PORTLAND, Oregon—The dumbest generation. Millennials. Generation Y. As the names for this game-changing demographic evolve, so do the marketing techniques required to reach it, said Drew Guiteras, strategic planner for advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy during a general session at the TIA Marketing Outlook Forum last week.
“This generation is an absolute force in consumerism,” he said of those born between 1980 and 1995.
Comprising 20 percent of the total U.S. population, they represent more than US$360 million in spending power—and significant market share for an industry mired in an economic downturn.
To tap into this emerging group of travelers, Guiteras told attendees that they must first understand the “life forces” that shaped it.
The rise of consumer electronics such as cell phones, for example, has made possible instant communication and information sharing among millions throughout the world.
“It’s this awareness of a world outside our borders—that awareness has huge implications for travel moving forward,” he said.
Additionally, millennials were raised during a time of economic prosperity, thus fostering their optimism and patience to find a lifestyle that stresses self-fulfillment above all else. This, in turn, has pushed back traditional life milestones like marriage and parenthood.
The result of those combined factors is what Guiteras called an “age of exploration.”
To establish oneself as a participant in that “age,” he told attendees to adopt a 360-degree approach to marketing.
“All these bits and pieces of information come together when a millennial is thinking about travel. It could be a conversation at a bar. … pictures from Facebook, a magazine article. … It’s important to understand all the resources that are out there and the wide net that millennials cast when they’re thinking about travel and where they want to go.
“You really have to be out there. It’s not enough to have a great commercial. It’s not enough to have a great Web site,” he said, suggesting blogs and social networking applications, YouTube videos, and wireless communications via cell phones as ways to reach this audience.
Guiteras said it’s important to provide quick, digestible bits of information that maintain infinite possibilities in the process.
“You don’t want to give millennials itineraries. It closes off options.”
When they do take part in a travel experience, he said it’s important to help them “broadcast the show.”
TripAdvisor’s Travel Map Facebook application, for example, displays a world map with digital pushpins designating places where a given traveler has visited throughout the globe. Someone who visited Buenos Aires, for example, would have a digital pushpin marking that city, which could then be clicked on by that traveler’s peers to access blogs, stories and notes about the experience and where the traveler stayed.
Another example might include having comment sections on a Web site that allows travelers to recount experiences and share stories about a particular hotel or destination.
To close the session, Guiteras offered a number of predictions about millennials and their roles in the travel industry.
“There’s going to be an increased interest in traveling to foreign destination,” he said of what is the most ethnically diverse generation in the history of the U.S.
Second, he said there is going to be a rise in long-term vacations and sabbatical trips.
Finally, Guiteras explained how he expects the travel habits of Generation Y to adapt to parenthood.
“When they do settle into family mode, they’re still going to be looking to …family travel that fulfills the need to explore.”