How to Engage Gen Z when Planning Events
It might seem like only a short while ago when marketing to Millennials was a priority for event planners. But now, Gen Z is the new demographic on the block with a whole new set of interests, values and attitudes, meaning that it’s right back to the drawing board in order to appeal to this new generation of adults.
No matter the scale or purpose of your events, it’s highly likely that at least some of your attendees will belong to Gen Z, with this number bound to grow over the next few years. Designing events and adapting your marketing strategy to appeal to Gen Z is therefore a priority for plenty of event planners that want to capitalise on a new demographic, and this article shares all the trends and strategies you might need to achieve success with Gen Z events.
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What is Gen Z?
‘Gen Z’ stands for ‘generation Z’ and is a term used to describe the demographic born after 1997. There are plenty of jokes and stereotypes about this generation, but as an event planner, what you need to know is that this group is just entering the professional world and likely starting to make up more and more of your target audience.
Whilst the oldest members of Gen Z are only in their early twenties, they’re still a demographic that plenty of brands are keen to capture the attention of. The expectations, values and priorities of this generation are very different to the ‘Millenials’ that came before them, which means that if you’re planning an event with this group in mind, you’ll need to adopt quite a different approach.
Gen Z Marketing Trends
Generation Z is known for their digital literacy and quick responses to popular trends and stories, which can make marketing to them quite a daunting prospect. However, certain approaches have emerged that are much more successful at appealing to and engaging Gen Z in marketing, which is a great starting point when it comes to planning and advertising an event.
The first of these is to use video when marketing to Gen Z, especially short-form videos. The rise of platforms like TikTok (whose user base is 60% Gen Z) is down to this generation’s love for this kind of rapidly consumable content, so whether you’re using that platform specifically or just copying the style of TikTok videos with short, visual marketing content, you’re going to appeal to this demographic.
It’s been found that members of the Gen Z demographic in the UK spend an average of 10.5 hours per day online. A huge percentage of marketing efforts targeting this generation is therefore also online, with digital marketing strategies dominating almost all of the trends relating to Gen Z marketing. So when it comes to advertising your event, you’re going to want to focus on an online approach, geared towards mobile users in particular.
This love of digital content means that one of the recurrent themes in Gen Z marketing trends is that a lot of content is designed for or shared on social media. There’s no reliable formula for what can make a piece of content go viral, but marketers targeting this generation will have this front of mind when they’re creating social media content that is short, easily shared, relatable and culturally relevant.
Gen Z is generally a more diverse group than generations that have come before, regarding race and cultural identity but also sexuality and gender identity. This means that if you want your event to resonate with this market, you need to ensure that it’s organised with every identity in mind to be as inclusive as possible and advertised in a way that demonstrates this inclusivity.
A study by the National Retail Federation identified that 55% of Gen Z want to support brands that are “socially responsible” and this is definitely reflected in the kinds of marketing that they respond best to. Events that are clear about their values and purpose when it comes to topics like sustainability and social justice are likely to resonate more with this audience, and you’re likely to get a lot more engagement if your event is connected to or supporting a social cause in some way.
Remember, however, that performative activism won’t get you anywhere. If you’re going to take a stand with brand values, make sure that you’re prepared to go all the way in embodying them.
Gen Z marketing trends show that this generation wants to support brands they can trust to make a positive difference, and this theme of trust also appears in the trend of influencer marketing and user-generated content. This demographic is wary of and wise about how false information can be circulated on the internet and used to create a false image of a brand and its products or events.
Therefore, Gen Z tends to look for ‘real-life’ recommendations from users online before making a purchasing decision. Influencer marketing is directly connected to this, with many of Gen Z following and interacting with figures on social media that they trust, or looking for user-generated reviews of products and experiences to decide whether they’re worth engaging with.
Finally, when it comes to Gen Z marketing trends that are popular right now, data from Exploding Topics shows that nostalgia, particularly for the 2000s, is very prominent amongst this demographic. Plenty of brands have already taken this into account when marketing towards Gen Z, using cultural references, design elements and aesthetics related to the era, and with nostalgia search interest still climbing, it’s likely to be a relevant trend for a while.
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7 Gen Z Marketing Strategies for Events
Now we’ve covered some of the key trends when it comes to Gen Z marketing insights, what are the best ways to use this information when you’re planning an event? Below are seven strategies you can use that are ideal for engaging a Gen Z audience.
Offer Something Unique
When it comes to events, creating an engaging experience from start to finish needs to be a priority, especially if you’re catering towards Gen Z. Not only does this demographic generally have a short attention span, meaning you’ll need to work hard to keep them engaged throughout, but they’ll also be looking for the kinds of unique experiences that are new, exciting and that they won’t have already seen or attended.
