Millennials - Coming of Age Hoteliers Need To Gear Their Marketing Strategies To Changing Mindset, Methodology



At about 80 million, millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, and have about $200 billion in annual buying power. They’re also the most likely to refer their friends when they have a great travel experience. But their diversity and lack of buyer loyalty means travel marketers must work differently to identify what drives their purchasing decisions.

“Millennials are a challenge,” said Jason Dorsey (a.k.a. The Gen-Y Guy), a millennials expert, researcher, and co-founder of the Center for Generational Kinetics. “The way millennials communicate, shop and buy is often different from how many marketers were taught to message and sell.”

Marketers must first recognize that “Millennials” isn’t a one-size-fits-all tag. “You have half of the generation doing everything we were supposed to do, becoming self-reliant and achieving what we call real world traction,” explained Dorsey. “And then there’s another part of this generation that has not created real world traction. Around the age of 30 the generation seems to split, and we select either one part of the generation or the other.

“When speaking to millennials we have to be certain we’re speaking to their life stage,” he continued. “One of our hotel clients got all these reviews that said, ‘don’t go here, the pool is so loud’; ‘everyone’s having a party’; ‘it’s like all the pretty people showed up at once.’ It was a great testimonial from the millennial standpoint, but the clients were upset about it being a loud pool. So it depends on how you look at it. People should apply a generational context with the group they want to travel with them.”

“Most travel planning is about steps to book your hotel room or make your reservation,” said Dorsey. “Millennials don’t think in terms of steps and they don’t think linear, so it’s very important to put the outcome first, if you want them to follow the steps to get there.”

“The one thing that typifies and incentivizes millennials to the hilt is experiences. They don’t care so much about where they are, but they want to do something that is totally unique,” said Derrick Eells, president and owner of TenDot, a full-service meeting management and incentive house.

“We had a client that wanted to incentivize their millennial sector,” he continued. “They also had an older component that wanted a more refined experience. Ultimately, we took them to Jackson Hole and stayed at the Four Seasons. Great property, luxury destination but with somewhat of a casual feel. We brought in a National Geographic photographer and did a photo hunt through Yellowstone. Then we had a competition on who took the best picture.”

“We create a unique sense of place within each hotel through a close connection with the community and by forming partnerships with local resources,” said Kathleen Reidenbach, SVP, Brand and Marketing at Kimpton Hotels. “Austin is a city that lives and breathes music. We incorporated this passion for music into the design and cultural programming of the Hotel Van Zandt. At Geraldine’s restaurant, you can listen to live music from local bands almost every night, while ordering from a Texas-inspired menu.

“Another example is The Kimpton Goodland in Santa Barbara, CA,” she added, “where our Record Concierge creates custom playlists for each guest’s stay, from the hotel’s 1000 vinyl record collection.”

Technology is also critical, millennials live on their smartphones, so online presentations should be seamless for mobile users, with an emphasis on strong visuals. “A lot of online experiences today are still modeled around the desktop experience,” said Dorsey. “That’s just not where the traffic is coming from.”

“You’ll need a cohesive social media campaign to understand and reach millennials when and how they want to be reached,” said Eells, noting the variety of platforms beyond Facebook and Twitter. “And keep it simple, attention spans have shortened dramatically over the last few decades.”

“We love sharing our guests’ photos and videos with their permission. Their memories help tell a more authentic story about what it’s like to stay and dine with us,” said Reidenbach. “We also harness the power of social media to surprise and delight our guests.”

Cultural transparency is another key factor in selling to millennials. “Millennials want to know where the organization is going, what’s the overall goal, and understand the culture of the organization,” said Eells. “How are you going to win the business and differentiate if you have a millennial decision maker? It’s not just going to be on lowest price, it’s going to be on creativity.”

Jeff Fromm, partner at ad agency Barkley and co-author of the book “Marketing to Millennials,” agrees. “Today’s consumer has product choices that are similar, price points that are similar, with access that is similar across any category. Brands that deliver on their beliefs and prove that they’re genuinely adding good are story living brands that typically can create an advantage based on that,” he said.

