because we were the first generation to grow up immersed in a digital-driven world, we are often called Generation Y (Gen Y), the Net Generation or iGen. But we are also known as Echo Boomers, because we are primarily children of the Baby Boomers. We have even been labeled the Einstein Generation because we are adept at multi-tasking.

No matter what you call it, this generation is defined by technology and exploding media options. In a 2007 survey of US college students (your guests of today and tomorrow), 97% own a computer and 94% own a cell phone. Three-fourths of them use Instant Messaging and have a Myspace or other social networking account. In other words, they are connected 24/7...across the street, across their town, across the country, and across the world. The line between business and leisure has all but disappeared for this generation. And all this media saturation has produced a generation of educated, savvy consumers with a global view of life.

The Gen Yers also acknowledge the realities of the uncertain world in which they live. Columbine, Diana, and 9/11 were lexicons in their daily lives. Drugs, gangs, amber alerts and metal detectors became part of their existence. Even Mother Nature invaded their consciousness with global warming, Tsunamis, and Katrina. And to top it all off, they are the first generation who cannot envision a future in which they are economically better off than their parents. Thus, they tend to live in the moment, but still have an eye for the future.

So how can your hotel attract and retain this generation as loyal guests? What can your property offer that will be in sync with their values and their generational markers? Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Market on Their Schedule. Millenials are the first remote generation. Growing up with on-demand instant gratification, they want what they want, when they want it and how they want it. This means that your hotel must market to them 24/7. This generation does not understand, nor do they accept, the old brick-and-mortar concept of a business being closed. They live via the Internet and they want to see the complete experience your hotel offers - from accommodations, amenities and services to surrounding places of interest. Or, as Bruce Speechley, from IBM Global, says, the Net Generation wants to "be able to experience the vacation before arriving."

  • Connect with Multiple Media Channels. By 2010, this group will be a significant sector for the lodging industry. While there will be a lot of them, they will be fragmented and difficult to reach by traditional media channels. They live by email, IM (instant messaging), chat rooms, blogs, PDAs, MP3s, iPods, Wiis, and social networks such as Face book and MySpace. To reach this hyper-technological group, your hotel needs to creatively send your hotel's messages via these new media channels embracing them in a virtual community. And if it is not downloadable, forget it!

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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.