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  • Writer's pictureHanna Ziesel, Grand Valley State University

Why Gen Z Craves Experiential Marketing



Imagine you were handed a check for $2,000 right now. The only catch is you have to spend it on something for your enjoyment. What would you do with it? Would you go on a tropical vacation to the Bahamas? See the Eiffel Tower for the first time? Or go to that rockstar concert you've always dreamed of? You're not alone if you find yourself wanting to spend it on an experience. Nearly three years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, there's been a steady shift in consumers wanting to spend money on experiences over material goods. The group most in tune with this trend? Gen Z. That's why it's more important than ever for brands to delve into experiential marketing to capture the attention of the next generation of consumers.


Why It Works

According to Forbes, experiential marketing can be defined as "...creating immersive experiences that allow brands and their consumers to connect on a more authentic and emotional level." Think of hosting an innovative event related to your brand or an out-of-the-box novelty they can't give up. Lately, everything I hear that involves targeting Gen Z from brands is a focus on digital media. On the surface, it makes sense. One of the most defining characteristics of Gen Z is our digital-savvy nature. But digging a little deeper reveals something different. Because we spend so much time online connecting with our followers and friends, Gen Z can see any other advertisements as noise in an endless void. By investing all of their efforts into digital tactics, brands are ignoring the beauty of essential human connection.


Taking your marketing tactics offline in a way that involves or captivates consumers can be rewarding and refreshing. When you include consumers in your brand and your story, they feel connected and spoken to more personally. Gen Z wants to be included in the conversation. Giving us the opportunity, too, goes a long way toward building brand loyalty and driving sales.


It Pays to Pay Attention

Studies have shown that 38.3% of the most successful marketing tactics for professionals were experiential marketing and events. Brands like Taco Bell, Dole, and IKEA have all launched experiential marketing campaigns with significant payoffs. One example that stands out to me as appealing most to the senses of Gen Z comes from Netflix with their project titled "Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience." Taking place in cities across the globe, from Los Angeles to London, Netflix brought their hit show, Stranger Things, from your TV screen to IRL (in real life) with an immersive drive-in movie experience with live actors. Guests could put themselves in some of their favorite moments from the show. Not only was this able to capitalize on the excitement surrounding one of the most popular TV shows in the past six years, but it also provided guests with memories that will last a lifetime.

Plan It Perfect

With so many moving parts in this type of campaign, it's understandable that it can sound slightly overwhelming. When planning these experiences, you need to consider your target audience. Figure out what makes them tick, what makes them happy, and how to use that information to create an emotional connection between them and your brand. On the creative side, the most accessible place to start is by thinking of your five senses. These create some of the most vivid memories that people can resonate with even years later. Choosing the right food, music, colors, and so on can be a deal breaker for an experiential marketing event, so knowing what appeals to your audience is critical. Consider the following tips for your experiential marketing event:

  • Touch: opt for more comfortable seating instead of folding lawn chairs.

  • Sight: design your space with Instagrammable decor in mind that Gen Z will want to share on their social media feeds.

  • Hearing: match the soundtrack to the feelings you want to amplify, like jazz for relaxation or pop to get everyone up to dance.

  • Smell: there are a variety of ways you can infuse the room with different aromas, like orange or florals, to uplift the mood.

  • Taste: if you have food, ensure that you offer a wide variety to cater to different dietary needs, as Gen Z can be specific.

Sprinkle in your creativity, and you'll be on your way to hosting a fantastic event.

Get Ready to Dive In

As Maya Angelou once said, "People will forget what you said and did, but never forget how you made them feel." Experiential marketing is the future for connecting with Gen Z audiences and is worth adding to your current rotation of tactics. Building a community with your audience and harnessing the power of emotional connection goes a long way toward fostering long-lasting relationships.

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