In 30 seconds:
- The events of recent years mean that now, more than ever, customers are on the lookout for exciting and new experiences.
- Providing fresh brand experiences is a way to connect with your audience in fun, meaningful ways.
- And since Gen Z forms brand loyalty as they age, making a lasting impression with your campaigns now is more important than ever.
In the past few years, people have become used to attending events from behind their screens. Live events and experiences have had to take a backseat, while marketers have focussed on perfecting their digital marketing offerings.
But experiential marketing is making a comeback, and for good reason. When it comes to engaging Generation Z – and securing some of their $140 billion in buying power – it’s a powerful method of capturing their attention.
Gen Zers crave connection. This is true in their digital habits: 64% of TikTok users say they feel they can be their true selves on the platform, and they trust that others are doing the same. This is the age group pegged as the “loneliest generation ever” – so it follows that this connectivity has helped to cement TikTok as Gen Z’s favourite app.
Experiential marketing can cut right to the core of what makes marketing great: it creates a direct connection between consumer and product or brand. When it comes to Gen Z, that here-and-now connection is especially valued – and valuable.
But how can you create an experiential marketing campaign that captures the attention of Gen Z, and how can you leverage the habits of this “digitally native” generation into real-world activities and brand interactions?
What is experiential marketing?
Also known as engagement marketing, experiential marketing typically refers to real-life, event-based marketing activities. Think networking events, festivals, trade shows, award presentations…you get the idea.
The aim is for your marketing to immerse your audience in your brand. It means a more interactive experience, which is something Gen Z loves. It also gives brands the opportunity to create a more personalised experience, which is on the rise amongst brands looking to target this young demographic as over half of Gen Zers report being willing to pay more for products that are targeted to their personalities.
But in 2022, experiential marketing can be and do even more.
Experiential marketing is typically understood in terms of physical events, but as hybrid and virtual experiences feature more heavily in marketing strategies, online elements are becoming more common within these kinds of marketing campaigns.
Experiential marketing in the physical world can also help brands meet the modern, digital needs of their Gen Z customers, who have spent the pandemic inside and are craving in-real life experiences, but want to connect these with their social media profiles. Creating in-person events that Gen Z want to attend and post about online can explode your digital presence while building a deeper relationship with your customers.
What is the goal of experiential marketing?
65% of brands that use experiential marketing say that it positively correlates with sales. That means there’s a direct link between the value of the experience you offer people, and the likelihood of those people becoming consumers.
But increased sales is only one of the benefits of experiential marketing. Successful experiential marketing campaigns can also lead to increased brand awareness, a stronger emotional connection between product and user, and impressive social profile growth.
After all, people love to share their positive experiences online – and experiential marketing done right is a gateway to user-generated content (UGC).
That’s not something to be taken lightly, since 82% of people trust social networks to guide their purchasing decisions, while 70% of Gen Z say that UGC helps them build more trust to make a purchase.
Social media influencer marketing is especially influential amongst Gen Z; 70% of teens trust influencers more than celebrities. If you can convince participants of your experiential marketing campaign to become advocates for your brand on social media, you can build a strong connection between your products and your target audience.
It’s no wonder then why more and more experiential marketing campaigns are hitting the socials.
Examples of experiential marketing: our top 5 favourites
If you want to take your marketing to the next level and give experiential marketing a try, there’s no better way to start than by searching for inspiration among some of the hit recent campaigns.
So to get you started, here are some of our favourite examples of the different types of experiential marketing:
Dating app Bumble is the Queen of experiential marketing campaigns.
Gen Z’s move towards a more ‘efficient’ and ‘pragmatic’ mode of dating means that marketers have to work hard to bring romance back into the equation. How are they doing that? Well, for Bumble, it’s by stepping out from behind the screen.
In 2017, the dating app that only allows women to message first set up the ‘Bumble Hive’. These pop-up events moved across the US, and a popular two-day conference to celebrate the launch of Bumble’s business partnerships feature, Bumble Bizz, took place in London.
The London event featured a series of talks from inspirational women in business, while a Texas version ran sessions of mentoring and networking, as well as dating and friendship. Bumble also launched the Hive – a real-life location where singles could meet their dates, and Bumble Fab Lab pop-up events with activities aimed to remind visitors of the fun of dating. Naturally, these spaces were highly interactive and Instagrammable.
What you can learn:
These Bumble experiential marketing examples excite young people for a reason: even though they’re taking place in the ‘real world’, the link to the companies’ app offering in this event marketing is clear. In fact, by doubling-down on their values via a real-life touchpoint, the brand is able to signal to Gen Zers that they are serious in their brand message of gender equality and re-imagined dating.
