Marketing to millennials and the value of the experience economy

By Francesca Monticelli

27th March 2018

I feel like ‘how do brands market to millennials?’ is the million-dollar question. Quite literally millions of dollars as brands spend more and more budget trying to catch our attention.

But, we’re not attracted to buying sports cars, designer clothes or big houses (or, if we are, we’ve given up hope of getting our hands on them). Instead, we’re craving experiences over things and making memories rather than owning items that will eventually become obsolete. So this poses a challenge, how do you market to a group of people that are on the hunt for ‘something different’?

Experience economy

Enter the experience economy. A study by Barclaycard on consumer spending in 2017 showed there was a 12.2% increase in spend on experiences instead of things. And that’s us, the millennials, who are driving that growth.

We are more interconnected than ever, so it’s no surprise that when we spend our money we are keen for it to be on a moment we can share with those around us. Digital platforms enhance that moment—we migrate towards spaces that allow us to share and explore while retaining the feeling that the segment of the world we’re experiencing is personal. So, naturally, our exchanges with brands are similar. We often (whether we realise it or not) expect additional benefits from the brands we support. We want to feel like they’re listening. We don’t just want the goods or services; we yearn for the ‘experience’ to get the all-round deal.

Immersive entertainment

This has led to the rise in immersive theatre and VR experiences adding an extra layer to the entertainment industry. A new experience catered to millennials seems to pop up week in week out, particularly in London.  However, the market does not seem to saturate. Whilst you have established brands contributing to the experience economy, like Barney’s in New York – which introduced in store a virtual dance studio – there are also completely new companies creating experiences for those that want to do something more exciting than going to the pub on Wednesday night. Technology is at the heart of this.

What you get out of these experiences is entirely dependent on you, whether you decide for the experience to be passive or active. In An Evening Of Meat, a 6-course immersive dining experience with a tinge of politics, you are actively participating. Go to the Spice Girls’ reunion gig, and you’re a passive participant. Either way, you’re experiencing an emotion, and millennials are eager to splash the cash on the aforementioned, rather than a designer purse.

What can you do?

It’s clear that brands need to give people something memorable, something they can connect with, something that makes them feel like less of a distant consumer and more of a participant.

When they succeed, they’ll have a mobile and social generation of consumers who can’t wait to share their experience.

This is the best time to be a millennial who is being marketed to. Imagine the weird and wonderful things that are going to continue to crop up.