NPR Story
2:53 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Radisson Hotels Take Aim At Millennials

The Radisson Hotels chain is creating a new brand of hotels aimed at attracted millennials. Radisson Red will allow guests to offer à la carte choices for their rooms, ranging from what drinks are in the minibar to family photos on the television.

Parent company Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group is not alone in trying to market to the younger generation. Think “The Tonight Show” pushing Jay Leno out in favor of Jimmy Fallon. We take a look at how marketers decide what millennials want.

Guest

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Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

A hotel for millennials, that is what the parent company of Radisson Hotels is hoping to create. The company announced at a conference in Minneapolis last night that it is planning to build 60 hotels geared at Generation Y, also known as millennials, with the first expected to open next year. And Radisson is not alone in marketing to the younger generation. Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic is with us now from New York to discuss. Derek, welcome back.

DEREK THOMPSON: Hi, Jeremy.

HOBSON: Well, first of all, tell us what Radisson is doing and what is behind it.

THOMPSON: Radisson is spending $140 million on building a series of hotels geared to millennials, this group born between 1980 and 2000, 18 to 34. There's 86 million millennials. This is the largest generation in American history. And although it's been bit by the recession, it eventually will grow up to be the middle-age powerbrokers of the economy. And so you see not just Radisson but a lot of brands who are thinking ahead and saying, how do we get this group of 86 million people to like us while their brand allegiances are supple and elastic and we can sort of capture them now so they'd become lifetime customers.

HOBSON: Well, what other companies are doing things like this?

THOMPSON: You see a lot of hotel companies doing this. Starwood launched its own sort of millennial-geared hotel unit about five or six years ago. Car companies, interestingly enough, are doing this a lot. You saw in 2008, 2009, right after the crash, millennials not buying cars and houses the way they used to. And this is a huge problem for the economy because cars and houses are such a big part of recovery growth, those big-ticket items.

So you've seen cars. And in car commercials, you know, on Saturday nights and, you know, Wednesday nights, you see these commercials that make cars look like gadgets. They have these gizmos in the front you can hook up your iPad. It's a social experience. The car in these commercials has always stocked with people. They're really trying to show millennials, I think, that rather than see their smartphone as an alternative to driving around the car they owned, thinking of the car as an extension of the smartphone, something that gets you where you want to go, that can play your favorite music, that connects you to friends, that makes you feel social and worthwhile. And you see in Radisson's own plans very much an attempt to do this, to make the hotel experience feel more social, more personalized.

HOBSON: Well, let's get back to that, because what exactly does a hotel for a millennial do that a hotel for anybody else doesn't? I see that Radisson wants to, what, allow you to stock the mini bar with the drinks that you like, but that seems a little weird.

THOMPSON: Right. You get to the layout, which is theoretically more open, more airy, to the room where you can call ahead and have a sandwich ready for you literally. You can have the bar stocked with the beer and alcohol that you like. One detail was actually that you could have a - on the screens around the hotel room projected photos of your family and friends. That gets a, you know, a little too personalized, I think. But I mean, really, what they're trying to do, I think, is to advertise the fact that they're listening. And they know what this that this younger generation expects a certain kind of social connectivity that's literally built right there into the room.

HOBSON: Any industry that's way behind the curve on this, that's just not figured it out?

THOMPSON: Well, the hard thing, I think, is the economics. You know, millennials are the only generation for whom real income fell in the three, four years after the great crash. So what you're dealing with here isn't just a problem of advertising. It's a problem of arithmetic. And I think it's the industries struggling with the arithmetic, like housing, where you really, really see this is a problem. It's very difficult to sell an expensive car, an expensive house to a demographic that simply does not have the money to spend for it and cannot get the credit to spend for it.

There is no advertising campaign, there is no technological solution to this problem. So, you know, those, I think, are the companies, the really expensive luxury brands that formerly relied on a certain millennial demographic that you see struggling. And it's not for any fault of theirs necessarily. It's just simply the Great Recession and its aftermath.

HOBSON: Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic, Derek, thanks as always.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

And, Jeremy, one last note. Earlier in our dialect piece...

HOBSON: Yeah.

YOUNG: ...you said you say three words the same.

HOBSON: Mary, marry, merry.

YOUNG: OK. I said I say them differently and listeners, including Klaus Future(ph), want to know how are they. So are you ready?

HOBSON: Oh, here you go. Let us know.

YOUNG: OK. Mary is the girl's name. She will marry someone, and they will be merry, merry.

HOBSON: Merry.

YOUNG: See? Do you hear it?

HOBSON: Such a New Yorker.

YOUNG: You don't hear it, do you?

HOBSON: I do. I can hear it. I just don't say it like that. From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.

YOUNG: I'm Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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