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Report: Gen Z Seeks Experiences Over Products

Speakers at Youth Marketing Strategy event

Gen Z shoppers are looking for products that offer unique experiences and align with their values, said Sarah Rooney, SVP and head of U.S. at brand strategy firm Huxly, during the recent Youth Marketing Strategy event in Brooklyn, New York. The presentation, “Why Consumer-Packaged Entertainment is the Ultimate Weapon to Win Gen Z,” explored a framework for marketing to the younger generation that focuses on experiences.

"From the design on the box to the way the product feels in your hand, every detail needs to be intentional and leave a lasting impression,” said Rooney. She emphasized the importance of crafting a cohesive brand story across culture, branding, and experience.

Rooney explained that sensory interaction can help food and beverage brands in the marketplace, adding that many elements of enjoying a product can be made into a deliberate consumer experience.

“We’re big fans of the iconic 'crack' when you bite into a Magnum ice cream,” she said. “It’s so much more than just an auditory detail–it's part of what makes the product so memorable.”

Andrew Wardlaw, chief ideas officer with affiliate company MMR Research Worldwide and co-host of the presentation, said that brands need to make “sensorial theater” a part of a brand strategy to help grow engagement and product memorability.

“This generation has never known anything other than exceptional quality, so brands must now activate experiences involving peak product moments that can truly pierce the consciousness of this cohort. This could be an unexpected or unusually potent sensory moment that sparks social sharing, whilst helping the brand become more remembered,” said Wardlaw.

The findings consolidate insights from roughly 700 chatbot conversations with Gen Z, as well as research into product unboxing experiences.