Comment: Today’s challenge for brands is to know what each generation wants

Forget all the talk about artificial intelligence and how it will impact your business; put to one side the prospect of economic downturns influencing performance. The biggest issue facing employers and businesses today is the intergenerational communications gap. And travel brands need to have a new type of playbook to make the most of it.

For the first time in history, workforces and customer bases might contain four, sometimes five, generations, each having very different motivational fuses, social mores, methods of communications, ambitions and outlooks on life.

Each of those groups has a different perception of the world around them and of how travel brands serve, interact with and deliver services to them.

So how travel brands communicate, what they use to communicate and the motivational triggers they employ when interacting with these groups, matters more than ever. Today, in sales and marketing terms, even operational terms too, there is simply no one size fits all. Any brand that approaches the market in such a way is setting itself up for a massive fall.

The five generations in the consumer market, and in some cases still in the workforce, include the silent generation (born between 1928 and 1945), baby boomers (1946 to 1964), generation X (1965 to 1980), millennials (1981 to 1996) and, of course, the infamous Gen Z – the love and obsession of nearly every marketer.

Group distinctions

The differences between these groups are striking. Millennials, for instance, are more health-conscious and more willing to try new things than baby boomers, who are more prone to focus on traditional experiences.

For Gen Z, alcohol is not a big thing, with many not drinking at all or drinking less often, and in smaller quantities, than their silent generation and baby boomer counterparts. The silent generation, as is implied, are less likely to complain to travel brands directly, instead voting with their feet when it comes to poor experiences.

It is said that generation Z require a lot of mental health support in the workplace and have strong feelings about the values of the companies they work for and buy from. For Gen Z, sustainability in a product or service is a huge concern, but it’s not such a big deal to baby boomers or generation X.

Baby boomers, more than any other generation, are motivated by titles, prestige, personal benefits and other perks. What their holiday says about them to others is a big thing in their lives.

Generation X are said to be more independent-minded, both as employees and consumers. With travel products they generally prefer to make their own choices rather than have things recommended, and assembling their own holidays is often a big pleasure for them.

Brand interactions

In communications, the differences between the groups is noticeable too. Gen Z are keen to interact with travel brands. A survey by Sprout Social in 2023 revealed that 42% of Gen Z consumers find the most memorable brands on social media to be those that actively respond to their customers.

Millennials too appreciate brands that prioritise customer responsiveness, but place a higher value on brands creating original content rather than direct engagement. Trust for a travel brand is hardest to earn among the Gen X group. But while their trust is hard to earn it’s also hard to lose.

Research shows they are loyal customers, often willing to pay a premium for products from travel brands they trust. So, many travel brands need a new playbook. They need to resist seeing audiences as one single homogenous group, and instead see them as a collection of distinct subsets, each requiring different relationships with the brand.

For now, put aside concerns about artificial intelligence and recessions. Instead, plan to embrace the power of intergenerational communications and marketing – it will get your brand bigger profits and better customer, and employee, relations.

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