Fromm advocates using technology to “take friction out of the customer experience. I stay 100 hotel nights a year. I don’t like having to tell the same thing to people in San Francisco yesterday and people in New York tomorrow, even though it’s the same company.”

Fromm envisions a personalized travel experience, driven by technology. The traveler reaches the hotel and enters its geo-fence. She is expected because she gave them her calendar. She is immediately handed her key at the front desk because the forms are already filled out according to her master services agreement in the hotel’s database. When she gets to her room, there’s a waiting message about what’s around the immediate area that she might enjoy.

“Everybody wins,” he said, “they save time, I save time. When you talk about personalization and customization, data science is going to take us further down the road very rapidly. The benefits will go to whoever is willing to take those first big steps.” May 31, 2016
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The Proper Seasoning




While you can always mix in a special occasion or two, many promotions can be successfully focused around the time of year. Here’s how to put some spice in your next seasonal sale and keep it from turning into a turkey.

Mention “seasonal promotion” to nearly anyone, and it’s more than likely their thoughts will quickly gravitate toward pumpkins, Pilgrims or a certain large, rosy-cheeked guy in red driving a sleigh. In other words, they hear “season,” or a variation thereof, and automatically tend to think holidays. For the record, however, holidays don’t really constitute seasons in the true sense of the word. Spring, summer, winter and fall –– those are seasons.

Consequently, seasonal promotions can be packaged in many guises. They’re highly versatile and adaptable to nearly any promotional program –– internal or external. They can complement activities, the weather and events. And they can utilize a myriad of products to cover anything from an employee morale booster or a new product rollout to a business gift. But despite their universality, seasonal promotions need to be well thought out to assure they’re as effective as possible. And the easiest way to do that is the most logical; look at each season individually.


Working Winter

The quintessential seasonal promotional product is probably the calendar. An advertising staple for over a century, it remains a popular choice for many businesses.

“Diaries and calendars is as basic as it gets,” says counselor Craig Nadel. “Virtually everyone has at least one that they use. They usually come out in November and December, because that’s when most people start to plan for the New Year.”

For many of Nadel’s clients, winter is also trade show season. “Many companies have their biggest sales meetings and shows at the beginning of the year” he says, explaining that these events typically call for a wide variety of items that can include imprinted hats, tote bags, key tags, pens, folders, notepads, and much more. He also notes that food is a big ‘wintertime item.

But there are many other seasonal promotions that work well during the winter months. “It’s interesting when winter kicks in, we normally start looking at Caribbean and golf themes,” says counselor Jo-An Lantz. “‘When we’re well into January and February, many promotions tend to be weather oriented. I think that might be because many northern clients are sick of the whole thought of winter. [We] see this over and over again.”

Lantz notes that the “summer in winter” theme is most frequently carried through ‘with resort- or cruisewear such as tropical-print shirts and shorts, and accessories like sunvisors/glasses, tanning lotion and golf-related merchandise.

As with most promotions, seasonal promotions and a Iittle imagination can go a long way. Occasionally, it can be in tandem with a holiday during that season. For example: Valentine’s Day 2001, BigStar Entertainment, an online video superstore, wanted to increase purchases and rentals in several markets. It used what it called “big BigStar Cupids” on the streets of downtown New York, Dallas and Phoenix. Characterized as “George Costanza types,” the cupids – balding, overweight men outfitted in pink tutus, white wings, red long johns and red high-top sneakers flitted about from January 31 until February 4, dispensing to all passersby half-ounce packages of candy hearts with the company’s name imprinted on the label.

All told, 1.5 tons of candy were distributed. The godlets of love also gave out 30%-off coupons for any romantic movies at, sweepstakes entries for a trip to Paris, and free romantic movies. The promotion definitely achieved its goal; purchases and rentals saw a marked increase.

