Playing the Game

06.08.20214 min read

Forget luxuries. Experiences are the new status symbol. Here’s how to make that change count for brands.


Relationships are the new commodities. This knowledge can be anchored in the ways brands behave - to help us reach new consumers. In short, we need to think differently about how we deliver physical and digital events. Are you prepared to play that game? Here are five points to note.

Take advantage of the storytelling opportunity

An emotional commercial has a hard time unfolding its effect after the umpteenth viewing, but the brand experience can create new experiences within an environment, and appeal to the emotional level in the process. As psychology tells us, stage a brand experience with imagination and mood and it - and the brand itself - will be cemented, positively, in the consumer's memory. This is one way bonding between brands and consumers works.

The progressive brands know how to gain influence - and create community

Polestar and Mercedes have pop-up stores touring Germany and China. Netflix is investing in its own large-scale cinema in New York for film premieres, Microsoft is setting up experience centres where you can't buy anything, and Harley Davidson is offering full service for motorcycle tours on the world's most famous routes. Experiential marketing like this not only attracts new customers, it helps build communities, by creating buzz. Customers – and particularly Gen Z – visit, and then do what comes naturally to them. They share their experience, and the brand message, on social media. Organic reach is the result.

Let the games commence

Brands can enter the gaming space - but a deep understanding of the world is essential to making a memorable experience. It’s worth studying the thought leaders for this generation to see how it’s done. Of Fortnite’s 350m users, 27m listened to the virtual concert by hip hop artist Travis Scott. Lil Nas X, meanwhile, had 33m people for his concert on Roblox. Tik Tok and Twitch are additional platforms where events can be broadcast in a way that will get Gen Z talking.

Put the customer first

Understanding a brand alone is no longer enough. You want to surprise, to delight, to create buzz, and evoke emotion. Think creatively about the customer’s journey, their predilections and their community at the heart of the concept. That way, you’ll engineer a personal encounter between brand and customer, and encourage an emotional relationship on which trust and loyalty are built. At the end of the day, it’s all about that feeling.

If social media can feel like a crowded airport terminal where everyone is allowed, but no one feels particularly excited to be there, digital campfires offer a more intimate oasis where smaller groups of people are excited to gather.

— Sara Wilson “The Era of Anti-Social Social Media,” Harvard Business Review

Get around the digital campfire

Of course, in the modern world, real-life experience is only part of the strategy. The hype around a project will grow exponentially when it’s discussed around users’ ‘digital campfires’. A term popularised by strategist Sara Wilson in early 2020, this translates to the micro-communities found in the online life of Gen Z: the WhatsApp groups, the Instagram Close Friends groups, and video games like Fortnite, where users chat as well as play. Place your brand experience here, and the connection feels genuine - like a word of mouth recommendation. And whatever generation it is that’s under discussion, that’s priceless.

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