Generational Marketing in the Hospitality Industry: Millennials

brown Blog, The Marketing Minute

Marketing today is harder than ever, because not only are there are more options than ever—online, mobile, video and email, to name a few—but your audiences expect more than ever, too.

And if you don’t choose the right options for each, and deploy those options effectively, your message will get lost in the shuffle. So what do you do? It all starts with figuring out your audience—and then building a relationship with them.

Who’s your audience?
You may think you know your audience: Many people I’ve worked with say things like, “I know our demographic just from seeing who checks in at the front desk.” That’s probably largely true, but you need more than what your eyes tell you. To make the best marketing decisions, you need data. Here are some questions to ask yourself, even if you think you know your demographic.
What is the percentage split of each demographic in various categories? For example, how many of your guests stay overnight versus just stopping in to your restaurant or bar? Who is most likely to stay overnight? To spend money on your amenities?

Where do your customers come from geographically? Maybe your Millennials are coming from other large cities and urban environments, while your Gen X customers are coming from local suburbs for staycations.

How does this all change in your high season versus low season? Our industry can see massive shifts between seasons—but you can’t assume anything. Look at the numbers. Are your splits the same in July as they are in February? Does your local business go up during one period and way down during another?

The data is at your fingertips. Use it. And don’t forget—many of the people who aren’t in your demographic now will be sometime down the road. You can’t ignore them. If you start building relationships with them now, you’ll reap the benefits in the future. The right marketing mix can cultivate legacy customers while still attracting those clients who can afford you now.


Millennials are generally defined as those born between approximately 1981 and 1997. They’re growing quickly—the U.S. Census Bureau population estimate for 2016 is 75+ million. They’re also starting to build wealth, and they want experiences, adventures and authenticity.

They’re the most likely of any generation to have purchased a luxury product or service within the last 12 months, one recent study notes, even though they don’t have as much buying power as other adult generations. And according to one report, this generation makes up as much as 70% of all hotel guests.

But they want more out of their trips than a luxurious room or a drink by the pool. They want to have unique, hands-on immersive experiences. And when it comes to cost, they’re often willing to sacrifice on where they stay in order to have better options for things to do.

That poses a unique challenge for luxury properties, a challenge that requires creative thinking. For example, forging a partnership with an adventure-tour company might allow you to charge less for a room if the guest books an activity. You also could offer discounts on different experiences in the area to make staying with you more attractive.


As always, the right approach starts with the right mix. According to Troncone & Partners, magazines, TV/radio, event sponsorships, electronic and web marketing, videogame ads and even direct mail can all be used effectively together.

You’ll also want to consider using social influencers—who do these people follow online? Seeking partnerships with prominent figures such as lifestyle bloggers, popular chefs and more can be a win-win for both you and the social influencer when it comes to gaining exposure with a particular audience.

Lastly, keep things short, quick and highly visual. A GoPro video of a guest doing something active and fun onsite, or your chef showing how to debone a fish on Facebook Live, provides a much stronger connection with this audience than written content.

And most important, be authentic. This is important for every generation, but perhaps none more so than Millennials. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking of them just an audience to be targeted! When you treat them as people you value, people with whom you want to build a lasting relationship, their experience will be more fulfilling—and so will yours.

Stay tuned for future installments in our Generational Marketing series, with posts on Baby Boomers and Generation X.