himon de Jong, of the Whetstone Trends Interpretation Agency, shares his insights on the millennial generation and how golf should attempt to engage them. Thimon gave an extremely well received key-note speech at the 2014 HSBC Golf Business Forum in Abu Dhabi, focusing on the millennial generation providing the latest thinking, trends and insights into the cultural, social and behavioural factors driving golf’s most important future consumer group.
HSBC GBC: "Hi Thimon, thanks for joining us! Lets start with finding out what exactly is a millennial?
Thimon: "Hi there! They are a demographic cohort. The exact boundaries are under debate, but most widely used is those born between the early 1980’s to mid 1990’s."
HSBC GBC: "Why are the millennials golf’s most potentially valuable customer group?"
Thimon: "Worldwide, they are the largest consumer group. And: their generational traits give us a glimpse of what we can expect from them - and society - in the future."
HSBC GBC: "How do we get the millennials to engage with golf?"
Thimon: "Unfortunately, there is not one simple answer to that question. I’ll give you one example. There is quite a bit of reluctance to the introduction of (consumer) tech on and around the golf course. The key point here is that this isn’t a black and white discussion. It’s not that a golf club should forbid everything digital everywhere or the other way around. I think the truth is not to find middle ground, but to combine the best of both worlds. For example: millennials will want to use their smart phones before a game to find friends to play with, let friends know they’re playing etc. The course itself can be a tech free zone - a haven of peace to really enjoy the game. But back in the club house, they want to see how they’ve done, compare their scores online with their network and share it. Wearable tech is already here and millennials are not going to wait until they get home to use it."
HSBC GBC: "You spoke at the forum of the trend to “Unconnect”, do you consider this to be an asset for golf and can the sport engage with millennial’s this way?"
Thimon: "Yes, I think golf can position itself more towards activities like yoga and mindfulness than try to compete with, say football or action sports."
HSBC GBC: "As a consumer behaviour expert, what are the top three typical traits of golfers?"
Thimon: "My impression is that golfers are traditional, focussed and male. The first two traits are great - as long as you frame traditions (like the dress code) in a positive way. Now when it comes to ‘male’, I think the sports needs a serious feminine touch. Tip for next years forum: get the audience ratio up to a 50/50 gender ratio!"
HSBC GBC: "What is smart customisation and in what can the golf industry embrace this?"
Thimon: "Smart customisation is the concept of making a product or a service that automatically adapts to the needs and wants of a consumer. For example, Virgin Airlines runs an experiment where crew members wear Google Glass. This automatically recognises frequent flyers and gives the crew members all kinds of information on that person so they can customise their service."
The golf industry could do many things with this concept. For example very basic, as this tech is already here: develop an app that automatically finds friends and acquaintances if you need someone to play with - just by accessing their Facebook and/or linked in profile. Or: at a big competition, an app could show give audience members an individual experience by showing them which friends are also there (and where) with all the info of their favourite players.
HSBC GBC: "What are your thoughts on the growing importance of social media in golf?
Thimon: "Social media is great, but society is reaching a point of overload, so use social media only if creates real value."
HSBC GBC: "Why do you think it has taken so long for Apps / Social Media to become popular amongst golfers?"
Thimon: "Again, the traditional character trait of the sport. But also: golf is a rich, well known sport, which is not the best climate for innovation."
HSBC GBC: "You were the most popular speaker at the HSBC Golf Business Forum and your parting thoughts were geared around creating a peer to peer strategy, how can this be achieved in the golf sector?"
Thimon: "Simple: let millennials engage other millennials to start playing (competitive) golf and give them the tools, environment and infrastructure to do so. Peer to peer is about facilitating and not orchestrating."
HSBC GBC: "Why do you think your presentation was so well received by a golf business audience?"
Thimon: "I think it was two things. Firstly because I was not saying digital is the solution to everything millennial - like many experts tend to do. And secondly, I always try to make my presentations practical and in this case, bring the research down to actual golf business strategy level."
Source: The HSBC Golf Business Community