Ethical marketing to millennials and Gen Z – why it makes commercial sense for the boutique hotel industry

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Ethical marketing to millennials and Gen Z's

Five top tips when marketing to millennials

Clare Bushby, managing director of Clockwork Marketing, shares five top tips when marketing to millennials and Generation Z.

Generation Z is ambitious, generous, tech savvy and socially conscious. These young people value experiences over material possessions.

Young people are always the biggest consumers, but for both millennials (1981 –1996) and Gen Zs (born 1997–2012), environmentalism and ethical consumption are a major influence on their lives. The trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic caused unprecedented concern among them.

The stats on the purchasing power of millennials and Gen Z speak for themselves:

• Gen Zs and millennials account for 25 per cent of the total retail spend in the United Kingdom. Their share of spend will grow to 39 per cent by 2030 as more of Gen Z (currently aged 9-24) enter the workforce (Clearplay Finance Ltd).

• Millennials spend two thirds more than Baby Boomers on entertainment.

• Home and recreation are only five per cent of Gen Z and nine per cent of millennial spending, but spending is growing above 300 per cent YoY in July 2021. (Clearplay Finance Ltd).

As we move into a new era of consumption, we must change the way we offer hospitality. Experiences bundled purely on the price won’t entice tomorrow’s guests who have other priorities. An ethical marketing strategy that appeals to Gen Zs and millennials makes far more commercial sense. Understanding what appeals to Gen Zs and millennials is the best foundation for positive engagement and more bookings.

What appeals to millennials and Gen Zs:

• Authenticity: Millennials and Gen Zs want transparency, authenticity and honesty from their brands. They crave human experiences that enrich their lives and align with their values.

• Personalisation: Millennials grew up in the digital age, while Gen Zs were raised on social media and the Internet. Which means both expect high levels of personalisation. Gen Zs want control over the content they consume and expect personalised promotions based on their online activities and interests.

• Experience-led: 78 per cent of millennials would rather buy an experience or event than a product (Harris). Many are opting out of consumerism in favour of mindful or fulfilling experiences.

• Positive social experiences: Nielsen reports that Gen Zs are willing to pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. Deloitte’s Global Millennial and Gen Z survey sees both generations pushing for social change and accountability.

With this in mind, here are five top tips to think about when marketing your boutique hotel experience to millennials and Gen Zs:

1. User-generated content and instagram moments

A great way to establish authenticity is to source user-generated content. Millennials and Gen Zs are smart and savvy and can see through marketing ploys. They take pictures of everything and post them to their followers. Having an instagrammable venue with imaginative interiors, or unique experiences with an impressive outdoor landscape will encourage your customers to share pictures online with other potential clients. They could be bathing in a private treehouse hot tub, relaxing on your sea view balcony or feasting from your indulgent chocoholic experience menu.

Show the way by making your own instagram page a visual feast. Pictures will sell your holiday venue’s story to millennials and Gen Zs. So curate your grid carefully, use hashtags and ask guests to tag you in their posts. #Outstanding!

2. Be true to yourself

The worst thing you can do is exaggerate or falsify your ethical efforts. Authenticity is everything and millennials and Gen Zs will see straight through any fakery. Be honest in your marketing and let your potential customers know the genuine efforts you are taking. Small steps – like eliminating food waste – will show you are genuinely trying.

3. Get involved and give back

Show potential guests you are aware of the important social and environmental issues, even if the impact is only local.

Hospitality has a large carbon footprint and over-tourism is a growing problem that limits travel choices.  None of us can directly affect global issues, but we can act locally and change with the times. 

For example, if your staff organise a litter pick to clear up your local beach, this will get noticed. Especially if you choose a slow news period when you alert the media. 

You could link up with a local nature group to organise nature trails or farming experiences. Or ensure your menu is organic, with the ingredients sourced locally and the profits shared with local farmers and community.

At Clockwork Marketing we help the Devon Wildlife Trust to preserve the wildlife and nature in one of the UK’s most visited regions. This is a small step for the planet but part of an ambitious journey for our agency. 

We support regenerative tourism projects that help communities, improve ecological health and inspire others. We believe this is essential for the longevity of the hospitality industry and the greater good of our planet. It’s about giving, not taking.

4. Act responsibly as an employer

Acting responsibly starts at home and you need good, valued staff to deliver on your promise. Any hospitality business must ask itself tough questions:

• Are we a responsible employer? How will potential staff and customers know this?

• Do we pay enough to support our people? 

• Are we totally inclusive regardless of gender, sexual orientation or race? 

• Do we address our impact on the local environment and community? 

• Can we offer a long-term opportunity for career development and training?

5. Make booking easy and reduce commissions to OTAs

Create an easy booking experience for millennials and Gen Zs. A great online experience with ethical options in the booking area is even better. A two-click holiday booking via your website is essential. No more visits to travel or booking agencies or middle men. Cut the reliance of online travel agencies (OTA) by incentivising guests to book with you direct. Offer giving-back perks to drive loyalty with your business.

Ethical marketing is less of a marketing strategy than a philosophy that informs all our effort. You can only promote honesty, fairness and responsibility if that’s genuinely what you do. There’s nothing worse than fake virtue.  Starting small is fine. Rome wasn’t built in a day! 

Research the local ethical groups and regenerative projects you can join forces with. Start local, be focal, be vocal. 

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