The always innovative Frits Van Paasschen, CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, commissioned a study of marketing and branding trends with students at Amherst College. The target market was young adults. The “Live Branding Case Study” was a first for Amherst, his alma mater, and a first for Starwood who has only worked with hospitality schools in the past. Among the questions were “What are your generation’s biggest concerns?”” How will these influence your purchasing behavior”, and “What three initiatives would you commission if you were Starwood’s CEO”?
Survey results revealed that millennials put a premium on businesses that embrace technology and environmental sustainability along with social responsibility in general. This smartphone bred generation wants more from hotel mobile apps, like being able to order room service even while on the plane with a touch of a button, or being able to network with other travelers. The students encouraged hotels to look beyond the onsite facilities to events like in house art galleries, concerts, book clubs and meetings. And what is probably no surprise, the importance of design as an end in ltself, part of the experience.
The insights are valuable but I think what’s most interesting is the idea of going to a liberal arts college to do what they billed as a “Live Branding Case Study”. As described by the editor in an article in Amherst College’s magazine, Van Paasschen wanted to leverage the interdisciplinary nature of a liberal arts education and students’ interests ranging from fashion, real estate and finance to media and contemporary art. The Starwood CEO said this will be the first of other similar studies, and I’m sure many other hotel companies will follow their lead. Interested in reading more about millennials and marketing? Check out our Luxury Travel and Lifestyle Trends newsletters.