Music CDs are also effective for seasonal promotions. “There are several compelling reasons custom CDs can be outstanding promotional vehicles,” says counselor Doug Robinson, “not the least of which is their high perceived value vs. their low actual cost. But equally important is the fact that almost everyone, regardless of age, occupation and other demographic qualifiers, listens to music. Almost no other promotional item has so many opportunities to connect with a target audience.”

Robinson had a custom jazz CD produced, featuring arrangements of winter-season favorites like “Greensleeves” and “Auld Lang Syne.” The CD was used by a home energy supplier, Shell Energy, that sent out 200,000 copies in self-mailers, instead of a traditional holiday card. The package’s inner flap bore a short year-end message from the president of the company, thanking customers for their business. Robinson says the response was “overwhelming.” Dozens of unsolicited letters poured in, mostly from customers pledging their loyalty to Shell.


Spring Flings

Gardening is a perennially favorite spring theme. Flower seeds (imprinted on the package, of course) are the most obvious promo item, but not the only one. One useful and not-so-run-of-the-mill product for a spring gardening theme is a compact portable wagon that carries plants, supplies and other essential tools. It’s something few would buy for them selves. There are also cards and decorations incorporating real flower seeds that can be planted. And for those not into do-it-yourself, your counselor can tell you about a service that will deliver a different bouquet each month for a year.

Golf is another mainstay of spring promotions. Lantz put together one for a client that was definitely different, ”We had the client set up a miniature golf course inside his office’s cubicles,” she says. “The company used miniature golf as a celebration. Where employees actually had ”holes” –– even though they weren’t holes, but cubicles –– and they golfed. We supplied imprinted golf balls, putters, putting cups and flags to mark the holes.” That’s one end of the spectrum, but golf is usually taken a little more seriously. “Many of the promotions we put together are large corporate programs,” says counselor Bill Panon. “To them, promotional products are almost like office supplies. They have to have a certain amount of golf shirts, T-shirts and things like that. When spring rolls around, [they need additional items] for golf tournaments, company picnics, recognition days on casual Friday and spirit-building events.”

But golf tournaments aren’t the only events ripe for a spring promotion. “There’s a small town around Dallas that has a wonderful symphony … [the orchestra] wanted to do a spring fundraiser,” Patron recalls. “We suggested Texas Dirt Shirts –– T-shirts soaked in Texas red clay. We silkscreened a four-strand barbed wire fence on the front, which we used as a musical [staff], then added musical notes. We then announced the Texas spring symphony theme, and used the same theme on T-shirts and bandanas. The symphony used them as incentives for donations. Bandanas were given at one level and T-shirts were given at the next level.”

Promotional products consultant Dan McEntee is involved in several auto racing promotions during spring and summer. “Racing is something that many people think of as seasonal, but in September it’s not quite finished, so it’s a kind of spring-summer promotion – but extended,” he says. “We do individual items, or a lot of times we’ll put them together in a kit format. We often include coolers, which make a great case for the kit. Inside you can put can put anything from pens to low-priced sunglasses. We’ve also put in sunblock, earplugs, binoculars, etc.”


Summer Madness

Summer is, not surprisingly, a choice season for outdoor-related promotions. Travel themes that include luggage, sunglasses, and sunblock tend to be highly effective. Of course, if you want to really stand out, try going against the grain and send winter-related items in July or August.

Cars and travel are also hot topics. Counselor Janice Perzigian works with Daimler-Chrysler auto dealerships. She developed a merchandising catalog to coincide with the launch of the new PT Cruiser.

“PT Cruiser was a very popular merchandising program for Daimler-Chrysler, and dealers did well with it,” she says. “We then got wind from Daimler-Chrysler that it would be coming out with a convertible version, so what we did was take a look at the products already being offered and decided to freshen them up. We tailored them to products for the convertible driver, like a ladies’ visor, beach ball and beach towel. We also used a picnic basket, which was made out of wood and carved with the PT Cruiser logo. It was pretty cool.”

But that wasn’t the end of it, Perzigian also added golf items to the summer catalog – golf rowels, club head covers, foam beverage bottle/can coolers and a water- and shock resistant watch that could be clipped on a golf bag, belt or almost anywhere else. The catalog also included wearables, including T-shirts, lounge pants and windbreakers.

