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August 13, 2018 | by Brett Tabano

How Hospitality Brands Can Successfully Market to Millennials

Today, millennials are on the verge of surpassing Baby Boomers as the largest living adult generation in the United States, making them prime targets for marketing campaigns within every industry, including the hospitality space. But, many of these brands are starting to realize that their traditional marketing strategies aren’t resonating as well with this generation like the ones before it, as millennials have altered what has been considered the norm. Through their new purchasing patterns, social behaviors and influences, millennials have forced brands to entirely rethink their marketing strategies.

One of millennials’ defining traits is that they place a higher value on experiences like traveling, dining and enjoying live music, over tangible items. In fact, research shows that millennials already comprise over one-third of the world’s hotel guests, and are anticipated to account for over 50 percent within the next two years. Therefore, hotels and hospitality brands must ensure their marketing campaigns are creating a sense of experience for millennials in order to engage them, as traditional marketing is not as enticing to this group.

While millennials are tricky to market to, that does not mean it’s impossible. Brands just need to understand them, not get frustrated and forget about them.

The best way for marketers to generate the greatest number of sales this year is by developing and executing a comprehensive strategy designed to reach and engage millennial customers at multiple touchpoints. It won’t be a “one and done” campaign, but the more brands are able to test the waters with this audience and see how they respond to different marketing tactics, the better off they will be at crafting a brand image that aligns with millennials.

This article will explore three ways hotel brands can begin to jumpstart their millennial marketing today.

1. Focus on Appealing and Engaging Content Marketing

Creating appealing and engaging content should always be a focus of every marketing campaign, but it is especially important when trying to reach a millennial audience. A long-form blog post or video on the history of the hotel brand and how it has evolved may be of interest to an older generation, but someone under the age of 30 will likely click through or lose interest before the second paragraph. Because of this, each piece of content created and distributed needs to grab readers’ attention early on and keep it.

As a way to help millennials engage with and relate to the brand, marketers should share highly-attractive and compelling Instagram videos of the amenities, excursions and perks their hotel offers. This can include pictures of guests lounging by the infinity pool, riding jet skis, visiting a nearby historical attraction, or even unique images of hotel restaurant’s food. The pictures should convey the unparalleled experience the hotel brand offers its guests. Take it one step further and create a way for guests to actually engage with the hotel on social media by creating dedicated and unique walls or art installations where guests can take pictures and post them with a special hashtag. Millennials love to “do it for the gram” – by gram, we mean Instagram – and providing special spots to take photos for social helps millennials feel like they are their own social media influencers and puts the brand in front of a larger audience.

Simply put, well-planned and designed content can attract a millennial’s eye, mind and ultimately wallet. Each of the brand’s content marketing strategies should always convey desire, usefulness and aspiration. The content should engage whoever is viewing it and make them want to stay at that particular hotel over any other.

Another way to help build a sincere brand image and foster brand loyalty is by sharing video sound-bites of positive reviews and quotes from previous guests. This will show new customers that the company values the opinions of its guests. It also shows the brand’s commitment to personalizing each experience to create something memorable in a way that’s relatable to millennials. Additionally, since this generation is more budget-friendly than others, brands need to offer prices and experiences that are feasible for an array of budgets. Always remember that just because someone may have a lower budget, they could still become one of your brand’s most loyal customers with a strong lifetime value and therefore, is worth pursuing.

2. Create a Strong Mobile Presence Across Multiple Devices

Millennials are always connected, especially when they’re on the go. Whether it be by mobile phone, tablet or smart watches, today’s generation stays connected at all times, anywhere. Because of this constant mobile access, marketers need to ensure their strategies include aspects that are well-suited for the small screen.

From initial search to the final sale, the journey a mobile user takes is completely different than that of a desktop user. As an initial step, it’s best to begin with creating a mobile-friendly website. Marketers should not only focus on the look and feel of the website, but also the speed of the site and overall user experience. For the best experience, content should be broken up and kept brief through the use of subheadings and bullet points to ensure it is easily digestible on a mobile device. Especially since the average human attention span is only eight seconds, it’s very important to distribute easy-to-read, short-form content.

In addition to the content, marketers also need to be aware of the variety of possible devices and screen sizes out there. Developing a website for iOS will have a completely different look and size than that of an Android, therefore the layout must adapt as seamlessly as possible to all of them. In order to effectively combat this, marketers should focus on building responsive websites. With responsive websites, everything in the desktop browser moves around to fit on a smartphone or other device, giving customers a consistent experience across all of their devices. Additionally, be sure to pay attention to the functionality of the mobile website. If a user is electing to use the mobile version over desktop, remove any aspects of the main website that won’t be as important or useful. Focus on offering visitors the most important links, such as ‘Make a Reservation’ and ‘Update Reservation’ front and center. Moreover, make sure the process to book is short and simple, as having to click around will deter users from converting on mobile.

The mobile strategy doesn’t have to be centered around an internet browser either. Millennials use social media and other apps more than any other generation, therefore promoting social content is just as important for mobile as it is on desktop. Paid ads on Instagram or Twitter are more likely to catch the eye of this generation than a television and newspaper ad, or even worse, a display ad. Marketers should always stray from using display ads, as most people – and millennials are no exception – ignore these types of ads. In fact, the average display ad click-through rate is only 0.05 percent.

Instead, leverage social media ads with inviting photos and a call to action that can range from ‘Book Now’ to ‘Contact Us Today.’ Instagram also allows for carousel ads where marketers can share a series of photos and videos for their audience. The images and video shared in carousel ads however must be of the highest quality, as users will only continue to scroll through if they are thoroughly engaged with the content.

Social media platforms, like Facebook, also let marketers target via first-party demographics and location, which help brands ensure their ads are reaching the intended audiences. With over two billion people using Facebook every month, these audience selection tools are great for reaching the right people for the brand. All marketers need to know are the demographics, interests and behaviors of the group they would like to target.

3. Align Your Brand Marketing with Social Causes

Not only do millennials like to support the causes they deem worthy of their attention or have a special connection to, but they demand the same of the brands they support as well. While millennials certainly want to make a positive societal impact on a local level, they are also interested in bettering the world on a much broader scale. For example, this generation is more committed to recycling and using BPA-free products, which was merely unheard-of decades ago.

For this generation to feel truly connected and interested, hospitality brands should consider attaching their name to a just cause. Proudly display the hotel’s commitment to being environmentally-friendly by donating a portion of each guest’s bill to a relevant cause or foundation, such as The Sierra Club or Wildlife Conservation Network. Even pledging to donate 10 percent of guests’ bill can go a long way! Want to go all the way in? Announce that the brand is going green by offering eco-friendly towels and linens in all rooms and banning plastic food containers and straws from the entire hotel chain. These efforts help convey that the brand is socially responsible, which is a big factor in whether or not a millennial will support it.

We read headlines about millennials and their wide-ranging demographics, hobbies and values almost every day, but that doesn’t mean brands have mastered the art of marketing to this generation. While most brands don’t even know where to start, marketing to millennials does not need to be an intimidating task. In fact, it can be quite easy for hospitality brands if they know the right channels to use. This generation may be unique and very different than those that came before it, but it still sees a need when it comes to hospitality – perhaps even more so given their affinity for investing in experiences over products. If brands focus on creating and distributing engaging content, developing a strong mobile footprint, and aligning their campaigns with social causes, they’ll be able to reach millennials and drive sales with this generation like never before.


This article originally appeared in HotelExecutive, the hotel industry’s leading online business resource for hotel owners and operators, including senior executives, directors, managers, investors, and developers. 

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