When the U.S. Travel Insurance
Association gets together for its annual meeting, things can get
depressing. Last year, catastrophes dominated the discussion:
Hurricanes, pandemics, terrorism. "It was like listening to The
Book of Revelations read aloud," remembers one attendee.
have a silver lining for insurance companies -- they serve to
remind travelers to buy insurance -- catastrophes were eclipsed
last year by industry growth and lower payouts. Insurers seemed a
happy lot at their gathering last week in San Diego.
The group's opening
speaker offered, in her observations, a form of insurance for
insurance companies. In fact, she offered sound advice to anyone
whose business depends on understanding customers.
president of research company DYG Inc., presented the findings of
DYG's comprehensive consumer scan. She spelled out the values and
motivations of Americans in various demographic slices.
Key to defining
society in the 21st century is what she labeled "The Valuable Life
Goal." It is the desire to have an impact on, and add meaning to,
life through personal responsibility and thoughtful sacrifice.
While sacrifice and responsibility aren't two words usually
associated with travel, they have become more prominent of late
with the growth in "voluntourism" and the "green" movement toward
said, an edge goes to "heroic brands and purpose-driven companies,"
no matter what they're selling. While it's helpful if a company can
point to specific green practices or a record of philanthropy, she
said brands themselves can be heroic.
In other words,
clients may be buying an insurance policy, an airline seat or a
room night, but that's not necessarily what they want to hear
about. To reach them in the most powerful way, first ask yourself:
In what ways are you making life better?
identified the needs of people in economic groupings that she
dubbed "the strugglers, the muddled middle and the wealthy
winners." She then prescribed how to reach these
For the strugglers,
a marketing message should reflect feelings of respect for their
faith, their sense of style and their struggles. No matter what the
anxiety-riddled muddled middle might say, their subtext will be,
"Am I taking the right vacation?" Listen carefully to what they
need, then reassure them that they are. Those in the "winner's
circle" are looking for a vacation that combines ethical behavior
and exclusivity, especially when accompanied by the suggestion that
they'll receive a "new way" of winning.
noted, it's important to understand generational differences. Here,
in a nutshell, is her advice on how to sell to various age
Gen Y (ages 20 to 31): Focus on affordable luxury, opportunities to be in the
spotlight, fun, entertainment and self-discovery. For women, it
helps if a vacation is scripted to the point that it seems
error-proof; men want something wild and physical.
Gen X (ages 32 to 42): Emphasize family travel, appealing to mom with a spa and
drawing in dad with fun facts about a destination. The
possibilities for romance should also be highlighted.
Baby boomers (ages 43 to 61): Reassure the men that they can do the stuff they always
wanted to do. Provide women with travel products that reinforce
their still-strong feelings of sensuality.
Hochstein speak, it's a little embarrassing to see our desires,
worries, vanities and confusion revealed so clearly. The common
motivation for American consumers seems to be fear: Fear of a
polluted world, fear of loss of status, fear of physical decay,
fear of being a loser.
The nice thing
about the travel industry is that we actually have products that
can ease fear. If not for that, I suspect that more than a few
travel insurance underwriters listening to Hochstein might have
dreamed about reducing insurance to its most raw form and simply
selling anxiety policies.