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How Creating Singular Entertainment Experiences Captures The Crucial Millennial Market Share

Thursday, March 1, 2018
By Blake Smith

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Millennials are now the population segment doing the most traveling. They also spend 22% more per trip than any other generation and are the most likely to base a leisure trip around cultural experience. What’s even more interesting (or irritating if you are the boss) is that over 30% of them will extend a work trip a day or even two to catch a concert, go to a buzzy art exhibit, or try a hot new restaurant. So how does a brand capture those stays and lucrative additional room nights? At Virgin Hotels, we start by addressing the process by which Millennials select a hotel and then actually set about becoming the experience that entices them to travel to a particular market or prolong their work travel. We do this by creating compelling entertainment programming and producing zeitgeist-defining cultural events.

There have been several studies done on why Millennials select a particular hotel and they all seem to arrive at the same conclusions. Essentially their criteria are:

  • Community
  • Authenticity
  • Uniqueness

At first glance these qualities seem inherent to the Airbnb experience, and not hotels. And while every lifestyle hotel brand claims they are addressing these crucial characteristics, most are too hidebound to their own brand-stencil to truly integrate the local culture in ways that effectively bring these three attributes to their guests.

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COMMUNITY:  Our hotels are intentionally designed with many facets that appeal as much to locals as they do to our own guests. Free Wi-Fi, copious outlets and innovative design and service abound, making venues like Commons Club the de facto office for many neighborhood entrepreneurs and makers. The incubator-like environment lures international travelers into conversation with creatives from down the street. Relationships are forged. Glory is attained.

And our Entertainment programming is not about hiring just any local singer/guitarist to play covers quietly in the corner. We immerse ourselves in every market we enter, discovering talent that is about to break nationally and that just happens to be from the area. We often give them a leg up by putting them onstage or in an exhibit along with globally established talent. Our guests know that when they attend our events they eventually get to boast “I saw them when…”

AUTHENTICITY: At Virgin our mission includes working with local DJs, artists, comedians, fashion brands and entrepreneurs. Essentially, we bring the best club, gallery and incubator straight to the guest. We eschew programming easy and derivative entertainment like cover bands or DJs that play top 40 in favor of artists making a unique and original contribution to their field, whether they are young and on the come up, or an established and respected seminal act that is currently inspiring new talent.

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UNIQUENESS: Let’s face it, part of the contemporary travel experience is going somewhere that none of your friends have been to and posting photos of it to your social accounts to build your personal brand. Hotels are fairly accessible by nature, so traditionally they have lacked the exclusivity of experience that, let’s say, Airbnbs possess. But at Virgin we have been bringing major artists into our intimate venues to play surprise word-of mouth shows that have astounded our guests since we opened. Grammy winner Chance The Rapper playing in front of 50 people on a random Monday because he wanted to test drive some new songs? Why not. SNL cast members trying out new material in front of an unsuspecting happy hour crowd? Yep. Artist Millie Brown getting neon paint poured over here from the sign in front of the hotel while wearing a translucent egg costume and then hosting a glow in the dark dinner? Yes (yeah, it sounds like we made that one up, but we didn’t). It goes on and on. Live performances are wonderfully temporary and can never be exactly reproduced. You have to be there to be there. If your goal is to cruelly lord your one-of-a-kind experience over your peers, we are your Friends in FOMO.

Millennials are savvy and look for experiences they can build their personal brand on and will always choose Interesting over comfortable.  Though we are always comfortable, we provide Interesting in a way no one else can.