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Focus of the brands needs to extend beyond the Millennials

Thursday July 11th, 2013 - 9:38AM

Well if it wasn’t obvious before, it should be by now. It’s all about the Millennials these days, at least in the hospitality business. This all-important group of 16- to 35-year-olds is the primary focus of just about every aspect of the industry from designers to technology suppliers, not to mention the brands and their respective marketing teams. 

In fact, consider that just within the last month two new brands have been launched expressly for this group of travelers. Marriott International launched AC Hotels, while Commune Hotels—the parent company of Joie de Vivre and Thompson Hotels now run by former Kimpton CEO Niki Leondakis—debuted its new Tommie brand. 

In addition, scores of brands have undergone redesigns with this group in mind. The most recent example is Country Inn & Suites, which released a fourth generation prototype designed for “younger travelers.”

There’s no way to rationally dispute the power of Millennials as they age and acquire more wealth and power. However, I believe it is a mistake to put too much focus on Generation Y, as they are also known, at the expense of some of the other groups that comprise the rest of the population.

Aside from maybe a few tech gadgets and design preferences, are the differences between what the Baby Boomers want, for example, and what Millennials want really all that great? Baby boomers are generally defined as those born between the years 1946 and 1964, and the number of seniors 65 and older is expected to more than double from 39 million to 89 million by 2050.

The boomers are still quite active, in fact, active to much older ages than previous generations, and no one has more time to travel and money to do so. Some might argue that the older generations have enough hotels already, that many of the traditional brands are for them, but even those chains are making changes to appeal to the younger guests.

Frequently used descriptions for Millennials include tech savvy, family centric, achievement oriented, team oriented, and attention craving. These are all nice buzzwords, but that’s all they really are. Is that to say that Gen Xers aren’t interested in achieving or focused on their families? As someone who falls in the Gen X camp, I have to take issue with that.

Another fact to consider is that it is widely acknowledged that Millennials are far less loyal than previous generations, and loyalty is an attribute brands count heavily on. The loyalties of this generation are just as likely to be with Expedia, or Hotels.com, than a particular brand.

In theory, there’s nothing wrong with brand segmentation and targeting a specific demographic and catering to their specific needs. After all brands are in the business of creating new brands. However, if these new hotels can’t please other guests aside from the Millennials the shelf life of these brands is going to be pretty short. The reality is if these brands are well-conceived, they should serve more than one master.