How travel and tourism brands can help Millennials, a generation under pressure

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Travel isn’t just about hitting ‘escape’. Destinations and travel brands need to empathise with Millennials to help them build the life skills and experiences that they crave.

Earlier this month I outlined a number of reasons why the reality of life for Millennials in the mature outbound markets of Europe and North America isn’t as rosy as their Instagram feeds might suggest (view post: ‘Marketing to Millennials: Going Beyond the Schmaltz’)

In sharp contrast to much of the upbeat commentary about Millennials you may have occasionally stumbled across in the media, tried to shine a light on the darker reality for Millennials; the atrocious economic situation they’re faced with, career paths built on unstable ground, unmanageable debts and social-media induced anxiety about how everyone else is coping better than they are.

So why is life so tough for Millennials? As The Guardian put it earlier this year in its series about this generation, ‘it isn’t that members of Gen Y, with smartphones and cheap air tickets in hand, are about to edge back into the Dickensian workhouse. The tide of technology is not about to go into reverse […]. The concern is rather that all the old paths that allowed their parents to get ahead – careers with prospects, home ownership and decent pensions – are one by one being blocked off. Today’s young adults enjoy greater social, sexual and cultural freedom than any before them. But in hock to debts, to landlords and often unstructured work, the one freedom they are lacking is the freedom to make their own luck’.Youth-unemployment-cut

Of course, the reality for the vast majority of Millennials lays somewhere in the middle of the extremes painted by the media. Still, my argument in this post is that it’s wise to look beyond the ‘schmaltz’, show a certain empathy with the real situation of how young people are living today and to try and put forward solutions that really help. Fortunately, for a generation that is faced with the need to compete in the global workplace, enhance life skills, develop social intelligence, improve cross-cultural understanding and just gain more self-confidence with which to face the world, can you think of a better answer than travelling?

Faced with the rather depressing list of real-life elements that Millennials have to battle with, it can be hard to know where to start and to know which factors will be more relevant than others when trying to build that empathy into an engagement strategy. Some of those elements will offer more direct clues of what products or solutions could be offered, others will simply give pause for thought. Here I have offered some recommendations on how destinations and travel brands can react to some of Millennials’ emerging character traits.

Stop the world, I want to get off!

It’s no coincidence that the world’s major corporations are investing big money in learning how to recruit and retain Millennials. Why? Because the future of the world’s biggest companies depends not just on a steady stream of young customers, but bright young staff too. Yet this highly mobile, restless generation is wondering whether the 40+ hour week is really what they want from life. Search ‘Millennials’ and ‘work’ and it won’t take too long for you to find a lot of hand-wringing articles discussing how Millennials are a needy generation, craving instant job satisfaction, fast promotion, flexible schedules and a lot of hand-holding.

As the generation that grew up in the shadow of the global economic crisis, Millennials in the developed world have witnessed the traditional rewards of work – a decent salary, prospects for promotion, support from well-trained supervisors, and a pot of gold at the end of it all (ie. a good pension) – crumble away pretty fast. In other words, the existing model of study, steady job, healthy retirement has become a lot less reliable. Millennials Generation easyJetacross the developed world largely believe they are unlikely to earn more than their parents, hence for many –especially older Millennials who have had a taste of the world of work- this has given rise to the philosophy of ‘I may as well enjoy myself now’. This is a trend that I believe that easyJet has latched onto strongly with its ‘Generation easyJet’ campaign.

Heading into a highly competitive world of work

At the same time, research is showing younger Millennials to be quite serious, studious generation. Various speakers at the Youth Marketing Summit in London last year made it clear that the ‘sex, drugs & rock n’ roll’ youth stereotype is precisely a stereotype because it’s more relevant to today’s parents (Gen X and Baby Boomers) than to young people themselves. Instead, aware of the challenges of getting through endless school exams, winning a university place and then a foot on the job ladder, research presented at YMS showed younger (UK) Millennials to be a serious, nervous group, keen to take opportunities for improving academic knowledge, as well as the kind of soft skills that are likely to help them build self-confidence and give them the competitive edge in the jobs market.

Blurring the lines

As I described in my Toposophy guide to Putting Your Destination on the Millennial Map, bleisure travel (business + leisure) is firmly on the rise and it’s Millennials who are leading the trend. However, it’s especially common among a growing tribe of Millennials – ‘freelancers’, or putting it nicely, ‘independent contractors’. You’ve seen us, hunched over a laptop, nursing an over-priced coffee and refusing to budge from the corner of your local coffee chain (we’re in the corner because that’s where the ONE AND ONLY electricity socket is).

