How Marriott maintains an edge on Next Gen branding
With Generations X and Y expected to account for ninety percent of the working-age population within a decade, hotel brands and the marketers they employ must intimately know the wants and desires of this consumer group, according to one industry-insider.
“They do not want a cookie cutter experiences. They want to discover an unforgettable experience, at the right price, and on top of that, they want to validate that choice and share their experiences with others,” says Toni Stoeckl, global brand leader and vice president of the distinctive Select Brands at Marriott International, Inc., which includes AC Hotels by Marriott, Aloft, Element, and Moxy Hotels.
With the mega-company for eight years, in his role, Stoeckl defines and executes global brand strategy and signature programming for more than 230 hotels globally.
“I play an integral role in the future development, culture and global growth of each brand, and in defining the direction of the global marketing strategy for the brand, helping to ensure that each brand remains firmly rooted in the lifestyle category,” says Stoeckl.
To this end, it’s imperative to understand what the millennial traveler is seeking in a hotel brand today.
“Millennials are less interested in a bland consistency in lieu of experience, and want to discover something new, take in the city, the food, the local scene – whether he/she is there for day or a week. We are seeing the blurring of lines between work and play; technology has made us connected 24/7. Marriott International’s Distinctive Select brands are imbued with personality and energy, inspiring guests through art, design, entertainment and gastronomy to connect with Next-Gen guests on an emotional level,” says Stoeckl.
In addition, “AC Hotels by Marriott cater to entrepreneurial spirits, with sophisticated, modern design and features that facilitate frictionless service, such as their Kallpods and wireless service buttons,” says Stoeckl. Aloft Hotels are serving as an innovation incubator for today’s tech-savvy, local traveler, offering the industry’s first voice-activated hotel rooms using Siri, the world’s first robotic butler, Botlr, and the world’s first Emoji Room Service menu, says the executive.
As Next Gen travelers are expected to account for more than sixty-percent of Marriott International’s business within the next four years, according to Stoeckl, the company has researched and refined the extended stay experience and services for this demographic with its nature-inspired design philosophy, eco-friendly practices and health-conscious amenities, he says.
Specific to Marriott’s Moxy Hotels, which appeal to the young and young at heart, the company targets guests that are, “fun hunters,” says Stoeckl. “They like the independence of being in control and believe self-service is the best service, which inspired Moxy’s welcome experience that moved the check-in encounter to the bar, where guests are greeted with a complimentary, ‘Got Moxy” cocktail upon arrival,” he says.
Design aesthetic is also of core importance to meet the needs and tastes of Next-Gen hotel guests.
AC Hotels for example, “boast an AC Library, a collaborative space, with a communal table, individual reading and working areas, and a carefully curated selection of books, magazines and guides, and ‘media salons’ with Bluetooth technology and USB charging stations, to keep travelers around the world connected on their own terms,” says Stoeckl.
Even bedrooms at Moxy hotels execute design and style playfully.
Designed for today’s healthy, active traveler, Element has redefined the extended stay experience with a nature-inspired design philosophy that is clean, modern and bright. With light-filled public areas and a calming atmosphere, Element hotels are built to be green from the ground up and employ a natural color palette, giving each hotel an organic openness that matches the architecture and weightless feeling of the space.
Talent is the biggest differentiator for these disruptive brands, says Stoeckl.
“We focus on hiring for attitude, not just skill (which we can teach), in order to deliver authentic lifestyle experiences to a different kind of traveler. Associates don’t necessarily have to have experience working in hotels before, but need to be emotionally connected to the brands and the specific lifestyles these brands occupy. For example, Aloft’s staff members must have a passion for music, tech and innovation. For Element Hotels, the team should be passionate about health and well-being. At Moxy hotels, the crew enjoy chatting it up with guests, have high energy and a fearless, do-it-yourself attitude,” says Stoeckl.
As for Food and Beverage, “Our B&F strategy was thoughtfully designed, with the target audience in mind. Moxy’s 24/7 self-service concept gives guests access to what they want, whenever they want it. The Moxy bar is full-service and the hub of activity in the lobby. The layout allows guests to hang at their own pace – on a couch with a mobile device in hand or in a lively scene at the bar with a beverage in hand,” says Stoeckl.
AC Hotels tapped Nigel Barker, celebrated fashion photographer, and TV personality as the brand’s Editor at Large to help inspire next Gen travelers, who is collaborating with the brand to design the world’s first specialty Gin & Tonic glass, which will be available exclusively at AC Hotels later this summer,” says Stoeckl.
Aloft Hotels’ Re: Fuel B&F has been redsigned to improve guest experience via technology. “New additions include breakfast pots, which wer built on consumer learnings that guests want hot, fast, fresh options in a to-go container. Re: Fuel has been designed more like an independent, pop-up café that offers great, authentic cuisine in a fast and efficient manner, whilst still allowing direct participation with the public area. Key to the new food concept is a digital ordering system that reduces ambiguity between the guest experience and how they pay for their food,” says Stoeckl.
For those interested in working in hospitality, Stoeckl’s offers valuable advice on serving Next Gen customers.
“Don’t generalize. Individuality and more unique passions are emerging and guiding people’s lives. Next Gen consumers are unique, which is why we focus on psychographics to be able to appeal to their specific lifestyles. What they have in common is that they look for a memorable travel experience and a much more emotional connection with brands – everything else is unique and different,” says Stoeckl.
Also, “Aim to engage,” he says. “Next Gen consumers expect good service, but we have to personally engage them – connecting them to the city or immersing them in to the lifestyle the brand has to offer. It’s about giving our guest moments to share on social media or when they come home.”