The range of choices that Gen Z has at their fingertips (thanks to the internet) means that they won’t settle for a lacklustre event experience, and can likely go and find something better elsewhere. You need to be creative when it comes to venues, decor, speakers and vendors, entertainment, and how exclusive your event is. Make sure that you’re offering an experience that isn’t available anywhere else, and then you’ll have caught Gen Z’s attention.
Be Ready to Respond
Another consequence of Gen Z having the internet at their fingertips is that they’re used to instant gratification, whether this comes from looking for information, finding a product or receiving a response. If you want to get on the good side of this demographic and ensure that they make up a good proportion of your attendees, you need to be ready to issue responses to questions quickly and send out useful information in good time.
Gen Z tends to go directly to social media to interact with brands instead of going through traditional customer service channels, so it’s a good idea to have a member of the team ready to respond within at least 24 hours to any comments or mentions that you get connected to your event. This will also help users to feel more connected to your brand and engaged with the event, as direct contact and communication create the sense of a relationship, and Gen Z is particularly fond of this.
Focus on the Right Platforms
It’s impossible to talk about Gen Z without referencing particular social media platforms. Unlike their Millennial predecessors who are frequent Facebook users, this demographic is far more active on Instagram and Tiktok and will respond better to campaigns on these platforms.
This doesn’t apply to every group within the ‘Gen Z’ audience, so you’re advised to look into the exact social media and internet habits of whoever you’re targeting to make sure you’re going to be sharing content where potential attendees are spending time. But it’s definitely worth bearing in mind that some platforms have many more Gen Z users than others, and this is where you should be focusing your budget.
Create a ‘Shareable’ Space
Speaking of Instagram, one way to really engage Gen Z attendees at an event is to make the space as ‘Instagrammable’ as possible. This means choosing a venue and decorating it in an aesthetically pleasing, unusual or particularly striking way to encourage attendees to document the event because of how it looks.
This doesn’t just need to be for the benefit of Instagram, although it’s one of the most relevant platforms in this instance as it’s designed for visual content. If you focus on designing your event venue so that attendees will want to photograph it, you’re going to get a lot more social media coverage, catch the attention of more Gen Z, and increase your brand awareness.
Encourage Content Creation
Leading on from that last point, a great way to ensure that Gen Z attendees are engaged with your events is to facilitate opportunities for content creation throughout. Designing a shareable space is one tactic, but what about using an event hashtag, offering additional perks to attendees who share content whilst they’re at the event, or including QR codes around the space that take attendees straight to your brand’s social media accounts?
Encouraging content creation will help reduce passive attendees and is particularly good for appealing to Gen Z attendees, as many will want to share their experiences with their followers. This all comes with the added benefit that you’ll get people talking about our event online and their followers will all be exposed to your brand and the event, increasing awareness and potentially increasing the attendance of your next event.
Collaborate with Influencers
We’ve already touched upon the fact that Gen Z engages with a lot of influencer marketing, as they trust the reviews and opinions of figures on social media and are wary of believing a brand’s claims without proof. If you want to reach more of a Gen Z audience with your events, partnering with influencers that have this demographic in their following is the best way to increase attendance and improve engagement through a trusted recommendation.
Influencer marketing can involve a lot of different approaches, from simple partnerships paying for an influencer to promote your event or run a competition, to creating collaborative content and inviting influencers to speak at your event. What matters is that you choose an influencer with a Gen Z follower demographic that you’re trying to target, and ensure that they promote or even just discuss your brand in a way that builds positive associations and trust.
Consider the Impact
The last of our Gen Z marketing strategies is linked to the earlier trend we discussed of this demographic favouring brands that make a positive impact on their world and have clear and relatable values. If you want to engage more of this demographic in your audience, consider how you can have a social impact with your event so that attendees are doing good by attending and supporting your cause. This can be done quite easily by partnering with a charity as part of your event, or donating a portion of your profit to a good cause.
You can also consider the impact of your event from a sustainability point of view by choosing sustainable suppliers, encouraging green transportation to and from the event, and also hosting events in venues that use sustainable energy. Many brands are making sustainability a goal at the moment, in light of the current climate crisis, and as the generation most likely to be affected, Gen Z is very keen to support these kinds of causes.
Gen Z may have previously been the butt of jokes about avocados and smartphone addictions, but they’re now changing the way that marketing is approached across plenty of industries, and MICE is no exception. It can be tricky to strike the right tone when you’re targeting a new demographic, so we recommend that you slowly start introducing approaches catering to Gen Z trends when planning events, review the impact of these, and then grow your strategy from there.
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