Building Brand Experiences in the Age of Cultural Fragmentation

Navigating the slipstream of globalization, technology, and social media, today’s consumers are increasingly breaking away from popular culture, making it more complex for brands to effectively reach them through a singular mass-market or mainstream moment. But experiential marketers should be optimistic. This rise in customer clanship also brings a wave of opportunities for brand experiences and live events to hit different, unlock fandom, and drive growth.

Want to learn more about how events and experiences can reach your niche audiences?

Mirror Mirror

Audiences and brands are constantly reflecting one another. Historically, brands held much of the power when it came to influencing popular culture. However, today, empowered by digital connectivity, it’s consumers themselves that are increasingly influencing both brand strategies and popular culture. A survey by Stackla found that 79% of people say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions, compared to 13% who are influenced by brand-generated content.

Shifting Scales

Society is no longer defined by singular, ubiquitous points of reference. While TV shows once drew massive national audiences, today, a seemingly never-ending number of niche streaming platforms, combined with greater media savviness, has enabled consumers to shift their attention to more niche passion points rather than simply tuning into whatever mainstream channels suggest.

It’s Personal

Today’s customers expect personalization. Increasingly, it’s customers themselves, along with creators and influencers, who hold the keys to unlocking credibility and traction for brands. YouTube’s 2023 Trends and Culture Report showed that 54% of people surveyed say they would prefer to watch creators breaking down a major event (e.g., Oscars, Grammys) rather than the event itself.

Co(ntent) Creation

It’s easy to think the all-encompassing nature of live events isn’t as personalized for individuals when compared with more traditional marketing channels. However, the inherent interactivity of live experiences enables audience-generated content, putting personalization in the hands of attendees themselves, and providing the opportunity to amplify an event further by sharing unique, organic content.

In a world where some of the biggest trends are defined by the ways fans make them their own, user-generated content drives brand credibility and trust through word of mouth. In fact, a popular survey conducted by Nielsen uncovered that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over other forms of advertising.

Designing an experience around interactivity and audience co-creation requires creative ideas that push the envelope. From the more tried-and-tested photo moments to filters and augmented reality (AR), creative ideas hold the keys to incentivizing audiences to create user-generated content and amplify their message even further across their personal channels.

The breakaway boom from mainstream TV and subsequent rise in streaming has enabled platforms to build a consumer products division similar to Disney. Instead of theme parks, its themed experiences leveraging their IP with elements of co-creation, and brands have a seat at the table. Netflix has built semi-permanent experiences around Squid Game and Bridgerton, each including deep levels of participation, audience generated content, & co-creation through game play & costuming.

Reaching Millions Through Co-Creation

Fostering co-creation, American Eagle delivered a customization experience focused on social good and custom fashion for influencers at their flagship New York store Generating 9 Million in social reach, 4.5 Million impressions, and 40k social engagements.

Niche vs. Mass Appeal

As audiences become increasingly granular, brands and marketers should zoom in on the subcultures where the audiences that matter most to them gather, understand what they stand for, and build experiences that bring those communities together.

Niche Appeal

When they’re not setting out to please everyone, brands have the power to push the experiential envelope and create something totally unique for a more niche and engaged audience. By aligning more closely with esoteric communities, brands have the specific parameters and opportunity to push creative ideas to new limits in ways that might not speak to the mass-market.

Pushing the Experiential Envelope

An ode to their rich history and niche audience community within Hip Hop culture, Sprite created a real world brand environment inspired by the NYC bodega. Transforming from a retail experience by day into a performance destination at night, mentions of Sprite in Hip-Hop conversations increased by 5,000% and the Sprite Corner saw over 919K social impressions.

Mass Appeal

On the flip side, if a specific event or experience aims to reach a mass-market audience, understanding cultural fragmentation can hold the key to unlocking effectiveness. With today’s access to a plethora of customer data and tools like AI, brands and marketers can more easily identify areas where audience interests overlap and creatively bring them to life through an event that resonates on an individual level, despite the audience being more diverse and fragmented than ever.

The Devil’s In The (Audience) Data

Gen Z are as diverse and fragmented as audiences come, but they share one passion in common… music. Coca-Cola invited attendees to an uplifting experience where they could make their own music through the simple act of play, seeing over 30,000 festival goers engage with the brand through co-creation and user generated content.

Brand Evangelism > Fandom

As subcultures become more mainstream and accessible, fandom continues to boom. 71% of respondents to a recent survey by Amazon and Twitch agreed that 'being a fan of something is cool,' and brands are already capitalizing on this trend through live experiences. Events like Fanatics Fest embrace fandom and collector culture, while platforms like Netflix and Spotify are following in Disney's footsteps and leaning into fandom by crafting their own live experiences.

High profile artists and celebrities are also putting themselves in the mix. From Hollywood stars investing in the US National Women's Soccer League, to artists like Tyler, the Creator & J Cole creating their own music festivals, public figures are flexing their fandom, bringing their audiences along for the ride, and delivering unique opportunities for brands.

When brands understand their audiences, what they stand for, and who they follow, strategic sponsorship activations or owned brand experiences can equip them with a unique opportunity to bring communities together and convert fans into full-blown brand evangelists.

Leveraging Fandom to Deliver the Ultimate Heist Experience

Shopify tapped into the fandom of YouTube sensation MrBeast to bring thousands of brand evangelists together for a high-octane scavenger hunt. The experience generated a wave of hype on social media with over 10 million video views, 2,300 shares, and 10,000 comments.

This is a scrolling statement as a test for the Scroller on the Contents template page
This is a scrolling statement as a test for the Scroller on the Contents template page

The 3 Stages Of Brand Advocacy


The creative execution of a physical event or experience can make a lasting first impression for potential fans. Taking things a step further, if brands design an event with co-creation, and social amplification in mind, brands can reach waves of new audiences and establish fandom.


In its most pure form, Fandom is an intense & novel movement that defines itself in opposition to a mainstream. An IRL event can often be the closest that communities of fans are likely to physically get to their shared passion points.


Experiences and events are a melting pot for Brand evangelists; the megafans willing to queue for hours to buy a pair of sneakers, the ones eager to showcase their association with a specific brand or subculture across their social media. Arguably, a brand’s most important audience.

To wrap…

With fewer ubiquitous social moments where everyone is paying attention to the same thing, today’s consumer landscape witnesses diverse communities celebrating thousands of fragmented moments in every corner of the globe. This presents brands with the opportunity to create events and experiences that foster intimacy among the esoteric communities that matter most to them, and to embrace the unique behaviors and values that bind them together.

Get in touch with us today to learn more.