Hospitality Marketing to Millennials: A Millennial Marketer’s Perspective
I’m a millennial—wait, keep reading, it gets better—and I’m a marketer. That’s right, I have a career and everything. I haven’t blown all my money on avocado toast and I’ve never played Fortnite…that’s more of a Gen Z thing. If you’re marketing to millennials, you’re not marketing to children.
I’ve read article after article about “what millennials want” or “how to cater to the impossible demands of millennials.” All too often they’re written by someone not in my generation, playing off the stigma that millennials are the worst thing to happen to the economy since Bluetooth bread-slicers.
I’m here to tell you: that’s not the case!
We’re a generation that came into adulthood with more student debt than any before us, and a tough time entering the job market after post-secondary education. But as we’ve matured, millennials are shaping the market, growing it, and we’re deliberately spending our money on experiences over products. That is to say, services over goods.
Of course, there’s still a market for goods, but my expertise is in the service industry—particularly hospitality—which is what I want to address for the rest of this article.
According to findings from USA Today, “51% [of millennials] go to a bar at least once a week and 54% eat out at least three times a week or more.” I can personally admit that I fall into this category. We might have less “stuff,” but we definitely have good times. Pew Research Center projects that millennials will overtake baby boomers as the largest population, so there’s a lot of money to be made from targeting our demographic.
So, let’s look at a few interesting concepts that should be kept in mind if your bar or restaurant’s target demographic is millennials.
1. Technology 💻
This could perhaps be the most obvious. Millennials are known for being born into a digital age. But it’s important to remember that for most of us, tech is part of our daily lives. Being in the forefront of technological trends will keep your business relevant, noteworthy, and modern.
An interesting example of this comes from Domino’s Pizza. Back in 2010, they launched a campaign called “Oh Yes We Did” where Domino’s poked fun at itself for being the butt of many jokes about the quality of its product. This set them on a course for major change that focused on listening to consumers and taking their criticisms to heart. At the time, Domino’s shares were worth about $11, but today, their shares are averaging roughly $260 and have surpassed Pizza Hut as America’s largest pizza chain by sales.
The fresh marketing campaign helped, but the drastic shift in revenue is largely due to their focus on digital technology and e-commerce innovation. Their delivery app is still considered one of the best, but it took a lot of work to get there.
According to a Forbes interview with Domino’s SVP of eCommerce Development and Emerging Technologies, the implementation of this technology saw success by focusing on three factors:
- “Organizational buy-in from the top down,” — the approval and support of the technological investment from the CEO and board of directors
- “Relentless dedication to measuring results” — using their analytics team to perform A/B testing on every new tech and process to ensure ROI.
- “Marketing around telling customers about technology investment” — a campaign was implemented to promote their large investment in new technology and provide transparency to their customer base.
Their finger was on the pulse of the millennial heartbeat, and it paid off huge.
Today, e-commerce and digital delivery apps are commonplace, but there are many other services that exist to enhance the guest experience when customers visit your business. From innovative POS systems to custom music video streaming services, it’s important to research the available technologies that will give your brand an edge.
Music videos are Control Play’s specialty. It’s our belief that matching visual elements to the music in your venue creates a holistic sensory experience that exceeds guests’ expectations. When the average number of people watching music videos daily is 25 million, there's clearly an enormous interest in this medium—and when you see it in action in bars and restaurants, the impact is clear.
2. Social Media 📱
Yep, a big shocker here—millennials are a bit obsessed with social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—your business probably already has a presence on each, if not a few. But are you making the most of these spaces? Here are a few tips you might want to mull over:
- User-Generated Content (UGC)
As defined by Hubspot, UGC “consists of any form of content that's created by users and consumers about a brand or product.” Pictures and hashtag-filled tweets are among the most common of this type. It’s a fantastic way to gain a loyal following and should be acted on quickly. If ignored for too long, the feeling of connectivity from the customer to your brand is lost. Sharing or re-tweeting their content not only enhances brand loyalty, but it’s basically free advertising from an outside source!
- Ask Questions and/or Create Polls
What’s social media for if not voicing our opinions to the world? People love to engage in debates and discussions about anything, really. So, ask your patrons simple yet divisive questions and let them boost your post with engagement about fun, quirky topics. You don’t have to look much further than “does pineapple belong on pizza?” to get an idea of how opinionated social media can be.
- RSS Feeds
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds are, as the name suggests, an easy way to integrate social media headlines, sports scores, and other internet info in one convenient location. In your case, this location would be the TV screens in your bar or restaurant. Millennials are going to be checking their phones—that’s just a reality—but offering them social media info on your screens increases the likelihood that they’ll actually look at your screens. Then you can display digital signage ads while the RSS feed scrolls along the bottom. In this way, you’ll have your TVs making money for you. It's yet another benefit of Control Play’s service—easily accessible RSS feeds
3. Humanize Your Brand 👨🍳
This ties in with your social media strategy, as those platforms are a great way to give your patrons a look behind the curtain. Posting pics and videos of your staff loving their work, having fun with each other, participating in charity fundraisers, or whatever makes your business stand out in a human way is incredibly valuable—and there’s a notable reason for this.
Millennials have grown increasingly wary of big brands, and according to an article in Forbes, both millennials and Gen Z have lost trust and loyalty in businesses. Showing the faces behind your brand cements the fact that there are indeed real people in your company.
Brand activism is another way to build trust and authenticity in the perception of your brand. Giving to charities and aligning your company with a social or environmental cause tells young people that you’re about more than just making money.
Marketing Dive reports that “Brands with a purpose grow 2x faster than others.” Building marketing strategies around your philanthropic efforts is well worth the investment—and hey, the world could always use a helping hand, right?
4. Differentiate the Experience 💡
While attending the conferences at 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas, one point was made very clear by the professional speakers there: you have to stand out from the crowd. You could have incredible food and friendly service, but that is merely meeting the expectations of your guests. If your aim is to stand out, you need to exceed your guests’ expectations—give them the “wow” moments that make them remember and recommend your place in particular.
This is what millennials are seeking out, as mentioned previously: experiences over products. We crave those Instagrammable moments, those memorable feelings, and the excitement that comes from something new. From sensory marketing—engaging your guests on all 5 senses—to effectively creating unique ambiance in your bar or restaurant, your space is what will make a difference.
Control Play’s core focus, our whole reason for doing what we do, is helping our subscribers exceed their guests’ expectations through innovative digital audio/video experiences. It’s the difference between a quick and forgettable visit and a place where people really want to hang out, stick around for another drink or two, and come back the next time they’re going out.
Take a look for yourself at the difference a vibe makes in these articles:
Millennials dine out a lot. If you want to catch this wave of big spenders who are currently shaping the market in the hospitality industry, it’s time to focus on technology, social media, the human element of your brand, and differentiating the experience at your venue.
We’re a very particular and, I’ll admit, peculiar generation—but we’re also very much willing to be brand advocates for places we truly connect with. And we'll end up spending a lot of money at places we love!
Don’t fall behind your competition, exceed the expectations of your target demographic with Control Play.
Posted by Kevin Avram
Kevin Avram is a marketing communications specialist, creative writer, and is passionate about helping businesses grow to their fullest potential.