Editor’s Note: The following Q&A conducted by Woodall’s Campground Management with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Karen Redfern, senior director of marketing communications for the national Go RVing campaign, examines the growing influence of Millennials on the U.S. RV and campground and industries. For the full story click here.
Judging by the number of stories we’ve seen lately in the press, the U.S. news media seem to have developed an obsession with the Millennials – people from their late teens to mid-30s who reportedly harbor authentically different views of our culture, products and society.
They, like countless generations before them, audaciously challenge conventional wisdom on many levels as marketers in a wide spectrum of commercial categories — including, of course, the recreational vehicle field — work to develop products and services to suit their intrinsic tastes.
Among their quirks, the mass media tell us, is a need for quick answers. They’ll take a pay cut in exchange for a better work/life balance and, as a result, half of these “edgy, hard-to-please” Millennials are looking for new jobs. They put off marriage, even long-term relationships, and a lot of them don’t own cars, preferring to summon Uber for a ride to dinner.
Many of them don’t even have TVs, choosing instead to gaze into their smartphones instead of making eye contact with the rest of the world.
We’re also told that these smartphone-wielding, racially diverse Millennials, about 75 million of whom were born in the 1980’s and ‘90’s, are now the largest generation in the U.S. population versus members of Generation X and the Baby Boomers. As such, they accounted for 44% of the 1.2 million households in North America that started camping last year, according to the 2016 North American Camping Report, an annual independent study sponsored by Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA).
So, they’re expected to fuel growth at public and private parks for years to come, assuming park operators can stay in front of them. “The Millennials are going to be very focused on quality,” noted Toby O’Rourke, KOA’s chief franchise operations officer. “As an industry we have to continue to modernize our parks. We have to have recreation in our parks and quality sites. Millennials are demanding excellence and they want quality.”
As a result, forward-thinking staffers at KOA and the Go RVing Coalition are scrambling to deal with this next demographic wave, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA’s) Karen Redfern, senior director of marketing communications for the national Go RVing campaign, which is budgeted to spend about $16.5 million this year in advertising and promotions.
Redfern agreed to talk with Woodall’s Campground Management Publisher Sherman Goldenberg about how Go RVing is dealing with this age group.
WCM: Millennials are clearly on your radar, and that of Go RVing’s Dallas-based agency, The Richards Group, right?
Redfern: Absolutely. Obviously, they’re the next large population group to come in as the Baby Boomers are aging and moving toward the upper end of our target markets. So, we’re looking at moving our age demographics a little bit younger and getting them in a little bit earlier. And over the last five years or so, we have actually moved that needle down from the 35-54 range. We’re really in the 30 range now. We’ve been able to target a lot of those folks.
WCM: Dealers, we hear, are seeing more of these young people at shows, and campground operators are greeting them at their registration desks.
Redfern: Yes, the biggest challenge with Millennials in terms of product is that they’re looking for something very small and compact. So, some of them wind up going back to a lot of the vintage units out there. As a result, our challenge is going to be to ensure we’ve got product to meet their needs. We know that they like to get away and get to the outdoors, but they’re also a very different generation. For one thing, they’re not into tent camping — sleeping under the stars. They will opt more for car camping, as they like to call it, where they just have their SUV.
They flip down their seats and sleep in there for the night. So, if we get some product in there that can be easily towed by their small SUVs or a very small motorized product for them, then we certainly can capture them and bring them into the market earlier because they’re definitely looking for a vehicle that will allow them just to travel and hang with their friends. For them, it’s more about the road tripping than the camping, per say, of going into the wilderness. But they definitely are looking at it as a social venue for them to gather and meet up at places.