e3 recently brought together one of our leading strategists, Kate Fitzpatrick with Johan Kuylenstierna Corthesy, co-founder of The Yacht Week, and Angelique Miller, Creative Director of Expedia Media Solutions, the global travel company, to discuss the future of engagement with millennials in the travel and leisure sectors. They shared the latest insights into millennial behaviour, best brand practice and some innovative digital campaign approaches.

Kate Fitzpatrick gave the opening keynote: Changing consumer behaviour; the impact and influence of millennial culture.

She explained that millennials are a broad and extremely diverse group of tech-savvy consumers, aged between 16–34, and warned of over-simplifying their behaviour.  They have been identified, stereotyped and analysed in a myriad of, and often contradictory ways. They’re selfish and yet they’re sharing; they’re lazy and they’re entrepreneurial. They’re labelled “boomerang” kids, yet some are just barely old enough to have left home. At one end they comprise young people still at school, largely financial dependent on parents, with limited experience of the work environment, and at the other, a gang of 30 something’s who may own their houses or have children and often work full-time.

Despite the range, however Kate affirmed that there are three distinguishing behaviours that underpin millennial behaviour:

1: Experience - it’s all about what they do, not what they have

Millennials measure their status through experience. We find ourselves in quite a different time now than the 1980s, when consumers were arguably defined by what they earned or what they owned. The perception of what is valuable has shifted. Now it’s the experience that exists around a product or brand that makes it increasingly desirable, or at the very least preferable. Nike recognised this earlier than most, as you can see from their changing approach to brand advertising.

Nike ads

The idea of ‘an experience’ having more meaning than a physical item is something which has been increasingly reported about over the past couple of years. This is something which is more than hearsay, a number of organisations have conducted large scale research to validate this assertion. For instance, PwC have shown millennials more than any other generation are actively searching out experiences over the ownership of a material good and they are more willing to trade their hard earned cash for a moment than a product. For them, experiences are a badge of honour and digital technology driven, in particular, by mobile and social has only strengthened this.

The most successful brands deliver experiences that are grounded in personalisation. The better a brand knows a customer, the better the experience they can deliver and it’s this customer interface that many brands today are fighting for.

2: Value Exchange - they won’t do something for nothing.

In order to deliver more nuanced marketing communications, brands need data. Millennials as a group are savvy to even the best marketers’ efforts to get this information. So you need to work hard. Despite recent notable privacy breeches they seem undaunted about sharing, as they have quickly come to understand there is great value in their data and it is indeed a currency they are willing to trade in as the rewards. But what you offer has to be relevant for them.

Take Dominos, they have taken the experience of ordering your favourite pizza to the next level via their Anyware platform. With the latest addition ‘Tweet’ gone is the time when you have to scroll through a menu, select your crust, side and toppings instead it’s as simple as picking up a mobile phone and posting a pizza emoji on Twitter for your favourite flavour to land at your door. All Dominos ask is set up your preferences will them online beforehand to enjoy this service.

And it’s worked extremely well, personal details and pizza preferences have been shared in their droves all to enable millennials to experience the convenience of tweeting for your dinner.

3: Information, influence and finding purpose

The final theme to reference is around the idea of information and influence. Millennials are information-hungry and they are superb knowledge gatherers, who like to ensure they are making the right choices for themselves and others. They are all about authenticity and transparency, looking at various sources of information for validation before making a decision, whether that’s purchasing or otherwise. If there is a hint of anything hidden or unclear they lose interest. The more open you are they more loyal they are likely to be.

They seek out others like themselves and aren’t afraid to engage in conversation, ask questions or promote their own opinion – often to help others.  They are very much motivated by the idea of social purpose and positive contribution which extends to wanting to get involved with a brand’s story.

The desire to seek out information and know more about a brand’s story has very much meant that millennials’ relationships with brands have become more like partnerships, with ideas like co-creation being embraced more readily.

Of these three unifying elements, Kate concluded, something stands out; uniqueness and individuality. From the desire for personalization, to wanting to be in control of decision making. A lot is based on their terms and to suit their situation. They expect brands to work hard to attract their attention and recognise them as individuals.

Nothing Like the Real World presented by Johan Kuylenstierna Corthesy’s

Kate’s keynote was reinforced by Johan Kuylenstierna Corthesy’s presentation. The co-founder of The Yacht Week travel company, shared his brand’s story. Their strapline “Nothing Like the Real World” clearly sums up the proposition. The company takes groups of millennials on blow-your-mind, off the scale experience weeks around exotic coastlines. 

Groups share the cost and meet to have an experience over and above real life. They are immersive, authentic escapes on beautiful boats, which engage all the senses and put the user at the heart of the experience. The brand’s campaigns show groups of people swimming, eating, partying, sunbathing, laughing, embracing. Johann urged the delegates to reshape their brand offers around experiences, not products. We don’t sell yachting holidays, he told them, we sell experiences – great locations, amazing parties, fantastic socialising.

Engaging with the Millennial Consumer by Angelique Miller, Creative Director of Expedia Media Solutions

Expedia’s belief also chimes with e3: for millennials: experience is everything. The ongoing search for authentic travel is hardly new she began- but when we look at millennial demand for authenticity, Angelique explained, we find a complex portrait that is nevertheless surprisingly precise. Millennials have a very strong impression of what “authentic” entails. Authenticity is ultimately whatever which supports their perceptions of value: cultural appreciation and “living like a local”; independence and finding those hidden gems; originality and balancing the iconic with those experiences that are more off the beaten track. More than 60% of millennials desire authenticity above all else.

But why do they want these authentic experiences?  We come back to their importance of their social network: ‘I wish I could be more like the person I describe myself as on social media’. Millennials are socially-conscious online – even more so for millennials who are well travelled.

They want to look good to raise their social currency. Millennials not only want authenticity of experience, but shareability as well. Millennials more than any other group feel it is important for people to comment on their holiday photos – so it is not just about how good they look in the photo, but how people perceive that photo. They are influenced by their social network, but want to be seen as an influencer in their group as well.

Angelique explained: “Expedia is first and foremost a technology company”, a point more than reinforced by the experiential engagement models they are testing to engage millennial consumers. These include VR experiences for the static traveler: hospital-bound children for example - battling cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, who are unable to travel and see the world, so Expedia has created a digital innovation project to bring it to them, using 360 degree video and live-streaming to share the power of travel with kids who need it most. In a second example, she showed how the use of split screen interactive videos provide personalised YouTube campaigns to promote holidays in Bermuda.

Millennials are all about authentic, immersive experience, Angelique explained – and the value of their leisure choices beings to be measured way before they take a plane to a holiday destination. The experience of social sharing through digital channels is as, if not more, important than the actual experience itself.

Finally, and importantly, Angelique explained that millennials are willing to share their data, in return for recommendations, advice/tips, or a more personalised service. Social networks are important to travel inspiration, as their community heavily influences them. 42% of millennials say that holiday photos posted to social media influence where they decide to go on holiday.


This seminar took place at The British Marine Federation and was curated by Miranda Glover, business director at e3 in collaboration with Alice Driscoll, VP, British Marine. 

If you want to know more about e3 or any of the presentations, please email miranda@e3.co.uk