Winning Over Gen Z In 2021? It’s All About Immersive

Today we are bringing you a guest post from one of our event partners. Hear from Alison Quinn, Head of XR Programmes at Yahoo Ryot Lab, about the tech innovations that brands should be investing in if they want to impress digital native Gen Z.

While the shift to digital media consumption is by no means a new trend, the cancellation of many physical events over the last year has led to consumers looking at immersive experiences with renewed purpose – as a way to reconnect, explore and engage with brands. As a result, brands looking to create meaningful connections with their audiences must embrace the acceleration of interactive, immersive, digital content with full force. This is particularly important for brands looking to reach younger audiences, whose tech-savvy nature has led to increasing expectations for offline events to have some form of digital double.

In fact, research by Verizon Media found that 54% of 18–24-year-olds say they appreciate it when brands “connect with them in new and innovative ways”. For brands looking to engage with these audiences, it isn’t a case of ‘should we?’ anymore, it’s a case of how should we?’. It’s no longer enough to just speak to your audiences. There needs to be a two-way dialogue, a conversation, a shared experience. All of which can be powered by the cutting-edge technologies available right now. What story am I telling through my campaign, and how can technology bring that story to life in new and exciting ways? Is 5G enabled for this activation and how is it utilised? What are the AR capabilities like and how do they compare to other brands? These are the types of questions that brands should now be asking themselves at the outset of any brainstorm for new creative campaigns.

One example of how these capabilities will have a huge impact on our lives is how we watch sport, promising better quality on video streaming, immersive experiences and real-time AR overlay. This will allow viewers to watch the game from multiple angles, including cameras on the players and referees themselves. 5G technology will also help to supercharge these emerging capabilities, allowing almost real-time connectivity at scale for digital experiences that require huge amounts of data. For audiences who prefer an encore to extra time, this technology can also translate into the music world, transforming the way concertgoers can experience live music. Imagine being able to ‘meet’ your favourite band member after the performance and virtually interact with them in real-time,  making the experience truly personalised and bespoke for you – something that’s becoming increasingly important for the Gen Z audience. In fact, 75% are more likely to engage with or buy a product if it’s customisable. It’s therefore a real game changer for the sports and entertainment world – and one that will not only power engaging digital experiences, but also enrich the experiences for those in the physical stadium or arena itself.

Immersive experiences can also help brands form closer connections with their audiences, as demonstrated through our own immersive studio, Yahoo Ryot Lab’s The Fabric of Reality project – a fully immersive digital fashion show that was launched last year. The show brought together fashion designers and XR artists to take audiences on a unique journey exploring the story and narrative behind each of the collections. Guests were able to interact with each other, meet the artists and designers, virtually try on garments and even fly in some storyworlds. By immersing the audience in the stories the designers wanted to tell, 90% of those attending said it made them understand the designer better, 84% said it made them respect the designers more and 77% made them feel closer to the designer. This therefore demonstrates the huge opportunity for brands to leverage immersive capabilities to connect with their audiences more closely, and to do so at scale.

At Verizon Media, we understand that consumers nowadays, and particularly those in the 18-24 age bracket, are continually looking for the next big thing in the digital space. As the most tech-literate generation to date, engaging digital content and state-of-the-art technology are some of the most important factors that resonate with these audiences. However, as these capabilities increase and the technologies become more available at scale, these kinds of technologies will become mainstream, and audiences will begin to view what was ‘innovative’ as becoming predictable. The approach to marketing towards this generation therefore needs to be constantly evolving because the new generation of young adults – and the future generations coming through behind them – are constantly evolving. Continuing to listen to and understand the changing behaviours, values and ambitions of this audience, and then using these cutting-edge technologies to respond in an authentic and meaningful way is how marketers and brands can create a truly engaging campaign. 

Brands can certainly amplify their campaigns with technology that pushes boundaries, but the true power is always in the story and the narrative itself. It’s therefore critical for brands to ensure they’re using these latest technologies authentically and strategically rather than simply incorporating them because they can. They must be used to enrich the story, rather than become the story.

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