Company picnics are also prime territory for summer promos. An important factor in making them memorable is the location. Example: A smaller company picnic was organized for a group of 70 attending employees. The group was divided into 10 teams and competed in traditional games such as water-balloon tossing and relay races. What was unique, however, was where it took place, Estes Park at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The games, therefore, incorporated local geography, flora and fauna. Incentives like this can offer a memorable way to reward and motivate employees. Coupled with logoed promotional items like binoculars, sports bottles, T-shirts, flying discs, sunscreen, insect repellant, coolers, backpacks, caps, etc., they will almost certainly leave a lasting impression.

Another trend in summer promos is the spa-resort incentive. Some facilities will let corporate groups have the run of the place in summer (generally the off-season). This allows the accommodation of larger groups. Some firms might still find this option prohibitive. No problem, the next choice is a day spa. All such excursions however, should include customized or imprinted gifts geared toward the specific group.


“Fall”ing Back

“When you talk about fall seasonal promotions, the first thing that comes to mind is a series of Oktoberfests we put together for clients, says Lantz. All of these are picnics, full-like celebrations that kick off the anticipated increase in business in the fall.”

The promotional mix for such events is almost classic. “There’s always a piece of apparel involved, depending on the quantity and budget,” Lantz says. “[From] T-shirts all the way up to beautiful sweaters, that type of thing. Often, we’ve used nice plaid blankets as an alternative to apparel.

“They’re good for a picnic outside,” she continues. “We’ve also used plastic beer steins, which are preferable in some cases to glass because of overall cost, shipping, and the fact that it’s easier for people to take back home with them. With outdoor picnics we try to encourage flying discs, which can double as paper plate holders.”

And as noted earlier, CDs can be incredibly versatile. Counselor Leslie Bridges recalls, “We were asked to provide ideas for physician gifts for a pharmaceutical firm. We provided high quality music CDs for about the same cost as something more traditional.”

The product being promoted used a bulldog as part of its branding, so the title “SoundBites” was a natural. The program gave doctors a new, seasonally themed CD every quarter for 16 months. The offerings included a disc of love songs for Valentine’s Day, beach/surf music for the summer and non-denominational holiday music for the end of the year. When there was no logical seasonal tie-in, the company distributed jazz, classical and new age.


Timing’s The Thing

Perhaps the most important thing to consider in successful seasonal promotions is timing. Tom Savio, a Midwest counselor, says that when you start merchandising a catalog for the fall, “you have to look for those goods the preceding winter. That’s something I don’t think everybody thinks about.” He says the time to send out (or post online) a fall catalog is early to mid-summer. “That’s where I think a lot of firms make mistakes. They send it too close to the season. And then the season, in [their customers’] minds, is here and gone.”

Another factor to consider when planning a seasonal promotion is location. Take golf again. While it’s a bit more year-round, its main season is still summer. Location would come into play in a case if a firm in the South wants to hold a golf tournament the summer – typically not the best season for it, simply because it’s too hot. Fall and spring are far better. An event in the Midwest or North is better in summer. Something based in Florida or California is often best appreciated in winter.

All told, seasonal promotions can be both flexible and powerful. Sometimes the best inspiration for a really good promotional idea can be just checking the weather.


Imprint Winter 2001/2002
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African-American Travelers: How to Reach this Growing Market - Part 1

This burgeoning group is waiting to respond to your marketing messages. Here is part 1 of a two-part series.


Niche marketing is a great way to increase your market share and your bottom line. After all, dedicating resources to capturing the attention of a specific group can result in a rewarding return on investment. One group that has not been marketed to as directly as others is the African-American market, a market with enormous growth potential.

In this two-part series, we’ll examine the breakdown of the market and give you the tools you need to know to attract these customers.


The Market

According to 2006 U. S. Census Bureau report, the African-American population comprises 13.4% of the total U.S. population. The African-American population is also growing faster than the U.S. population. By 2012, the African-American population is projected to grow by 35.3% compared to a 26.6% increase for total U.S. population. By the year 2020, the African-American population is expected to reach 42 million.

