Youth marketing

Offline adventures: The resurgence of IRL experiences among Gen Z

Written by
Izzy Hall
Published on
March 22, 2024
Last updated
April 2, 2024

What this article covers

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In 60 seconds… 

  • Gen Zers are building connections across the world online and then extending these relationships by meeting IRL
  • Experiential marketing allows brands to get their values across, offer personalized experiences, and boost social engagement
  • Gen Z expects hybrid experiences from brands - something that they can attend IRL and then post about online

They may be a generation of digital natives, but where does Gen Z stand on IRL marketing and experiences? Are they moving away from traditional offline activities in favor of online interactions? Or is there a resurgence in their desire for new and unique in-person experiences? And how on earth can you manage it all?! 

Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. In this blog, we’ll be exploring the evolving attitudes of Gen Z toward IRL experiences, with the help of four expert voices: Grace Miller (The Diary of a CEO), Jacee Scoular (GARAGE), Christine Osazuwa (Shoobs) and Patrick Holly (Upwork). 

We’ll be looking at how you can tap into the preferences of this dynamic demographic and, of course, sharing actionable insights into how you can adapt your strategies to secure the spending and loyalty of this generation. 

The current state of IRL among Gen Z

Okay, so, spoiler: Gen Z loves the IRL world. They love any excuse to head to the pub, hit the highstreet, or gather their friends together at a music festival. But they also love the online world. They want notifications, social media content, and Discord. 

In the words of Gen Z icon Hannah Montana, they want the best of both worlds. 

This generation’s trust in digital marketing is complicated, and they don’t like being directly advertised or sold to (if you think that’s difficult, brace yourself for Gen Zalpha, who can spot marketing from a mile away!). This means that, as a touchpoint between brands and consumers, OOH and experiential marketing make for a refreshing change.  

One thing we speak about a lot when it comes to Gen Z is community: whether online or offline, this generation wants connection. And whilst we see this clearly on platforms like TikTok or Reddit, the world of IRL, of course, perfectly lends itself to communities. Now, Gen Zers are building online connections across the world and then extending these relationships by meeting IRL, bonding over shared projects, passions, and communities. 

We spoke to Grace Miller, Head Failure and Experimentation for Steven Bartlett & The Diary of a CEO, about the power of The Diary of a CEO’s community: “At Steven’s live events, we get to interact with [the community] and meet those names from the screen in-person. 

“The best part about being to see these people at events is you see that … there’s a common denominator: people wanting to better themselves/their lives. There’s nothing common about their looks - it’s all about their emotions and passions.” 

The beauty of the online is its ability to overcome geography when building communities. The joy of the real world is taking these relationships to the next level. 

The power of experiential marketing

It’s fair to say that brick-and-mortar stores aren’t going anywhere anytime soon: it’s these physical spaces where Gen Z can get those unique, immersive experiences that they crave.

But what about experiential marketing? Those IRL, event-based marketing activities that allow audiences to be immersed in and interact with brands? Well, spoiler: these aren’t going anywhere either. In fact, Gen Z wants more of them. 

“Experiential marketing plays a pivotal role in reaching new and younger audiences”, Patrick Holly, VP of Creative at Upwork, says. “Despite their preference towards hybrid and remote work, Gen Zers really value authentic in-person connection in the right environments, especially after spending their formative years on Zoom screens at the height of the pandemic. 

“Brands have an opportunity to create memorable experiences for young audiences that help them to get ahead of the competition by making memories and building long-term loyalty and affinity.” 

You heard him: loyalty and affinity. Now you’re interested. 

And, because Gen Z wants the best of both worlds, they’re expecting hybrid experiences from brands - something that they can attend IRL and then post about online. Peer-to-peer marketing is the most successful kind when it comes to digital marketing and Gen Z, so your aim should be for shoppers to take to their phones to talk online about your brand’s IRL experiential marketing. 

