Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

SEATTLE  How should travel advisors best try to reach potential millennial clients, those born after Generation X and before Generation Z, from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s?

There are probably as many answers to that question as there are millennials (estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau as more than 83 million in 2015), but Ensemble Travel Group's Alexa Wheeler, a brand marketing and communication specialist, last week offered some insight into the group.

Wheeler, herself a millennial, spoke on the topic during a workshop at Ensemble's International Conference at the Hyatt Regency here.

In developing her presentation, she said, she looked at some of the initialisms millennials use, like LOL, JK and OMG. To describe the generation as a whole, she first thought of the acronym FOMO, or "fear of missing out."

But she came to the conclusion that might not be the best way to describe millennials, who enjoy decoding things, figuring them out on their own. As an example, she pointed to subway ads from mattress maker Casper. A curious mix of letters and pictures, each ad has a meaning the user has to figure out. For instance, an illustration of a net followed by multiple letter ze's represents "catching z's."

Casper places multiple ads on subway cars, Wheeler said, and oftentimes, they stick with riders throughout their day as they try to figure out the trickiest ones  a "genius" tactic.

It ties in with three key observations Wheeler has about millennials: They like to figure things out on their own, they like to feel independent and not tied down, and they like to do it all. So she invented an initialism of her own to describe millennials: FONBATDIA, or "fear of not being able to do it all."

"A key to millennial marketing is understanding our individual needs, wants, goals, even desires," she said. "It's understanding what 'all' means to each of us."

She encouraged advisors to use that information to do three things that would appeal to millennials specifically.

First, she said, advisors should focus on what they can do for their millennial clients, which is save them time, energy, money (but still provide value) and provide human interaction. All of those things are increasingly lacking in clients' day-to-day lives, becoming a luxury, Wheeler said, but they can be provided by a travel advisor.

Second, she encouraged advisors to market bleisure trips that blend leisure components into business trips. Millennials value flexibility and an independent lifestyle, which bleisure trips allow them to accomplish.

Finally, Wheeler advised agents to market "micro-cations" to their millennial clients, which include preplanned five-day trips and spontaneous long-weekend trips. Wheeler herself has taken several such trips this year, and she said they speak to millennials' desire to feel like they can do it all  especially if they have little money or paid time off.

Wheeler also encouraged advisors to remember that millennials are not clones of each other.

"Make them feel independent," she said. "Make them feel important. And instead of stereotyping them into an all-encompassing generation, see them as individuals."

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