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Hamilton Beach Commercial Blog


Hotel Branding for Millennials: What Works (and What Doesn't)

11:00 AM on May 24, 2016

GLō. Tru. Vīb. The hospitality industry is filling up fast with new hotel brands — almost all of them offshoots of large chains — that cater to millennial travelers. But reaching this coveted demographic requires more than a hip, monosyllabic name.  Here's a look at the hotel branding and service strategies that are most likely to succeed with millennials. 

Hotel brands targeting millennial travelers

It's hard to keep up with the rapid expansion in millennial-minded hotel brands. Here's a rundown of seven major players and their hotel branding strategies.

  • Canopy by Hilton, opening its first location in Reykjavik in August 2016, is pitched as a neighborhood hotel staffed with knowledgeable "enthusiasts." Canopy offers guests a few fun surprises, like breakfast delivered in a brown bag, free welcome snacks and nightly tastings at the bar. 
  • Centric by Hyatt, an upscale brand, stresses its local credentials, matching each hotel's decor, drink offerings and amenities to its city. Centric "disposed with a lot of the brand quirkiness indicative of other recent lifestyle hotel launches," Skift noted approvingly. Instead, it focuses on providing conveniences for rushed travelers. 
  • EVEN Hotels by IHG want to help travelers "embrace wellness, wherever you are" with treats like fitness classes, aromatherapy, complimentary herbal-tea nightcaps and healthy food for people with dietary restrictions. 
  • GLō by Best Western is a mid-scale brand taking aim at suburban and secondary markets (as opposed to hip urban centers). The modern, LED-lighted lobby makes a big statement, while rooms — starting at 249 square feet — save space with nesting furniture. 
  • Moxy Hotels by Marriott promises affordable rates and modern, industrial-chic style, shown below (photo courtesy of Ballantines PR). Rolled out in Europe in 2013 and now throughout the United States, Moxy is aimed at the "socially extroverted, energetic consumer," its brand materials say.
The hip Moxy living room
The hip Moxy living room. (Courtesy of Moxy Hotels)
  • Tru by Hilton is aimed at budget-conscious guests who want a memorable hotel experience. The bustling lobby, called "The Hive," has workspaces, games, and conversation areas. In lieu of a reception desk, there's a "Command Center" — a single, circular counter for check-in, check-out, market purchases and more. Rooms are sleek and small, averaging 225 square feet. 
  • Vīb (pronounced "vibe") by Best Western is a boutique brand aimed at the upper midscale market. It offers "comfortably chic guestrooms" that, at 200 square feet, are significantly smaller than the standard 300. To save space, the headboard doubles as a desk and storage drawers are placed under the bed.


What hotel brands think millennials want

Most of these hotel brands are adopting new design strategies to attract younger guests and reduce costs. The big one is streamlining room layouts. To reduce the room footprint, many are ditching the traditional closet in favor of wall pegs and open storage. Another big change: no desks. Moxy replaces the traditional desk and chair with a cushy, beanbag-like lounger. But this decision has inspired some complaints from business travelers. "The only millennials I know who don’t like working from a comfortable desk are millennials who don’t like working," says one travel blogger. And travelers still want comfort and in-room amenities like coffeemakers.

Many new hotel brands are also adopting loud, bright design sensibilities — think colorful LEDs, sculptural furniture and in-your-face art. The problem? These may look dated in just a few years. Tru is addressing this challenge by using neutral palettes in areas with higher upfront costs "and pops of colors where things can be cost-effectively changed from time to time."

Hotels are also catering to hipster tastes by labeling their food and service offerings  "artisanal," "curated" or "local." But hotels forget that millennials are also very marketing-savvy, and they know when they're being pandered to. "Stop trying so hard!" writer Paul Brady tells hotels in Conde Nast Traveler. He goes on to poke fun at these brands: "Every property has a 'health studio' (a gym), 'creative meeting spaces' (conference rooms), and a 'barman’s table' (yep, just a bar)." As a millennial, Brady implores hotels to focus instead on the little things that matter: a bedside outlet for charging his phone and free Wi-Fi.


What millennials genuinely want hotels to give them

Besides free Wi-Fi, what else do millennials really want from hotels? Here are the big three.

  1. Mobile everything. Beyond mobile check-in, guests want to do everything with their phones. Aloft is testing a program that lets guests order room service by texting emoji characters. While that may seem a bit odd, a new report by Oracle finds that "room service was the number one request when millennials were asked how else technology could improve their stay." 
  1. Health and fitness offerings. Young travelers don't want to sacrifice their eating and workout routines while they're on the road. Give them healthy food options, available 24-7 via lobby kiosks or vending machines. And give them more than the standard gym. Moxy's fitness centers include novel features like a boxing bag and gymnastics equipment. 
  1. Affordable rates. Millennials are perfectly willing to accept smaller rooms to save money. With nightly rates starting around $100, microhotels like Pod 51 are thriving in New York City. Affordability is big for Generation Z, too, which is considered more money-conscious than millennials. 


How are you adapting to millennial travelers' tastes? Tell us about it and we may feature your brand in a future post.





Topics: Millennials, Hospitality, Design

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