On a serious note, a combination of economic circumstances, technological change and personal choice has given rise to more and more independent contractors, and as automation and the on-demand economy continue their unstoppable expansion, this tribe is only set to grow. Putting aside for a moment the rather worrying question of what this all means for the future stability of work and social security systems, the start-up generation (yes, those ‘digital nomads’) is footloose and able to live and work where it suits them most. Avid users of sharing economy services and addicted to tech solutions, they tend to be highly influential and attract a trail of capital, so consider them as trailblazers for regeneration (and responsible for rising rents, everywhere from Berlin to Bucharest to Barcelona to Belfast).

Mobile devices: bringing those who are far away closer, and pushing those who are close further away

The smartphone has, without question, become the essential tool to getting through modern life. Social media has become the go-to place for news, advice, fun, gossip, planning and nurturing friendships. Unsurprisingly, younger Millennials (who had social media in their lives from an earlier stage than older Millennials) can get severe FOBO or ‘fear of being offline’, yet studies are also starting to highlight the effect of a life lived online.

As Skift’s Portrait of the Millennial Traveller (2016) observed ‘Millennials are also social-media-stressfamously known for being mobile and social media addicts. Yet many marketers are finding what they really crave is deeper real-life human connections when traveling’. Essentially, many, many young people today are lonely, yearning for face-to-face interaction with parents, siblings and friends who are able to offer the depth of support and compassion not available through digital connections. I believe that while separating people (especially young people) from their devices is neither practical nor desirable, many people of all ages are now seeking (craving) experiences that put personal connections (fun, recreation, communication) first with technology taking a back seat.

It goes without saying that whether through structured or un-structured situations, travelling provides so many different ways for Millennials to re-connect with loved ones in person, make new friends and practice the ‘social intelligence’ skills that can boost their confidence and be of real use in finding a job and surviving in the world of work.

Selective spending

And now for the big question… money.

In my last post I painted a portrait of a cash-strapped generation that’s under pressure from the high cost of rent, student debt, wage stagnation and much else. You might be forgiven for thinking that travel would be relegated to the bottom of the priority list for spending, but then think back to my first point – this is the YOLO generation and the money that’s not going towards houses, cars, redecorating, new TVs, high-end fashion and savings (pension? what pension?), is more often than not being spent on experiences, rather than material things. Combine this desire with the ability that the internet provides to break down and then pick and choose every experience during a trip, this gives the effect of what Josh Wyatt from Generator Hostels calls ‘curated spending’ (source). This means that for a generation less attracted to the notion of conspicuous consumption, it’s perfectly socially acceptable to carefully mix budget and luxury along the journey if it means getting access to the type of experiences that will bring personal satisfaction, and strengthen the Millennial customer’s brand on social media.

QUICK TIPS:

What does all the above mean when it comes to targeting Millennials?

  • Understand what your product or destination really means for Millennials in terms of where they at in their lives. Is it for a quick escape or a long-desired career break?
  • Understand that these escapes can come at any time (check out my post about Last Minute Leisure). Consider where Millennials are gathering their inspiration for life-changing journeys and consider where you are (and where you need to be) on their path-to-purchase.
  • Understand that Millennials don’t compartmentalise work/study/leisure/fun, especially where travelling is concerned, so you need to adopt the same mentality. See the section on ‘bleisure’ travel in my Toposophy guide to ‘Putting Your Destination on the Millennial Map’
  • Hard experience builds soft skills. Highlight the value of offline experiences, and how your destination or brand makes those truly special. What opportunities do you offer to meet local people, make friends (or romance), or re-connect with loved ones? How can you help Millennials towards their goals of self-improvement?
  • Drop old pre-conceptions about budget vs. luxury travellers. Millennials are less and less consistent in that regard. Instead, consider how your product, service or destination is ‘unique’ and how it will help strengthen the traveller’s ‘personal brand’.

Looking for more ideas, or want to chat about these insights? Talk to me via @genctraveller

Millennial marketing: Going beyond the schmaltz

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For Millennials, life isn’t as rosy as you’d think

Sorry to shatter the illusion, but unemployment, spiralling debt, careers without prospects, the generational wealth gap, social-media induced stress and general life-anxiety also affect Millennials’ consumer decisions and by extension, their travel behaviour.

