PHOTO: Chichen Itza. Millennials like "extremely cool, outdoing- your-Facebook-friends excursions like snorkeling with whale sharks or visiting Chichen Itza at solstice," said Tim Mullen, Travel Impressions' president. (Photo by Rich Thomaselli)
These days it seems like everyone is talking about Millennials. Maybe it's because they are now the largest generational demographic, subsuming the place of priority long held by the Baby Boomers. The Millennial generation, roughly defined as people born from 1980 to 2004, is now estimated to number 80 million, making it a larger group than the Boomers. Anyone in business today will have to reckon with the Millennial generation.
Since the 1950s and the rise of teen subculture as a marketing demographic, the Baby Boomers, people born from 1946 to 1964, have dominated culture and consumerism in America. This all came about because of the post-World War II baby boom. When military men returned from the war to an increasingly affluent America and started families, they produced the largest generation in history - and the largest marketing demographic - until now. But now its reign is over. Long live the Millennials! It's time for all of us to learn about the new leader of the marketplace.
Who and what is a Millennial?
The term "millennials" goes back to the late 1980s, when the Millennials were first entering school. Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe are credited with coining the term. They discussed them in the book "Generations: The History of America's Future," and later wrote an entire book about them, called "Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation."
The Millennials have also been referred to as Generation Y and as the Echo Boomers, a reference to the fact that it is a large generation, like the Baby Boomers, and to a large degree it is comprised of the children of the Baby Boomers.
The Millennials grew up during a period of profound technological advances that changed the environment in which people grew up. Starting with the PC at the beginning of the Millennials' lifespan, and evolving to the Internet and smartphones, technology has created an unprecedented shift in the environment in which human behavior is molded.
So how do you market to them?
Virtually everyone in business must now come to terms with Millennials, who they are and what they like. Here are some varying and sometimes seemingly contradictory tips from the field of a very unexact science.
1. Brent Green, author of "Marketing to Leading Edge Baby Boomers" and "Generation Reinvention" and a social commentator focused on generational marketing and transformation of industries, told TravelPulse, "Millennials have fully embraced the experience economy. They seek opportunities to immerse themselves in locales and foreign cultures. They're well traveled when compared to older generations, so they have sophisticated sensibilities about what is authentic versus fake, and they prefer the former."
2. Travel experiences for the Millennium generation, according to Green, "need to be richly multisensory, with an effective balance of adventure and relaxation (or chilling out). They value and need online engagement with social networks because their travel experiences must be shared with peers in real time whenever possible. Limited online engagement can be a real turn-off, even in remote places."
3. According to Green, "Millennials yearn to make a difference, having adopted the philanthropic values of Boomers. So many like their travel experiences to be imbued with service to others - maybe not an entire trip but, for example, one meaningful day of giving within a trip."
4. Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five Tours, warns against trying to sell leftover Boomer products to Millennials. "Millennial are seeking authenticity," said Sanghrajka. "Sadly, this word is getting as over-used as 'eco tourism,' with tours meant for a different generation being repackaged for Millennial. Most Millennial travelers are aware of this and won't even give a second chance to anyone repackaging. They are not looking for voluntourism or to be involved in a foundation, they are looking to have their travel be part of a larger solution."
5. According to Sanghrajka, we have been witnessing the effect of the Millennials in the marketplace for years already. "The Millennial generation has been influencing the buying habits of their parents more than ever over the last few years. So you are not only seeing a new product for this generation, you see the prior generation starting to embrace these changes for themselves as well. The best advice I ever received was from one of my mentors who is outside the travel business. He said, 'Yesterday's elation is today's expectation.'"
6. Tim Mullen, president of Travel Impressions, said that Millennials want to go on "extremely cool, out-doing- your-Facebook-friends excursions like snorkeling with whale sharks or visiting Chichen Itza at solstice." They are also interested in "excursions that leave the resort and allow an opportunity to meet destination locals like the Bavaro Runners tour in Punta Cana."
7. Phil Cappelli, president of Insight Vacations, said, "Selling 'hardware' doesn't appeal to this generation - they want to touch, smell, feel and appreciate the uniqueness of every destination. As a result, we focus on promoting our interactive local experiences, like our strudel-making demonstration in Budapest and the intimate flamenco performance in Seville. Insight's Signature Experiences, and the charming individuals who conduct them, really resonate with our millennial guests."
8. "Millennials have redefined travel!" said Sabina Osorio, marketing manager for Sceptre Tours. "They want to see the world, experience it in a unique way and tell all of their friends along the way via social networks. They're interested in diversity and authenticity, especially when it comes to travel. When targeting Millennials with escorted tours, we've found that boutique tours that offer value without compromising on the personal touch is the way to go. Small things like Wi-Fi enabled coaches and genuine encounters with locals and artisans can make a big difference for this market."
9. Marian Lavilla, marketing specialist for SITA World Tours, says that because Millennials are Internet savvy and do research online, it is important to get your Internet message focused. "Since testimonials, reviews, and recommendations from friends are very important to Millennials when making decisions on where and when to travel, it is important that the messages about the company on the Internet are relevant to what they are looking for," said Lavilla. "With all the research they do via technology, this makes them quick to book a trip, but it also means that they are more likely to book closer to their departure dates than other generations. Other services that Millennials look for are customization and authenticity. They like the idea of authenticity and having experiences that are different than any of their peers."
10. This is a big one - hotels take note. Tim Mullen, president of Travel Impressions, said, "Millennials will expect constant access to free (or inexpensive), quality Wi-Fi on their vacation." Micah Solomon, on Forbes takes it further. He wrote that charging extra for Wi-Fi at hotels is "brand suicide." The Internet is no longer seen as an optional extra, any more than indoor plumbing or color TV.
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