Ten tips to engage the next generation in your place brand and marketing strategy

Young people are a hugely influential demographic. They will be your future place ambassadors, and in just a few years, they will be a core market for visitation and investment. However, you need to move beyond traditional engagement approaches to reach an audience of Gen Z and under.

So, what does it take to catch the attention of these socially conscious, digital natives? Ten of our expert partners shared their advice on how you can adapt your approach to engage younger generations and foster lasting connections with your place.


Don’t be tokenistic.

Every location quite understandably wants to know the views of those who represent the future of the place as they develop their brand and marketing strategy. Having undertaken this in various places, here are some learning points from us: be realistic about what you’re going to get from this type of engagement as young people can find it challenging; don’t try to involve young people that are too young (under 11); ask them things they can actually enjoy and respond to such as draw an emoji that represents your place; don’t do this at all if you’re just being tokenistic; and most critically get young people to engage with young people peer to peer.

John Till, Director, thinkingplace

Build the foundations for a long-term relationship.

You need to be where they are. That means where they are online, in other media, or physically on-the-ground at events. To get them engaged, you need to understand their mentality and speak directly to them. It’s a combination of the right messaging and the right targeting to ask for direct ways to get them involved in a place branding and marketing development process. This also means being more authentically engaged on a regular basis to build that relationship.

Jessica McCarthy, President, Joy Riot

Lead with your values.

Being rebellious and questioning the status quo has always been part of being young, but today’s young generations probably have more reasons than most to agitate for change and be less inclined to believe traditional marketing hype. The cost of living, employment prospects, and mental health intertwine with bigger issues such as climate change and social justice to become burning concerns for Gen Z, and they need solutions fast. Meanwhile, declining car and house ownership, as well as respect for physical and mental health will all have an impact on what younger generations will look for from the places where they choose to live, study or work. In my experience, the most effective place brands are approaching younger generations with honesty and humility about how they can help this cohort achieve their personal goals and tackle the world’s big challenges at a local level. ‘Postcard attractions’ are less interesting to this group than demonstrating their place’s values; showing what they stand for and demonstrating social and environmental impact with tangible results.

Peter Jordan, Head of Insights, TOPOSOPHY


Embrace their activism.

Unlocking younger generation potential in place branding entails embracing their heavily social media-based activism, tending to their vocality, and ensuring that efforts align with reality – essentially avoiding Greenwashing. By acknowledging this dynamic, genuine connections can be cultivated through social media, an integral component of the modern day, to develop a brand that resounds with their values. Addressing their concerns about conflicts, climate change, and economic issues is paramount. Loud voices in tandem with tangible results will resonate with the youth.

Jose Filipe Torres, CEO, Bloom Consulting

Champion inclusivity.

The essence of captivating younger generations in your place brand and marketing strategy lies in a profound understanding of why authenticity and inclusivity matter. Gen Z and Millennials are discerning consumers who have grown up in an era of digital interconnectedness and social consciousness and, as such, demand more from the brands they engage with. Due to their sophisticated understanding of branding and societal dynamics, they advocate for a world where differences are celebrated, voices are heard, and your brand must be a beacon of acceptance and genuine digital connectivity. In a world overwhelmed with curated content and filtered experiences, they seek real stories, real people, and real experiences that reflect their values and aspirations. Moreover, they champion inclusivity, advocating for diversity and equality.

In the realm of modern branding, authenticity and inclusivity aren’t just buzzwords; instead, embracing these values is a powerful testament to your commitment to resonate deeply with the discerning tastes of younger generations and foster genuine connections that endure and shape the cultural landscape of tomorrow.

Katelyn Cuff, Business Development Coordinator, Hunden Partners

Showcase the quality of life you can offer young people.

Young people – and really all people – value flexibility now more than ever. During the pandemic, people reassessed what was important to them, and have re-prioritised family time and things that make them feel personally fulfilled, over the grind of long work hours and ‘hustle culture.’ We see smart employers marketing flexible working arrangements and access to local amenities (arts, culture, outdoor recreation) to attract new talent – and partnering with tourism and DMOs to emphasize and support those messages. Highlight what makes a place unique and partner with employers and economic development entities to ensure those experiences are accessible to those you are trying to engage.

Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, Director, Fourth Economy

Leverage technology to reach young people.

As is true with all brand messaging–and communications in general–one must meet an audience where they are. Whether we like it or not, most younger generations are tethered to their devices, even when out and about in the world. You need both physical and digital experiences – the places themselves, and the digital layer of storytelling that can be accessed through social media, wayfinding apps, augmented reality filters, or interactive screens for education or entertainment. Using technology as a layer of the built environment, you can create dynamic, layered ecosystems that connect with folks where they are and inspire whole communities.

Jamie Shaw, Partner, LMNL Studio

Prioritise authenticity and personalised experiences.

The secret to engaging younger generations in your place brand and marketing strategy lies in understanding their preferences, values, and behaviour in the digital age.

Prioritise authenticity and transparency in your brand messaging, as young people value real experiences over polished or staged content. To create personalised experiences that resonate with younger consumers, use data-driven insights to target your ad campaigns. Use short videos and interactive media on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, as visually appealing content is particularly popular among younger demographics. Finally, authentic storytelling can be a powerful tool; collaborate with influencers, and leverage highly targeted social media ads and user-generated content to capture younger audiences.

Tom Starr, Vice President of Global Destinations, Hospitality, Amadeus

Don’t fall in to the trap of trying to be ‘trendy.’

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ strategy. A lot happens between the ages of 15 and 35. So start with your brand. Make it modern, meaningful, authentic, and genuine. Work hard to build brand trust. Then think about relatable, shareable content – always on trend but never trying hard to be trendy. If it says it’s ‘cool,’ it isn’t.

Consider using influencers. Who resonates with younger consumers? On your social channels, keep it topical and relevant. Understand how the emerging generation interacts with technology. And, longer term, turn customers into brand advocates who’ll get interactive, creating and sharing their own content.

Nick Street, Executive Creative Director, We Are Fred


Tap into cultural moments and fandom when marketing to young people.

Young people are already playing a big role in shaping culture. As a core part of this generation’s creative expression, they’ve utilized social platforms like TikTok to find, curate and amplify artists – like Olivia Rodrigo – into extreme stardom in quick succession. And now brands are leveraging Rodrigo’s unofficial title of Queen of Gen Z to further engage her energetic and passionate fanbase to create partnerships that can expand her fans’ experiences. Just recently, Crumbl Cookies announced that they teamed up with the star to create “Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS Cookie” that will extend the fan experience beyond the confines of the concert venues of her U.S. tour and drive fans into Crumbl Cookies stores that are located near each tour stop to try the limited cookie.

This is a prime example of a brand tapping into a cultural moment surrounding a Gen Z icon like Rodrigo to further introduce and intertwine itself with the fan experience, in turn garnering chatter, shares and ultimately driving foot traffic to its stores. I hope to see more travel and tourism brands getting in on the cultural conversation to engage and attract Gen Z travellers in the near future.

Erin Carlson, Associate Director of Strategic Planning, MMGY Global

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