So, to summarise: experiential marketing allows brands to get their values across, offer personalized experiences, and boost social engagement. In turn, this leads to increased brand awareness, increased sales, and a stronger connection between brand and user.

Case studies 


A fun clothing brand for Gen Z, GARAGE is expanding rapidly across the US from its hometown in Montreal, Canada. Jacee Scoular, VP of Marketing at GARAGE, says that one of their secrets to their success is the ability of online engagement to drive IRL traffic and conversion. 

“We have spent SO much time with our customers IRL this past year in GARAGE”, Jacee says. “Our largest effort was given to celebrating the opening of our new stores across the US this past year, taking the brand’s total to 100 locations!  We wanted to focus on deepening the relationship with our consumers in every market we moved into by creating unique and memorable experiences with them as they shopped with us. 

“We also have focused on extending that IRL engagement to a more regular cadence that keeps them coming back.” 

Spotify Greasy Tunes Café

Marketing agency Seed partnered up with Spotify in 2022 for their IRL project, The Spotify Greasy Tunes Café. 

The cafe saw fans and artists come together to celebrate music and community. From rising Gen Z talent to musicians and podcasters, fans came together to engage IRL with their favorite creators, all whilst tucking into an all-day breakfast. 

So why did this work? Well, the whole event was playful, fun, intimate, and crucially, Instagram-friendly. It encouraged the lines between online and offline to be seamlessly blurred throughout. 

Overall, 92% of conversations online about the Greasy Tunes Café drove positive sentiment, while the overall reach of the @spotifyUK handle peaked at 56.7M for the live week. 

TravelTok: From screen to beach 

For Gen Z, TikTok isn’t just a social media app. It’s a search engine. It’s also the ultimate example of algorithm-to-IRL, with #TravelTok taking over FYPs and inspiring young people to travel to new places. Whether it’s location, accommodation, or activities you’re after, TikTok’s got your back. 

Thanks to behind-the-scenes content, reviews, and authenticity, TikTok is Gen Z’s one-stop shop when it comes to booking IRL experiences, making it a vital asset for travel brands. Take travel and tour operator Journee, for example, who work with creators to showcase their offerings and the experiences on offer. 

@hannahzaslawski Would you book a holiday with no idea where you'll be going? ✈️ Well that's what I'm doing with @Journee I will have no idea where I'll be going until I get to the airport! Any ideas where you think I'll end up? #journee #travel #surprisetrip #adventure #trip #solofemaletraveler ♬ original sound - Hannah 🌝

The future of events and IRL experiences

So, with the IRL and URL worlds continuing to blur, what does the future look like? We spoke to Christine Osazuwa, CSO at ticketing platform Shoobs.

"In real life events are certainly very much back!", says Christine. "Though, there's still very much a need for virtual events as not everyone feels comfortable in crowds due to various factors that may pre-date, be result of or appeared after COVID. Because of that it's still important to ensure you're being accessible to a wide array of audiences. That's often where virtual events, experiences or just acknowledgement in some way makes sense. I think it varies for every artist but thinking about how to appeal to fans that can't attend events in person such as making tour merch available online, or making live recordings available is key.

"Overall, with so much competition for money and attention constantly from fans, I think the future of events will need to be provide unique experiences for fans", Christine continues. "There will always be the standard concert experience but bringing in more to that experience is what will develop superfans and evangelists for you as an artist. This can be small things to bridge the online and offline world such as letting fans vote on a track for the set list to more far reaching things like fully immersive experiences."

So there you have it: being unique, regardless of your sector, is the key to success!

Top tips for connecting with Gen Z using IRL experiences 

  • Focus on the idea of community and bringing people together. Offer your passionate online community additional content that they wouldn’t get in the online world.
  • Personalized experiences and products are the key to Gen Z's hearts. Use data and tech to make your IRL interactions even more inviting. 
  • UGC is the key to success! Leverage platforms like TikTok and Instagram by encouraging consumers to share their IRL experiences online to build that important brand awareness and continue the conversation. 

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