The percent of African-Americans who are new immigrants also continues to grow. Synovate estimated in 2006 that 8.5% of the Black population in the U.S. was foreign-born. This represents an increase from the 7.4% of the African-American population who were new immigrants in 1990.

So just how important is the African-American market to the travel industry? “It’s extremely important,” says Tanya Hall, executive director of the Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress (MAC), a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau. “From Philadelphia’s perspective, it’s been our largest niche segment. We’ve actually been pursuing the African-American convention and meetings market for 20 years. And we haven’t let up because it has proven to be extremely valuable to us.”

Indeed, African-American buying power showed an increase of 166% over 17 years, from $318 billion in 1990 to $845 billion in 2007. By 2012, the buying power of African-Americans is projected to grow to more than $1 trillion, says the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth.

The African-American market is also becoming more segmented. In a 2008 study by Packaged Facts, the African-American/Black middle class and upper middle class are increasingly affluent, educated and professional. Census data indicate that there are 2.4 million African-American households with an income of $75,000 or more. There are 1.3 million households with an income of $100,000 or more. These high-end households have an aggregate income of $294 billion.


Travel Trends & Spending Behavior

According to the Travel Industry Association (TIA), African-American travel volume was up four percent from 2000 to 2002 (increasing from 72.2 million to 75.2 million person-trips), higher than the two percent increase for travelers overall during the same time period. The majority of African-American trips (74%) are for leisure, with 44 percent traveling to visit friends or relatives. Twenty-two percent of African-American trips are taken for business, including combined business and pleasure purposes.

The Minority Traveler states that group tours are also popular among African-Americans. Compared to travelers overall, nearly three times as many African-American trips involve group tours (10% vs. 3%). Black households spend $428 per trip, on average, excluding spending on transportation to their destination.

How African-Americans spend their vacation time and money is just as important as why they travel. The American Traveler Survey says that, much like all other travelers, African-Americans spend most of their leisure travel budget on transportation. Shopping takes the next greatest portion of their vacation money, followed by lodging and meals.

African-Americans are not monolithic; they enjoy a wide variety of activities when on vacation. They are likely to visit casinos, gamble, enjoy fine dining, go to theme parks, experience nightclubs and stage shows, visit historic sites and churches, go to beach resorts and visit museums, art galleries, nightclubs and stage shows. They also look for a scenic location, clement weather, previous satisfaction with a destination or activity, relaxation quotient and cost of hotels and meals. And although Blacks tend to travel with the largest groups, they are also more likely to travel alone than other segments of the population.

“We have to keep in mind that the average (individual) leisure trip for an African-American costs about $1,900,” says Evelyn Potts, vice president of diversity and inclusion for Wyndham Worldwide. “And that’s nearly identical to other groups, Caucasians, Asian-Americans, etc.”

There are some specific trends in African-American travel that the savvy marketer should take into account. “Heritage tourism is still very big in the African-American market,” says Solomon Herbert, publisher and editor-in-chief for Black Meeting & Tourism Magazine. “African-American travelers always, if at all possible, try to include some heritage tourism component to their travels. One big trend that has been going on for some time is family reunions, and heritage tourism is always a big part of family reunions. And the last thing I would mention in terms of travel trends is the religious segment; it’s just growing by leaps and bounds.”



Hoteliers should also know which local events, restaurants or museums are most likely to appeal to African-Americans and should partner with local cultural establishments to create packages. Since minority groups prefer to travel with their families, there is an opportunity for hoteliers to organize family reunion packages and advertise them locally. July 22, 2008
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African-American Travelers: How to Reach this Growing Market - Part 2


In part two of this series, we explain how to capture market share by appealing to this niche group.


In Part 1 of this series, we discovered that the African-American travel market is diverse, unique and growing. With buying power close to $1 billion, they’ve got money to spend. And they enjoy spending it on a vast array of activities, from entertainment to cultural pursuits to rest and relaxation.

