Keep brands relevant for Millennials

Cape Town - Brand relevance is not fixed to a moment in time - relevance for a well-positioned brand is about the brand being alive, restless and relentlessly moving forward, Nicholas Barenblatt, group marketing manager for Protea Hotels, told Fin24.

"The brand has to continue to challenge itself and its company - to continue to earn and re-earn its position in the marketplace and the loyalty of its customers," he explained.

"To do that you have to take innovation into account - to reinvent and ensure that offers, experiences and content are all relevant and aligned with your current and future customers."

Protea Hotels have realised the importance of tapping into the Millennial market - what it calls the next generation traveller. The millennial market is effectively anyone born between 1980 and 2000 - someone below 35 years of age.

In SA this market consists of about 19.5 million people and world wide of about 2.5bn people. It is the largest generation yet and its members were born alongside technology. They were born into the world of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social channels.

"Why do they matter to us? Right now they are an age group engaging with our brand in different ways. They come into our hotels on leisure trips with their families and the older members of this group are coming through as business travellers as they move through their career path," explained Barenblatt.

"They are very important as by 2020 they will make up 50% of the workforce and by 2030 they will be 75% of the workforce. So if a brand does not evolve, it will become irrelevant."

This group is in a market that is very tech and mobile centric, so they are more likely to use a smartphone to browse the web. They use mobile and online to provide them with content. They use mobile and online to make purchases, because price and variety are primary motivations for being and give them the ability to multi-task with a device in their hands.

The difference between the Millennial market globally and in SA, in his view, is that in SA Millennials have a strong tie back to their culture and their families. As a result you find a lot of their spending ties back to providing for their extended families.

"As a business you have to, therefore, start thinking about how to deliver a message to these customers, to break through the clutter and to be relevant for them. As a brand you have to remain true to speaking in one voice across all your marketing channels - the so-called omni-channel approach," he explained.

"Regardless of which channel a customer engages on, there must be a consistency of the organisational voice. In the real world consumers move seamlessly across websites, apps, blogs and social media. So, as a brand, you must remain relevant with consistent messages across all those channels."

Most important, in his view, is to be "message authentic" and appropriate for each particular channel despite the consistency of voice used.

Another trend regarding the Millennial market, is that for them loyalty programmes are no longer about earning points. They rather want loyalty programmes to provide a deeper level of engagement with customers. Personalised recognition has to be delivered via technology and provide a unique, deeper engagement.

"Our marketing and messaging have been delivered through content marketing. This allows brands to engage with consumers as they embrace the content," he said.

"Consumers are finding a need to take shorter and more frequent breaks. We anticipate the local tourism industry to grow and on rand weakness we will see an increase in international business too."

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