Can you guess what “M” word I’m talking about? If you’re part of any advertising or marketing department, I’d bet you have said this “M” word once, maybe even twice, before you even take your morning jaunt to the coffee machine. The word I am talking about is Millennials — and while we tend to see them as digital natives, intrepid travelers and adventure seekers, they are actually the most risk-averse generation since the Great Depression.
Let me throw a couple of surprising facts at you.
It’s easy for us to make fun of Millennials, what with their avocado toast and selfie sticks, but after growing up in the 2008 financial crisis, high levels of student debt, a tanked-to-recovering job market and the burgeoning landscape of social media in which they must constantly compare themselves to others, they’ve grown to be a self-conscious generation where self-image, peer approval and heavy reliance on crowdsourced opinions have become a part of their decision-making process and shape how they view themselves.
The Traveling Millennial
Travel and adventure-seeking have a new, greater importance in the Millennial lifestyle. They are taking more vacations than ever, with 70% reporting the desire to visit every continent. They place a premium on authentic travel experience: cultural appreciation, living like a local, and off-the-beaten-track experiences are more sought after than partying and other “traditional” tourist activities. I think this is awesome. It’s a wonderful trend that inspires tourists to go further, learn more and become more aware of their world.
However, research shows that while Millennials do indeed desire new and adventurous experiences, they also rely heavily on their peers, seek verified authenticity and have safety concerns. The “risk” of having a bad time is quite a literal one. Ideas are vetted through social platforms, and untested travel is not particularly attractive.
How Does This Affect Brands?
While it has been tough to reach this generation through traditional means, the new and multiple social channels people are now drawn to are perfect for storytelling and, thus, for travel brands. Through channels like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, Millennials can be inspired by numerous sources, test ideas, easily share and flaunt the best parts of themselves and feel like they are making exciting, yet safe, decisions.
While their parents (and grandparents) relied on guide books and travel agents, 76% of Millennials say their vacation is influenced by friends’ recommendations, social media and a much broader definition of peers such as reviewers, bloggers and forums. Click-bait headlines like “15 Must-See Places Before You Die” or a shared YouTube video can create a chain reaction for the thoughtful vacation planner. Their next step may very well be a post that says “Planning my next adventure. Who’s been to Cuba?” Whether or not they decide to go further may very well be revealed in the comments section.
But this is just one piece of avocado toast, and when it comes to Millennials, there’s always another slice that just popped up in the toaster.