There are some basic rules of the road in marketing to the African-American traveler. Experts agree that this market isn’t like the general market, even though they place the same premium on quality and value as other travelers. Successful marketing efforts understand what makes the African-American market distinctive, and feature culturally sensitive messages that recognize and appreciate those qualities.


Reaching the African-American Traveler

According to Tanya Hall, executive director of the Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress (MAC), a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, the best way to reach the African-American group market is “to talk to them. I think talking to African-Americans is one of the best things you can do,” she says. “Typically, we try to talk to people we believe have the most in common with the people we’re trying to get to come to the city. So, whether that’s a trade association, or an ethnic or cultural association or group, we try to find some type of local contact that can help us understand the needs and nuances of that particular group before we actually pursue them.”

Once the different travel patterns and needs of black travelers are understood, it is important for the supplier to learn how to take advantage of the differences. These differences should be reflected in marketing and customer service. Hoteliers should customize product offerings to be relevant to black customers.

“It takes knowing how African-Americans are as consumers; they are extremely loyal”, says Gerald (Gerry) Hernandez, president of the Multicultural Food Service & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), ”When they are treated with respect and engaged properly and in culturally relevant ways the loyalty can be tremendous, and that’s the payoff.”

Hernandez often uses the example of visiting an upscale hotel where his wife could not find could find stockings of the proper shade in the hotel shop. “So you have to leave the hotel and find people with the cultural competence to understand that black women who have darker complexions have needs for stockings and make-up and hair care that are different from white travelers,” he states.



Hotels should provide guides that list local areas of interest including salons, events and points of interest. Since shopping is an important activity for African-American travelers, such guides should list local malls or outlets. Concierges, too, should be made aware of these outlets and have the information at their fingertips.

Marketing to the African-American segment does require some planning. “You need a genuine marketing plan that makes good sense, one that is appreciative and complimentary of the audience. The message should be stated very clearly. The subject matter should be reflective of the individuals you are trying to attract. As long as you have a genuine approach, I think it’s going to show,” says Andy Ingraham, president of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD). “I also think there has to be follow-up. Like these companies that advertise one time in the market and if they don’t get [the business], they’re not coming back. Well, that never works and won’t work anytime soon.”



Do not assume that general marketing efforts are adequate in reaching the African-American market; African-Americans absorb more content more quickly when it directly represents their lives. When creating messages targeting the African-American market, include black models, customers and spokespeople in your advertisements and create messages that relate to the community.

“African-Americans, probably even more than any other audience, really have a pretty high expectation that you are going to speak directly to them,” says Hall. “I think that’s because African-Americans were the first major multicultural segment that most organizations started to reach out to. And…expect that you would do a little bit of research and understand who they are and what their attendees’ likes and dislikes are. And I think all customers should feel that way, but I think there is a higher expectancy from African-Americans.”

Of course, it’s not enough just to show African-Americans in your marketing materials. You must actually reach them with those materials. Do so by creating a strategy using African-American newspapers, magazines and broadcast channels.

“We use Black Meetings &Tourism magazine as a primary place for our trade ads to reach the African-American meetings and conventions market,” says Hall. “We have also done ads in the Coalition of Black Meeting Planners newsletter.”



National black consumer media, too, has an impact on reaching African-American travelers. Publications like Ebony and Jet, Black Enterprise, Essence and Vibe are great ways to reach black consumers, while favorite television stations/networks are BET and The CW. Distribute regular press releases through companies like Black PR Wire to reach other media outlets.

Most importantly, in order to appeal to African-American consumers, you must show them—literally—that you’re committed to them. “Hotels, as well as any other organization, need to be in this for the long haul,” says Hall. “We try to stress that our success is not something that happened overnight. We’ve been in this marketplace for over 20 years and as a result we’ve reaped major, major benefits. Our tally of economic impact of multicultural meetings and conventions at the convention and visitor’s bureau since we created the congress is over $1 billion. And, that doesn’t include all the business that goes directly to our hotels.” And, that’s the bottom line. July 23, 2008
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