When it comes to writing observations about Millennial-aged consumers, there’s a tendency to accompany such writing with a filtered photo of happy, good-looking Millennials. They’re usually of diverse backgrounds and sharing a joke around a picnic table or, of course taking a group selfie. They’re all wearing big smiles, have perfect teeth and simply ooze health and prosperity (spoiler: they’re stock-photo models).

You know the type of images I’m talking about, and maybe like me you’re also guilty of using them in your presentations when trying to capture the essence of ‘Millennials’. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and to be honest these days I try to keep them to a minimum, in favour of illustrating the diversity of this generation and the different stages of life they pass through during this crucial period of their lives.newsimg_deb-green-deal

Which brings me onto the subject of this post: namely, that not everything is perfect for this generation, in fact far from it. Therefore in order to be effective at communicating with Millennials, you have to understand the bad stuff that’s happening to them, as well as the good.

Before I go any further, I want to highlight a point that must be understood properly if we’re going to understand Millennials’ consumer behaviour in a proper, measured way. That is: not all Millennials are the same.

During my presentation ‘Six Trends that Will Change the World’ at WTM London last year I illustrated this point in different ways. Between the ages of 18-35 you can go through the gruelling obstacle course that is school, part-time work, university/college, internships, first major romantic relationships and much else. Think of Millennials who you know, and you can quickly see how diverse they are. There is also a significant difference between the life events and of Millennials from different countries especially between Millennials from mature and emerging outbound markets.

These similarities and differences between Millennials were neatly outlined by Robert Guest in The Economist in January 2016: ‘All generalisations about such a vast group should be taken with a bucket of salt. What is true of young Chinese may not apply to young Americans or Burundians. But the young do have some things in common: they grew up in the age of smartphones and in the shadow of a global financial disaster. They fret that it is hard to get a good education, a steady job, a home and—eventually—a mate with whom to start a family’.

Furthermore, last week Deanna Ting published a very good article in Skift, asking ‘Do Millennials Really View Travel Differently?’ The article was posed as ‘a daring thought’ and suggested that actually Millennials’ attitudes really aren’t that different to those of previous generations that the same stage in their lives, and that other generations are quickly starting  to adopt similar patterns of consumer behaviour to Millennials. It also suggested that for this reason it might not be worth the time or effort of catering to Millennials specifically. I would argue that actually Millennials’ worries are some of the key characteristics that define this generation’s consumer habits and, by extension, their travel behaviour.

So where did it all go wrong?

Over the past decade, Millennials growing up in the more mature outbound markets of North America and Europe have, to a greater or lesser extent been affected by the following:

  • High levels of unemployment. During the crisis, unemployment among younger people rose faster than it did for older adults.
  • Unstable career paths: Careers, especially those traditionally considered ‘safe’ in the public services are becoming characterised by uncertainty, wage cuts and poorer conditions
  • Rising cost of higher education: For many young people graduating in the US or the UK it is now normSmashing-Piggy-Bankal to be in five or event six-figure debt before starting a first job. Debt repayment is also to be factored in with the higher cost of living

 

 

 

  • Unstructured work: Young people are disproportionately subject to short term employment, zero-hours contracts, dependence on internships or the need to raise income through the on-demand economy (short term accommodation, car sharing, food delivery etc). This has the effect of making earnings unreliable, and incomes unpredictable.

 

  • Pensions are in crisis: For many young people, a pension is the last thing on their mind as they struggle to meet rental costs, repay student loans or a rising cost of living. Many companies have also shut generous final salary pension schemes, leaving Millennials to make their own arrangements (which many are not)

 

  • Wage stagnation: Even during the current (apparent) economic recovery, wages have remained stagnant or have not risen in line with inflation

 

  • High cost of borrowing: This has made it much more difficult to purchase the large-ticket assets (such as houses or cars) that their parents were able to obtain at relatively lower cost at the same stage in their life

 

  • Drastically-reduced supply of affordable housing: In the major cities where better jobs are to be found, rising demand and falling supply (as houses are bought and let out on the market by baby-boomers) has had the effect of pushing housing beyond the reach of young professionals, and increasing the cost of renting, which in turn reduces the ability to save for a deposit. Hence the label ‘generation rent’

 

  • A vanishing pot of gold waiting at the end… As baby boomers live longer, governments are expecting them to take on a greater burden of paying for their own care, which reduces the amount or even likelihood of inheritance for Millennials

Against this backdrop, is it any surprise that Millennials are showing deeper levels of stress and anxiety? As I’ve explained in my post on happiness and Millennials, there are lots of theories about quite what is making Gen Y (at least in the Western world) such an anxious and apprehensive generation.

