Let’s talk about your plan for marketing to Gen Y (my preferred nomenclature, but “Millennials” is used interchangeably). Hopefully, you have one. After all, this group – which I define as being born between 1983 and 2002 – currently wields over $200 billion in spending power, and are set to eclipse all other age groups in this category as early as 2017. They are more numerous than Baby Boomers, and more adventurous than Gen Xers. In recent years, the timeshare industry has started to take notice of this huge market segment, yet the responses seem mostly split into two camps: A) “We’ll continue to target an older demographic, and eventually the younger crowd will grow into it,” or B) “We would love to sell to this group, but we don’t know how” (which is probably how a lot of folks in the “A” camp feel as well, if they are being honest).
Let’s dispel the first notion right now. Gen Y will not simply “grow into” the current timeshare product. Sure, some of the behaviors they exhibit are a function of youth. But, we are fooling ourselves if we think that this generation, with its radically different sociohistorical background, will fall into familiar consumer patterns simply because they “settle down,” get married, and have kids. Solving for Y: Your #GenY Marketing Toolkit Let’s dispel the first notion right now. Gen Y will not simply “grow into” the current timeshare product. Perspective Magazine November/December 2014 33 To begin with, evidence suggests that these life-cycles are not inevitable; the Gen Y definition of family will continue to evolve in diverse new directions. Beyond that, there is a lot about timeshare that will appeal to this group right now. They want to travel and be on vacation; if we don’t supply the solution, then someone else will.
So, that just leaves us with “B” – how to reach them. I designed Solving for Y to specifically address these kinds of questions, and to help you understand exactly what these guys are looking for. If we were to open up our bag of Gen Y marketing necessities, we would find these five items right on top:
1. Mirror: Whether you see it as selfcenteredness or self-confidence, Gen Y is prone to a bit of navel gazing. As such, they are far less interested in hearing you extoll your own virtues, and far more likely to pay attention to messages that reflect their place in your world. This means more focus on guest experiences than resort amenities. A fantastic (and low-cost) way to do this is by incorporating more user-generated content. For example, hold a contest for the best fan-submitted vacation video, post the contenders on your website, and have site visitors vote for the winner.
2. Flashlight: After the layoffs and corporate malfeasance of the Great Recession, Gen Y has developed a deep distrust of institutions. They demand transparency from every company they do business with. And nothing seems less above-board than “Psst…hey you…” OPC come-ons or congratulatory phone calls from a sweepstakes you never entered. Not to mention trying to hide negative online reviews. There is no corner of the internet that Gen Y can’t get to more quickly and completely than you can. Instead, shine a light on your entire business. Gather the bad press in one place, where you can handle it on your terms. Deal in facts, not emotions.
3. Compass: Gen Y is coming of age in a time when nearly every facet of our lives can be crafted and customized. This freedom is a wonderful thing, but it can also be overwhelming. For this group, bigger is not always better. They can easily develop analysis paralysis when faced with too many decisions. Successfully marketing to Gen Y means being able to step out of that sea of noise to stand beside them, guiding them towards the right fit. For timeshare, this means offering meaningful content that educates, not intimidates. Don’t brag about the number of resorts in your portfolio, show them how easy it is find the perfect destination.
4. Tablet: Let’s face it, if you want to market to Gen Y, you need to be where they live: the “computer interwebs.” Today, that means going way beyond having a website and posting the occasional resort photo on Facebook. No matter how many billions of dollars your company makes, a small online footprint will rob you of credibility with this group. The good news is that you don’t have to make billions of dollars to participate in digital culture. If you are a pen-and-ink Luddite like me, then you need to find some techno-ninjas who really know their stuff.
5. Q-Tips: Gen Y is an extremely social generation. Even when not traveling together in a pack, they are in constant communication via text, IM, and social media. They make decisions as a group, and rely very heavily on online reviews. The good news is that they will give you all the feedback you could ever ask for; but, you have to clean out your ears and listen. If played correctly, this can be a tremendous marketing opportunity. See, when you engage with Gen Yers online – and by this, I mean genuinely invite them to participate in the conversation – then you are much more likely to create brand advocates. And, for a generation that depends so much on each other’s opinions, that is your single greatest marketing tool. So, there you have it; five items that every marketer should have in their Gen Y toolkit. At the end of the day, the strategies listed above can be far more effective, and require far less investment, than the current high-cost incentive model. Instead of giving away cash, cruises, or show tickets, we should be giving away smart, honest, entertaining content, delivered through the latest technologies. Instead of trying to bribe someone to take “90 minutes” out of their one week of annual vacation, we should be talking with them all year round, helping them find their next ideal getaway. And, here’s a huge bonus: while these tools will be essential for attracting the next generation of customers, they could prove just as effective in reaching all age groups. I have heard tons of people say, “Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to buy a timeshare;” I’ve yet to hear a convincing reason why not.
Written By: Chad J. Barker President, Barker & Associates Chad is the president of Barker & Associates, a research and education firm working primarily in the travel and resort industry. His “Solving for Y” method is the basis of a blog (www. barkerandassociates.net), a seminar program, and someday (knock on wood) a book series. When not on The Road, he lives in Portland, OR. When on The Road, he lives in Irish pubs. Quote: “I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours.” – Hunter S. Thompson
Blog: Solving for Y (www. barkerandassociates.net)
Email: chadjbarker@ barkerandassociates.net
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LinkedIn: Chad J Barker Twitter: @SolvingForY