Marketing to Gen Z: It’s All in the Experience

You may believe Generation Z to prefer a great experience above most things, like their predecessors, the millennials. But a new study conducted by Vision Critical reveals otherwise. It says, though a whopping 77% of millennials desire a ‘cool experience’ over a ‘cool product’, only 40% of Gen Z does the same. Instead, the majority want the product. And, though the two generations share more similarities together than with other age groups, this isn’t the only way Gen Z differs from millennials.

The study tells Gen Z wants brands to reach them by social media (34%), while millennials prefer email (43%). Gen Z also doesn’t mind online ads as much as millennials. But, the increased adoption of ad-blocking software by both groups, which rose 41% in the past year, suggests neither particularly wants to see ads. In fact, both groups are “actively avoiding” them. In addition, promotional text messages are often lost on Gen Z since teenagers receive over 3,000 a month. All this considered, marketing to Gen Z may seem daunting. Yet, despite their preference of product over experience, don’t underestimate the power of a memorable live experience. Gen Z might not follow the crowd, but experiential marketing is still a proven means to intro a brand or stay top of mind.

Why Marketing to Gen Z Isn’t About Following the Crowd

Another new study – this one by YouthSight – gives insight into what’s important to Gen Z. And, it’s not what’s important to most anyone else. In fact, Gen Z tends to shun trends, with just one in 10 a self-proclaimed “trendsetter” and only four percent admitting they ‘follow the crowd’. The report discloses their “high level of disinterest with owning the latest brands and getting ‘likes’ on social media”. Instead, our youngest generation places more value on those things usually reserved for their sager elders. These include time with friends and family, followed closely by care for their mental health.

The problem for companies is, when Gen Z compares brands and products, their mental health is often tested. Sixty percent report the “abundance of choice” makes it difficult to reach a decision. This means event marketers and agencies must be innovative. They must find ways to highlight their brand and products. And they must show their ‘difference’ to help Gen Z make a stress-free choice. Involve their friends and family and you fulfill two critical needs. It’s all these reasons that make experiential marketing a crowd-pleasing move.

Celsius consumers

3 Ways Experiential Marketing Can Provide Gen Z with the Right Experience

Consider these three strategies when marketing to Gen Z:

Stand for something and show it.

While Gen X sought to change the workplace, millennials broadened this aspiration from local to global. 39% want to ‘change the world’. Now, according to the Vision Critical report, 60% of Gen Z share these values. And, YouthSight finds the same. It tells that 64% of Gen Z believe themselves to be activists. Therefore, Vision Critical recommends brands “provide an uplifting and positive message” that shows how your brand “can make the world a better place”.

The top four areas Gen Z currently have the most concern, per another study, are education, jobs and unemployment, prejudice and racism, and the environment. The latter is something denim brand Levi’s seeks to protect in various ways. And, this is likely a big reason why the brand is among the top 10 brands Gen Z trusts.

Levi’s goes the extra mile to prove its commitment to sustainability. One standout experiential activation was its pop-up in LA’s Art District last year. It was executed in celebration of a new method that reduced the number of chemicals and recycled all the water used. For 10 days, select visitors could see the process in action. This was after designing their custom pair via an iPad to have the finished product within a few hours.

Appeal to their interests and unite them with like individuals.

Among the companies that captured Gen Z’s attention for cause marketing last year was Walmart. The big box retailer teamed with Feeding America to fight hunger. A video highlighted an event series the companies held. The purpose was to gather people in their respective communities to discuss the issue. Though this first event seemed to exclude the generation with many eyes on this cause marketing effort, one man recalled the variety of people he encountered, naming a policeman, plumber, and pilates instructor. This fact makes another big reason Walmart should’ve included Gen Z.

Gen Z is the most racially diverse generation to date. This means, as a HuffPost article explains, “they are much more likely to find community as a soccer player or a member of the debate team than as a young Latina or a young biracial man”. YouthSight confirms, citing such examples as “foodie, feminist and bookworm.” HuffPost also tells that communication among these groups is likely “to be more in-person”, which makes experiential marketing a smart means to help them connect.

Nike, the most trusted brand of Gen Z, knows how to do this. In recent years in London, for example, the athletic brand has united basketball enthusiasts with a “HyperDunk Day” event. It also brought together football fans with its “Strike Night” experience. These activations help create community for Gen Z who wishes to spend time with friends and have fun in the process.

Record their experiences and share.

There’s great value in creating content at experiential events. Not only are brands guaranteed consumers will share it with their social networks, this authentic content gives people a more transparent look at the brand and the brand more credibility. The important thing to note is Gen Z uses social media unlike older generations. And even though their use is similar to millennials, it’s also different. For example, Gen Z uses Facebook less, but chooses YouTube and Vine more than millennials. One article says their reason is because of the type of videos they’re watching – “feel-good content” that lessens their stress.

So, while Nike shared its Strike Night footage real-time on Facebook Live, brands should also consider YouTube and Vine for maximum impact when trying to reach Gen Z. Still, when results of videos’ return on engagement (ROE) are lackluster, know that Gen Z isn’t sharing like we’re accustomed. They’re taking to private messages via other apps, showing yet another way they avoid the crowd to change the marketing landscape forever.

At Elevate, we have the people you need to provide a top experience. When marketing to Gen Z, trust our experiential staffing services to set your brand apart from the crowd.

Author: Nick Riggall


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