Gen Y Are Driving Demand for Brand Values & Experiential Brand Encounters.
By 2025, Gen Y is predicted to account for 45% of the high-end market however this cohort is too savvy for traditional marketing tools telling them that a product is decent. After all, they’re not just after a good product or prestige...they want values, authenticity and immersive experiences.
According to a Bain & Company study, conducted in collaboration with Fondazione Altagamma, luxury spending was expected to grow by up to 4% in the last year despite a drop in sales in the previous year. One of the industry’s main drivers are affluent Gen Yers who's values and expectations are different to preceding generations. While brands previously created products to embody the ideals of exclusivity and aspiration, that's no longer enough. “Community, authenticity and transparency play an important part in how they purchase luxury goods,” says journalist Limei Hoang.
Federica Levato, partner at Bain & Company, explains that “product for a customer now is taken for granted. There is a whole other set of expectations like the online experience, the in-store experience, living the story of the brand. It’s why the experience needs to be immersive.”
It’s all about feelings. The premise is that your brand creates an emotional connection and a positive memory for your consumer so that they can associate those feelings and memories with you. Naturally a multi-sensory experience supercharges your bond by immersion into the world that your brand (specifically your brand values) creates for them. Brands and their agencies have sometimes got away with calling the handing out of free product on the street experiential. But a little bit of signage and some promotional staff in branded clothing does not equal to experiential at all.
As Gen Y enter their peak consumption years (they're set to have spending power worth nearly $1.4 trillion by 2020) brands have to move beyond their usual spiel. With marketing fatigue a serious concern, shoppers are seeking out experiences. It's why Macy’s One Below offers an immersive in-store experience, designed to be snapped and shared online for the 83% of female Gen Yers who share their retail experiences on social networks. Hermès’s Scent Library provides an immersive shopping environment, featuring a dining room and knowledgeable ‘perfume librarians’. And another idea - that I’ve been involved with in previous years - is to pick out influential consumers, give them the tools they need, and let them bring your brand, via experiential, to their peers for themselves.
Bring Your Brand to Life By Making It Playful
One of the lines on the BornGloryUs website is ‘Deliver Unrelenting Wows’. Experiential can be a particularly powerful way to deliver that ‘wow’. We’ve even used the concept of experiential in playful online initiatives and campaigns.
I remember reading a marketing book many years ago called The Experience Economy. I don’t have it to hand to cite exactly, but I remember an example that was roughly: a cup of coffee in a rundown cafe might cost 50p, a coffee in a high-end cafe might cost £2, but a coffee where there is an experience (for example in an art gallery) could cost £4. People pay more when a product or brand can add more depth to their day and give them a story to share with their friends. The fact that they'll part with more cash is surely evidence that an experience is preferential. Immersive theatre, (where audience members dress up to align with the show and become actors themselves) for example, is gaining incredibly traction in London.
Refinery29 created 29Rooms during the New York Fashion Week, partly to highlight values. It showcased fashion brands through an imaginatively dressed building that catered to all the senses. Each room was highly interactive and designed to be explored. 20,000 people passed through the door during the four day event.
“29Rooms has set the bar for a new era of live social storytelling, and this is our most ambitious event to date. In our increasingly plugged-in world, people crave unique experiences that engage them IRL while simultaneously fueling content creation for their digital lives,” Refinery29 co-founder and Executive Creative Director Piera Gelardi said. “This year is full of thought-provoking creative moments: from a punching bag symphony that channels aggression into music, to a laughter-fueled car wash that evokes the transformative power of humor. Guests will explore a range of installations showcasing how art can inspire and spark action.”
Perhaps what this comes down to is that we’re never too old to play. Arguably play for grown-ups has never been so in demand, after all play is nature's means to facilitate learning, joy and connection, and we're all striving for those.