Is it all down to the economic crisis? Perhaps it is social media and #FOMO (fear of missing out) that it creates?  Or maybe it’s school exam systems or busy parents who don’t have the time to sit down and talk about it all? Growing up in the era of 24-hour news and social media has also made Millennials more aware of how the global economic crisis could affect them in terms of job prospects and future financial security.

Of course feelings of uncertainty and insecurity about one’s identity and the wider world has always been part of growing up. But then previous generations didn’t face quite the same anxieties over peer job prospects, debts, body image, school grades, and everything in between that young people face today.

While social media is a great connector it often helps to reinforce, rather than reassure young people about those anxieties. Some say that it has, in effect replaced the traditional social settings (such as bars, clubs or associations) where people used to mingle for news, gossip, advice and support.

On that dark note I’m going to bring this post to a close. Next week I’m going to discuss some of the ways in which the economic scenario I’ve described is affecting Millennials’ consumer behaviour, and how travel brands can react to this challenge.

Millennials just want to be happy. So what is the ‘industry of happiness’ doing about it?

"Her Flying Red Shoes"  by Faisal Akram (Source: Wiki Commons)
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Research on Millennials consistently points to their desire to attain happiness ahead of the other priorities in life. This opens up a golden opportunity for the travel and tourism industry.

There are lots of theories about quite what is making Gen Y (at least in the Western world) such an anxious and apprehensive generation. Is it the economic crisis? Is it social media and #FOMO (fear of missing out) that it creates?  Perhaps it’s school exam systems or busy parents who don’t have the time to sit down and talk about it all?

Of course feelings of uncertainty and insecurity about your identity and the world around you has always been part of growing up. But then previous generations didn’t face quite the same anxieties over peer pressure, body image, school grades, job prospects, debts and everything in between that young people face today. And yes, while social media is a great connector, it often helps to reinforce, rather than reassure young people about those anxieties. At the same time,  growing up in the era of 24-hour news and social media has made Millennials more aware of what’s going on in their immediate community of friends as well as major events further away. This has produced a generation that’s more fired-up about global issues and ready to step in to participate than their parents were. At the same time, it has made this generation (and their parents) acutely aware of how the global economic crisis is affecting them, and could affect them in terms of job prospects and future financial security.

Under pressure

"Her Flying Red Shoes"  by Faisal Akram (Source: Wiki Commons) So it’s not surprising when research like Voxburner’s Youth Trends 2015 (covered here by my friends at ICEF Monitor) highlights  a generation that feels under pressure to “succeed in life’ (79% of 16-24 year olds), or is worried about being financially stable (75%) or able to find a good career (73%). When Viacom asked Millennials around the world ‘will you earn more than your parents in the future?’, in Australia only 15% of 15-24 year olds, and 17% of 25-30 year olds thought that they would – and that’s in a country which did pretty well during the crisis years. Across the developed world the global economic crisis has produced real wariness over what the future holds. Today, even an expensive education doesn’t automatically lead to a well-paid job with good conditions.

– How do you define success?

– ‘Being happy’

In the face of this uncertaintly, Millennials are adjusting their expectations from life. I think that’s what’s behind the number one response that Millennials gave in the Viacom survey when asked ‘How do you define success?’. By far the top answer was ‘being happy’ (73%) followed by ‘being part of a loving family’ (58%) and much further ahead than material things such as ‘being rich’ (36%) or ‘driving a nice car’ (just 5%). Perhaps this generation has started to realise that with the best will in the world, top jobs are tough to get (and not always pleasant), fame can be more trouble than it’s worth, and flashy cars and homes don’t impress their peers like they used to in years gone by.

Travel is the antidote

Insights like this can teach us important lessons about this generation’s priorities when it comes to travel, and how travel marketers can respond. In the first instance, there’s a big opportunity to position travel as the key to attaining that happiness, ahead of other big purchase decisions on property or cars. In essence, this means converting the ‘dreamers’ into ‘travellers’, making sure your destination is front-of-mind when that conversion happens. This challenge was highlighted by Sally Balcombe, CEO of VisitBritain in her recent interview with Skift in which she made it clear that ‘creating the urgency to visit now’ is something all DMOs are looking to do in a crowded marketplace. In 2013 G Adventures surveyed over 2300 people and found that nearly 3 in 4 respondents said that travel was more vital to their happiness than getting car, a house, having a baby or getting married. This sounds like the Millennials talking!

