When I finished writing my last two Marketing:Travel articles about the Modern Family and Generation Z, I figured I had covered all the major trends surrounding young people and travel. Turns out there was still more to discover.
A few weeks ago, I received a copy of Mintel’s extensive new study called “Marketing to the iGeneration” and it led to a series of discussions with a young brand planner on my team by the name of Riley Strand who was knee-deep in analyzing the report and finding implications for travel that expanded beyond the points I had already made.
Riley is many things, including more than three decades younger than I am, which makes him not far removed from being part of the iGeneration himself. He’s also really smart and his view of how travel brands can better leverage and court the influence of the iGeneration before they fully come of age as travel buyers was something definitely worth sharing.
Evolving familial dynamics create opportunities to empower.
IGen seems to have an unprecedentedly close and mature relationship with their parents, as both sides report feeling (and accepting) influence from the other. Increasingly, we’re seeing a parent and child hanging out and doing things as “best friends” — wearing similar fashion, listening to the same music and sharing every secret. There’s opportunity for travel brands to acknowledge and address this shifting (and growing) dynamic. One step is for brands to express an empathy for this closer familial bond in marketing to parents, and the second and perhaps most important step is for travel companies to recognize and empower children as savvy travel dreamers and ideators and potentially co-planners of the family vacation.
Parents would no doubt appreciate a travel brand that enables kids to use their phones for something more meaningful than Angry Birds and Facebook. By giving kids an opportunity to explore geography and other cultures and come up with ideas on destinations, hotels and activities it might take some of the pressure of travel planning off the parents and further leverage the growing importance of a family doing things together. Think of how powerful it would be for a travel brand to create a tool that lets kids take a given budget and time frame and enable them to have fun creating possible itineraries — but devoid of any “book now” risk — that they can readily share and discuss with their parents.
Earning a share of their influencer power.
To successfully reach the iGeneration, you need to consider social media not just as a place to connect with friends (and brands) but as a place to curate one’s personal brand, and how this affects “share-ability.” Everyone talks about the iGeneration as the first generation of digital natives, but what is more essential is that it’s a generation of complete social nativity. We’re on the cusp of a second coming of social media, not just explicitly in terms of new platforms or evolutions of existing platforms, but implicitly in terms of the role it plays in people’s lives. Brands (particularly in travel) have an opportunity to play a bigger role in how individuals curate and express their individuality.
The Mintel study highlighted humor, music, artistic and “cute” content as some of the most widely sought out types of content among iGens. While these content areas are sought out for personal entertainment, some of the most successful content also helps iGens develop their personal brand by enabling things to be more readily shared across their network. For example, the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery opened “Wonder,” an immersive exhibit seemingly made to be “snapped” and “grammed.” The social success of the exhibit in a time where the arts are struggling to attract young followers demonstrates the importance of understanding that the standards for what defines “share-worthy” are rising (and changing) quickly.
Hybrid materialism expressed through granular experiences.
The iGeneration brings its own unique perspective on the idea of collecting experiences rather than things. The fur coat or Tiffany ring, luxury items once championed as an indication of personal character or success, have been replaced by the Facebook timeline or the Instagram page. Instead of pining away over a single luxury item, the iGeneration now curates a constantly updating collection of many, many items and documented experiences to represent their constantly evolving personal character.
This is especially powerful for travel brands. Viewing a cruise not as a single trip, but as many consecutive trips to a variety of locations and a true cross section of culture. A trip to Italy isn’t just “that time we went to Italy,” but a tour of this section of the country, a meal at this restaurant, catching a play at this theater and watching this particular cast. There’s opportunity for travel brands to embrace the role of social in their guest’s lives as something that complements and accentuates authenticity, making it more granular, rather than diluting it.
Perhaps what should most excite travel marketers about the iGeneration is how influential these young people can be, not only playing a significant role in how their family might plan and choose their vacation, but also in how their friends and social network see the world and the travel brands they encounter.
It might be years before many members of the iGeneration graduate to become actual travel buyers, but to wait until then means you’re missing out on creating a powerful and potentially lasting connection to the next great generation of travelers.