Which is great, since Generation Z expects brands to be vocal about issues that matter to them, and 70% of Gen Z respondents told a McKinsey survey that they try to purchase products from companies they consider to be ethical.
Sportswear brand Ellesse teamed up with singer Zara Larsson to create an experiential marketing that was a world first in 2021: the first-ever shoppable live concert. Wearing outfits from Ellesse’s latest collection, Zara performed in a real-life concert, surrounded by “backing dancers” – who were, in fact, TikTok creators wearing Ellesse. The in-person event was also live-streamed on TikTok, where digital viewers could tap the screen to shop the outfits.
This was the final step of an experiential marketing campaign that wove together digital and real-life behaviours from the start. Fanbytes worked with TikTok influencers to create “backing dancer” videos to a routine, drawing intrigue from their Gen Z followers.
These videos combined to create a paid ad on TikTok, which connected viewers with a branded filter and hashtag so they could create their own videos for the chance to feature on-stage alongside the TikTok talent. We achieved over 1.8M+ influencer views and over 31K likes across all videos. We secured a further 4.2 billion views from UGC.
What you can learn:
Gen Z are native to social media and all things digital – but by the end of 2020, only one-third had attended a virtual event. Why? The truth is, this generation expects the highest quality when it comes to digital experiences. The virtue of it simply being “online” doesn’t impress them. Brands need to deliver more.
Ellesse’s real-life-meets-virtual experiential campaign achieves this by creating a fully immersive experience for both virtual and in-person attendees. It fostered what Gen Z loves most about TikTok – influencers and creating their own videos with TikTok’s tools – and created an opportunity for viewers to become part of the campaign. This interactivity spurred real-world action, UGC, and drew huge numbers to attend (and shop) the event.
You can read more about our campaign in our Ellesse TikTok case study here. Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about influencer marketing, check out our advice on How to Perfect Your Influencer Campaign.
Experiential marketing is also a key strategy for dating app Tinder. As the first mobile-first app heralding the normalcy of online dating amongst millennials and Gen Z, it was vital for Tinder to establish a strong presence in young people’s everyday lives. This means taking their marketing experience into the real-life realm.
One of the ways Tinder has achieved this is through working with US colleges and student ambassadors. A great example is the dating app’s “Swipe Off” competition between US colleges, in which the university with the most “right swipes” won a free live performance from rapper Cardi B. University of Massachuetts Amherst won. Check out this student’s footage from the performance below:
Building music events into the Tinder customer experience isn’t the only area where the app is using experiential marketing to build its brand identity. Tinder put up a “Pride Slide” in New York City to celebrate Pride in June 2019, with the slogan “slide into your senators’ DMs” on the side. The length of the slide (30 feet) represented the 30 states that have anti-discriminatory laws protecting the LGBTQ+ community.
For each person that rode the slide, Tinder donated $10 toward efforts to pass the Equality Act. Nearly 1,500 people got involved with the experiential campaign by riding the slide, raising around $15,000 to help end LGBTQ+ discrimination.
What you can learn:
The reason these experiential marketing campaigns work? They tap into the mindset of Gen Z. This demographic ranks Cardi B amongst the top artists that represent their generation. Tinder has also demonstrated how it can represent Gen Z’s values through its experiential marketing strategy. One in five US Gen Zers identify as LGBTQ+, and over 45% of American teens say they want to hear more from brands around LGBTQ+ issues.
For more tips on marketing mobile apps, read our article on App Marketing for Gen Z. Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about connecting your brand with Pride month, read our guide, Gen Z and Pride; How Brands can Show Support
In 2022, experiential marketing can turn real-life interactions into digital experiences. A great example of this comes from subscription video and streaming service, Paramount+’s recent out-of-home marketing campaign, in which 400 drones created a colossal, scannable QR code in the sky in downtown Austin, Texas, to promote Halo, an upcoming sci-fi series based on the Xbox franchise.
Viewers who took out their smartphone to scan the display were led to a trailer for the show. The QR code formation was followed by a message spelling out in purple, “#HaloTheSeries streams Mar 24” as well as the Paramount+ logo.
This campaign bridged the digital and physical worlds, and feels particularly relevant in the post-pandemic era, where customers have become accustomed to using QR codes to learn more about products, services and activations – a result of corporations seeking to streamline shopping experiences over lockdowns. This is especially true of the ‘digital native’ generation. In fact, According to market research from The Drum/YouGov, 75% of Gen Z respondents plan on using QR codes in the future.