The same survey also found that it’s ‘new experiences’ that make travel so pleasing. This points to another important lesson – that while this generation might be stressed, the answer doesn’t necessarily have to be relaxation. Remember we’re talking about the youth market here, so highlighting adventure, action, curiosity and fun is essential.  It’s all about disconnection from stress through the experience of trying new things, meeting new people and learning new skills. It’s important not to undervalue the value of travel in teaching new skills and boosting the confidence of an anxious generation looking for reassurance, something I’ll address in my next post.

With all this in mind, perhaps it’s time to consider how your brand proposition is really speaking to this generation and offering the promise of happiness, in whichever form that comes. When we read about Millennials and travel, we tend to read a lot about their use of technology, their love of social media and a funky hotel, but it’s important to remember that there’s a much wider bank of knowledge available on the Millennial generation’s emotions, life experience and anxieties that can help us to develop the products and create the marketing messages that will really hit the right notes with Millennials.

Putting it into practice

In my work with tourism boards and travel brands I make a point of widening the focus to what else is going on with Millennials as this helps them to gain a wider perspective on what this generation is about and use this as a starting point to think more carefully about the products that they’re offering.

I look forward to coming back to this subject in future posts, and if you’re interested to learn more, just drop me a line via Twitter @genctraveller 🙂

 

The Millennial paradox: why speaking to Millennials means getting personal

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Millennials are ambitious but lazy, hyper connected but self-obsessed, extremely confident yet highly insecure, optimistic yet worried about the future. Where to start when you need to engage them?

Last week I was at Youth Marketing Strategy 2015 in London and this two-day event gave BarclaysLifeSkills2a massive amount of insight into how youth are the most amazing group of consumers to work with, and yet increasingly difficult to reach with a generic marketing campaign. By participating in YMS 2015 it was great to move out of the travel sphere for a change and discover the latest general consumer trends being led by the UK’s youth population. The UK is globally respected for its creative marketing industry, so it was great to hear from experts at the top of their game.

Actually, let’s forget the fuzzy concept of ‘youth’ (something many in the travel industry are just catching up with). In fact, the term ‘Millennials‘ isn’t always helpful because people between the ages of 15-24 are facing such different stages of personal, social and professional development that they have to be broken down into sub-segments if you really want your message to get across to (and be shared by) the different tribes within this demographic. According to research from Facebook presented at the event, UK youth revealed three main groups:

Optimists (age 13-15 years): Positive, open, tech-obsessed, family focussed and ready to share anything via social media.

Explorers (age 16-19): Forward-looking, globally curious, image conscious, focussed on their education (we are talking the crunch years for school qualifications, after all), but with a creeping sense of insecurity

Realists (age 20-24): Time poor, mobile centric, multi-screeners but world-weary and concerned about their job prospects

(Source: Facebook, 2014 – Coming of Age on Screens)

One of the consistent themes among all those who presented their various marketing campaigns and experiences with these groups is that you should forget making your campaign about the product you’re trying to sell, but focus on the person you want to sell it to, instead. This means knowing your audience in a really personal way.

The contrasts that we hear about Millennials in the news and from colleagues was labelled by YouthSight at the Summit as the ‘Millennial paradox’ and underlines why it’s important to really listen to young people, and not base your strategy on assumptions. Once you can appreciate the complex demands of being a young person today, you can start to create ideas and campaigns on the issues that matter most to Millennials.

For example, today’s youth in the UK are more studious and more concerned about their future than ever before. They find saving money difficult and are acutely aware that the jobs market isn’t what it used to be. Brands that are able to provide support, reassurance and bursts of humour are therefore proving to be highly popular. For support, take Barclay’s Bank’s LifeSkills project, to help young people work out their future plans. For humour, take Lego’s reaction to the debate over the blue/white/gold coloured dress that took Twitter by storm earlier this month.

Getting personal is now totally possible using the power of social media, which gives all marketeers a direct window into the lives of consumers, and an opportunity to communicate on a personal level like never before. Grabbing the attention of a highly distracted audience is another matter!  In my next post I’ll share some key takeaways from YMS on engaging this demographic via effective campaigns.

VisitBritain launches innovative campaign in China

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Last week VisitBritain embarked on the latest stage of its campaign to attract more Chinese visitors to the UK using images of the country to open potential visitors’ eyes as to what they can find when they arrive in the country.

Many UK places, people, things and attractions still don’t have a Chinese name yet. Some already do, for example Great Names for Great Britain‘The Beatles – Pi Tou Shi 披头士 meaning ‘Gentlemen with long hair’ or Buckingham Palace – ‘Bai Jin Han Gong 白金汉宫 or ‘a white, gold and splendid palace’. Launched via VisitBritain’s social media platforms in China, this ‘GREAT names for GREAT Britain‘ campaign asks people across China to invent names for 101 iconic British things, with prizes for the suggestions that prove most popular.

Earlier this year when I compiled the study The Rise of the Young Asian Traveller for the Pacific Asia Travel Association, the UK didn’t even enter the top 10 on the destination wishlist of young Chinese respondents to our survey. This suggests unfamiliarity with what the UK has to offer, something which this campaign is clearly set up to change.

Check out the video which explains how some Chinese participants reacted when they saw some images of the UK for the first time:

 

While Chinese arrivals in Britain grew by 10% between 2012 and 2013 (and spending was up a whopping 64%), the UK still only received 12% of the number of Chinese arrivals that France did in the same year. In Europe, Britain trails behind Austria, Italy and Switzerland in the number of Chinese visitors it receives, largely because of the extra cost and complication of applying for a UK visa as opposed to a Schengen visa which gives access to all countries within the Schengen zone.

While Chinese visitor numbers are clearly not at the levels they could be, in some way the visa situation encourages those Chinese visitors that do make the trip to spend longer in the country and make more visits outside of London than other visitors (especially from Asia) typically do.

The UK government has received sustained criticism from major businesses such as airlines and retailers who are worried that the country is seriously lagging behind neighbouring competitors in terms of visa issuance. Recently the government announced the introduction of a super priority visa that, in exchange for 600 GBP could be issued within 48 hours. The UK government is also reportedly looking for ways for other EU member states to accept UK visa applications at the same time as their own Schengen applications, simplifying the process for potential visitors. The campaign is also being launched in cooperation with the UK immigration authorities who will use the opportunity to explain the revised application procedures to potential visa applicants.

My take on the campaign:

The £1.6m 10-week long campaign is VisitBritain’s largest ever campaign in China. Upon a first glance it seems set to be a promising campaign for the following reasons:

  • It introduces a large numbers of attractions, places, people and British things to a new Chinese audience in one go.
  • It is social-media based, using Chinese social media platforms (you’d be mad not to use these tools when launching a major ad campaign in China today). This increases reach cheaply and effectively.
  • It encourages dispersal outside of the capital. London’s icons are always first to come to mind by visitors who don’t know the UK so well, so that’s why many visitors aren’t brave enough to venture outside of the M25. By showing that visiting Britain consists of much more than seeing Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, Chinese spending is more effectively spread around the country (though this process involves much time and education). It’s also worth noting that many studies show that locations that are outdoors with fresh air and beautiful landscapes are rapidly becoming popular among Chinese outbound travellers eager to escape overcrowding and pollution in their home cities.

 

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Is the ‘millennial’ dead?

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Today Voxburner, the UK-based agency that reports on young consumer travelRIP trends sets out its case for abandoning the term ‘millennials’ to refer to the 16-24 demographic.

You can read the full article here but their call to the marketing industry goes as follows:

  1. No-one knows who you they’re talking about – Are we talking about early teens, late teens, or those in early adulthood?
  2. The millennial age range is now ridiculous – It is now too broad to be meaningful since the consumer decisions of a school leaver will be very different to someone who’s starting to have kids and search for a mortgage.
  3. Millennials are indistinguishable – No proper age limit appears to have been set for this age group, and besides, observations about the age group have become too contradictory (community-driven people with a civic outlook or self-obsessed generation-me?).  Perhaps it’s better to give up now, and wait for Gen Z to reach late teens?

The article ends: ‘we believe there is still a case for age segmentation, when you are able to identify concerns, interests and habits that uniquely belong to one age group and not another. But not when that age group is so ever-growing and broad-stretching. It’s time to stop this millennial madness.’

My take

Pigeon-holing consumers is the most efficient way that marketers can find to target specific groups, and the label ‘millennials’ has stuck particularly well to this age group, making it sound way more futuristic and sophisticated than plain old ‘Gen Y’ or the woolly term ‘youth’. Using the term ‘millennials’ anchors this age group to a particular historical period; those who became independent consumers (ie. teens) after the year 2000.

Having said that, anyone who knows anything about young consumers will know that young peoples’  tastes in music, clothing and means of communication can change within the space of weeks, let alone years. Therefore the argument that there is little that binds millennials together in the same age bracket does hold some weight.

At the same time, perhaps the age group is better defined less as what it is, as what it’s not? Sixteen year olds do currently have more in common with 34 year olds (but less in common with 40 year olds) when it comes to avid use of social media and attitudes towards collaborative consumption. In the end, the consumption habits of millennials’ children is what will make millennials seem passé and their offspring more exciting as a consumer group.

Cruises get cool as young people take to the seas to get away from it all

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One in five under-25s said to be considering a holiday afloat as operators revamp their image to appeal to ‘party animals’Partying by the pool
It might be hard to think of anything less conventionally “cool”, but according to the Association of British Travel Agents, a record number of young people want to go on a cruise. The average age of British cruisers is 56 – the highest it has been for a decade – but Abta reports a surprising leap in the number of 16- to 24-year-olds who are considering cruising instead of larging it in Ibiza or Malia.

The trade body, which represents more than 5,000 travel agencies, says that one in five under-25s are considering a holiday on the high seas this year – nearly three times the number that went cruising last year.

Cruise ships, say the travel experts, have finally “shaken off their old, staid image” and now many are “like floating theme parks, perfect for party animals”. Many have ditched cabarets and black-tie dinners at the captain’s table in favour of all-night parties, rock climbing, assault courses and surfing lessons in on-board simulators.

Phil Evans, managing director of cruise tour operator CruiseNation, says there is a “huge trend in young people going on cruises“. He said cruise lines were overhauling facilities and ripping out old-fashioned decor to make boats more appealing to younger people, but admitted that the principal attraction was how cheap a cruise trip could be when compared with do-it-yourself holidays.

“People are very savvy about going out and finding the cheapest flights and cheapest hotels, but some are starting to realise it can be cheaper to do it with a tour group,” he said. “We are offering a week’s summer cruise for £399. People are saying, ‘actually, I’m getting loads included in the price and it’s cheaper than a week in Majorca’.”

More adventurous trips are also popular, with the company’s bestselling holiday being a trip that starts in Hawaii, followed by a flight to Alaska, a five-night wilderness cruise and then a train back down the Pacific coast. Evans said the average age of passengers on the trip, which costs from £1,500 for 15 nights, was 35, with many couples in their 20s. He said the real boom had been among 24- to 30-year-olds, but it is “growing in the early 20s too; the ages keep coming down and down”. He said the average age of his passengers a decade ago was “55, if not higher”.

Published in The Guardian, 4.1.13. Read the full article here

My take:

Cruise tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing tourism activities. In 2004 13 million cruise passengers were registered worldwide. By 2015, UNWTO estimates this figure to reach 25 million. Clearly cruise ships are no longer the preserve of middle-aged passengers spending their kids’ inheritance on the trip of a lifetime. As cruise passengers get younger and hail from a broader range of markets (for example, this UNWTO report discusses cruise growth in Asia), they will expect more flexibility in booking and dictating their own trip, as is the case with most other tourism products today.  CruiseNation’s tour of Hawaii, Alaska and the Pacific Coast is a good example of this.

When it comes to marketing, cruise lines are well aware that customers increasingly travel in multi-generational groups (grandparents with their children and grandchildren) and a different marketing approach is made for each. This helps to explain the company’s relaunch with a major social media campaign at the end of 2013. Sharing the cruise experience before, during and after the trip is now central to the company’s efforts to appeal to a broader range of age groups.

So what about the destinations that cruise ships serve? Just as onboard entertainment and facilities are changing, cruise passengers will increasingly expect a more tailor-made and lively visit to the world’s port cities (and beyond), leaving behind the outlet centres selling bargain knitwear or forced visits to tourist traps, in favour of more experience-rich trips, allowing visitors to connect more intensely with the destinations they call at. Destinations in Europe and the US are best placed to capitalise on the growing youth cruise market, in light of their proximity to source markets and good low-cost airline connectivity. They will have to work hard to attract younger cruise visitors, while adapting their range of products and services to younger visitors, to compete with the refreshed entertainment, food and accommodation on board.