Pivot is the game du jour as brands switch strategies to woo younger, digitally empowered consumers.
Lean Cuisine just switched from diet marketing to whole self-esteem with its #WeighWhatMatters rebrand. MINI turned toward the mainstream small-car market and away from its historical niche as a provider of cute little fuel-sippers.
And now Marriott is swiveling from big, uniform chains to cater to the 80 million US millennial travelers with $1.4 trillion in their pockets to spend—and who prefer hostels, Airbnb locations or no-name boutique hotels.
Marriott has been tracking the shift in generational preferences. “The trademark of the boomer was that they wanted familiarity, safety and comfort,” said Wolfgang Lindlbauer, chief discipline leader, global operations, Marriott International, as reported by Fast Company. “As an international hotel company, Marriott has leveraged its scale as a competitive advantage for many years, but what we’re finding is that the next-generation consumer wants the exact opposite of what we’re delivering.”
Lindlbauer hired consultant agency Fahrenheit 212 as a bridge to the millennial market that requires convincing of a product’s value though storytelling.
“We know that millennials want local and unique,” said Pete Maulik, managing partner and chief growth officer, Fahrenheit 212, in Fast Company. “They want to spend time in places that have a sense of community, and that feel a bit imperfect or yet-to-be-finished. The question is, How does a company like Marriott that has relied on scale for so many years compete in a market that is very chaotic and disruptive? How can they turn their size from a liability to an asset?”
Lindlbauer invited teams of hotel employees and local entrepreneurs to innovate on their particular hotel’s food and beverage services with winners receiving $60,000 and six months to implement their ideas.
In London, a Marriott restaurant manager created a RoofNic, a play on “roof” and “picnic.”
In Phoenix, a cheese-and-charcuterie called Craft+Culture is focusing on artisan cheesemakers, charcuterie producers, local craft beer and wine makers.
And in Dubai, the winning team created a nightclub called Square for top international DJs to spin their wares.
“We talk about appealing to millennials, but in many ways, millennials are tastemakers for the broader culture,” Lindlbauer continued. “Everybody wants to contribute to sustainability and local artisans, but the millennials are the ones driving this change.”
Following their lead, Marriott is getting into the music business with Universal Music Group bringing their clients to Marriott’s venues. Marriott called it a “first-of-its-kind” partnership and it includes concerts, music downloads, video series, concert tickets and VIP opportunities to members without having to cash in points.
Universal acts include Kanye West, U2, Taylor Swift and Sam Smith. Jessie J kicks it off from the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel.
Sweetening the deal further, earlier this month, Marriott made a deal with Netflix to allow guests to stream their accounts in their hotel rooms.