What you can learn:
This campaign presents a fascinating concept for brands to consider: how real-life stunts can turn physical experiences into digital ones. Taking digital-first experiences into the non-digital world leverages established behaviours but brings an aspect of novelty to them. This means brands can direct how users will interact with the experience, but also guarantees they grab attention; a surefire way to amplify brand reach.
It is important to consider how these experiential marketing campaigns are interpreted by customers, however. To win the affection of Gen Z in particular, these experiences must inspire and help them, rather than irritate them by inserting brand interactions where they don’t want to see them.
5. Benefit Cosmetics
With advances in technology, there’s no reason why experiential marketing can’t take place fully online. The virtual world is just as capable of providing memorable experiences; but as we’ve explained, they must offer more than simply the virtue of “being online” to attract Gen Z’s attention.
Benefit Cosmetics’ marketing strategy had to be re-thought during the pandemic, as lockdown rules kept customers from exploring new products in store. Their response? Look to VR. With virtual reality technology, the brand was able to launch the ‘Lashtastic Virtual-Media Campaign’ to promote their new Magnet Extreme Lengthening Mascara.
Users were encouraged to access Benefit’s Virtual Reality platform where, via augmented reality technology, they were able to use their phone cameras to search their surrounding area for tokens. These tokens could then be exchanged for discounts, products, or online consultations.
What you can learn:
The use of AR meant that Benefit’s campaign was incredibly immersive, and still took place in customers’ physical space, even though they were miles away from their nearest stores. It was novel – but it was also useful. The gamified element meant it was fun, and it was a risk-free method for participants to gain more value and information. With a reported conversion rate of over 50%, the campaign is proof that experiential marketing can be digital-first and still deliver a great experience that attracts customers to your brand.
To learn more about how VR and AR tech can level up your marketing campaigns, check out our article on VR marketing here.
Experiential marketing after the pandemic
We’ve all been barred from the real-life experiences that punctuated our lives before the pandemic. As Coronavirus settles from fresh disaster into a more managed threat, consumer appetite for in-person events is growing. Remembering this craving for fun – especially amongst younger generations, who feel they have “missed out” on life experiences in their formative years – will be key for creating brand campaigns that win the hearts of new customers.
Gen Z may be digital natives, but they are all-too aware that staying connected online is “no substitute for real human interaction”. Missing out on events such as graduation ceremonies, proms, theatre performances and sporting events is a particular sore point.
They want to have memories of celebrating and being celebrated for their achievements, and they want images of these events to remember and share. After all, this is a generation known for mixing a nostalgic outlook with digital pioneerism.
This is what brands should remember when considering experiential marketing campaigns. Creating an opportunity for Gen Z to connect with their peers, have fun, and become “the star” – with an opportunity for aesthetically pleasing content to share on social media – will inspire a huge uptick in brand sentiment.
As for online events? The same rules apply – but brands should also explore other ways they can ensure online events bring added value.
Take Verzuz, a web series that features battles between famous musicians. One episode hosted on Instagram Live featuring R&B stars Brandy and Monica garnered 1.2 million simultaneous views. But the musicians weren’t the only pull: this episode was raising money for non-profit When We All Vote, which is dedicated to increasing participation in elections across the US.
Brands should think about how to connect their brand to their customers’ needs and values – be they social, nostalgic, ethical, educational or inspirational – to increase initial participation, but also the likelihood of attendees sharing their experiences with their network.
Why is experiential marketing so powerful?
Every company knows that creating a positive lasting impression amongst consumers is key to establishing long-lasting brand loyalty.
As Gen Z steps up to become the biggest consumer generation, their attitudes towards marketing strategies matter more and more. Their dislike of traditional marketing tactics and advertising means that brands have to get more creative in order to achieve positive customer engagement, and standing out is vital to establishing a connection.
The power of experiential marketing lies in its ability to address several of the aspects of marketing that most appeal to this headstrong generation: personalisation, social shareability, and value-sharing.
Brands should remember the much-discussed research that found Millennials were choosing to spend on experiences over possessions – and note that Gen Z is even more experience-orientated than millennials.
Plus, experiential marketing events are fun! And the impact of light-hearted experiences for Gen Z should not be underestimated, especially since the pandemic.
So if your brand is thinking of embracing experiential marketing (whether that’s through the magic of digital experiences such as VR or influencer brand ambassadors, or in-person events such as a pop-up shop or experiential stunt, or a hybrid) get in touch to learn how your campaign can benefit from our Gen Z expertise.
For more info on tailoring your marketing strategy to reach Gen Z and command customer loyalty, check out our other insights: