Connection and shared experiences are having a moment: What do brands need to know?


Connection and shared experiences are having a moment: What do brands need to know?

By Devora Rogers, Chief Strategy Officer, Alter Agents

This month I traveled to San Antonio, Texas to experience the eclipse and what was supposed to be four minutes of totality. Due to cloud cover, we got less than that but it was still amazing to be among family, friends and strangers – all talking about an experience beyond our daily lives for which we were making time. Like the other 32 million people who found themselves in the path of totality, we stopped everything to watch this celestial event unfold. Our family watched it at an RV park in Medina, Texas where folks had set up telescopes and cameras and rugs to lay down in hopes of a glimpse of the corona. I made deviled eggs and an icebox strawberry shortcake; my father-in-law grilled hot dogs. It was maybe the most American thing I’ve ever done. 

This eclipse-mania was preceded by a series of other unifying, cultural zeitgeisty moments: Beyonce’s Texas Hold ‘Em released at the Super Bowl. Then her Cowboy Carter proceeded to break record after record with her album topping the Billboard 200 and becoming the most streamed album in a single day on Spotify. Across my FYP on TikTok I saw grandmas, couples, and kids of all backgrounds and colors in western gear dancing their hearts out to America’s First Lady of Music. 

Just a few months ago, Taylor Swift created a similar tectonic shift with her Eras tour, followed by her concert movie premier. I didn’t make it to that one, but read about people dancing in the aisles, singing along with her at the top of their lungs and Seattle reported that the impact of the crowds at the concert showed up on seismic registers

And before that there was Barbenheimer…the epic joining of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer which folks planned for weeks, live streamed, and dressed up for – all for an outing to the movie theater. 

All this points to something that we mused about during the pandemic: we are craving shared, universal moments of connection. We have been cooped up in our homes on Zoom. We have been isolated on social media. For years now, we have fought with our neighbors and friends over politics and on Facebook. But there are a few transformative, time-stopping events that tell us that we’re hungry for more than this strictly digital life. We want to be together. We don’t want to experience a continental divide between us. 

It also points to a wave of so-called “girl spending”, first dubbed due to the huge economic impact of some of the events I mention above. Spending was so high for these landmark moments, particularly among women and girls, that some even got their own names and extended far beyond the events themselves: “Beyonce bump” for increased spend at black-owned businesses and beyond; the “Swift economy” which brings big bucks into all the cities where she performs; and a “Barbiecore” which has extended into clothes, fast food, hair care, home decor and more. As NPR recently noted: “We found out that when girls open their wallets, economies roar.” More women are working, and they aren’t afraid to spend their money on big experiences and big-ticket purchases. Marketers and brands would be wise to take note. 

I asked my colleagues at Alter Agents if I was imagining some of these trends. Here’s’ what they had to say: 

“I went to the Eras concert with my friend and was so surprised by how nice everyone was to each other, like it was a group of 70,000 friends hanging out. Talking with strangers, people nearly doing photoshoots for people they had just met, sharing bracelets. It was really cool to see and I had never been to a concert of hers before so I was very surprised.”

“The friendship bracelet thing was so cool…people took that from one line of one song and turned it into this huge cultural moment where even celebrities were making and exchanging them at concerts.”

“My mom (74) dragged my dad (75) to see the Eras movie. They were given friendship bracelets by two little girls at the theater. They were so enchanted – talked about it for days. “Did we tell you …” Yes, mom. Ten times already. It was very cute.”

Many women have similar anecdotes and stories related to the surge of cultural phenomena. But although these events have shown a spotlight on women, and their spending power, the need for shared, tangible experiences that unite us is not gender-specific. People are looking beyond their digital worlds and this behavior is driving significant shifts in not only spending patterns and the economy, but also in rising expectations for genuine connection. Brands will need to take note of these shifts, and deeply understand their audiences, in order to engage individuals as transformative, in-person experiences “eclipse” digital interactions.

Posted in

Thought Leadership Updates

Get updates in your email.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

More Posts