Five ways brands can get ahead at festivals

Festivals are moving away from muddy fields and substandard food
Festivals are moving away from muddy fields and substandard food

As brands gear up for a summer of festivals Tim Walsh, strategist at RPM, reveals how brands can tap into the experience economy.

The landscape has altered over the years, ‘showing up’ is no longer enough

We have said for years that brand experience is not just nice to have; that the experience people have with a brand is the definition of that brand - there is no better stage on which to put this into practice than at festivals.

Brands that understand this are now playing an important role in shaping the content at festivals as they attempt to connect and entice the lucrative and influential millennial and Gen Y audience.

The landscape has altered over the years, ‘showing up’ is no longer enough. Brands will only cut through by offering real, relevant and purposeful messages, which if done well will carry their brand purpose into the hearts and minds of consumers and across every channel imaginable.

They also need activation that not only exists on site, but drives engagement and participation pre, during and post event.

Here are our 5 trends brands need to get onboard with at festivals this year:

1. Don’t preach

The art to any communication is to understand your audience’s intent – what do they want and why do they want it.

This is a release occasion, and consumers don’t want to be lectured too. You're there to aid their experience – so take off your corporate hat and have a bit of fun! Look at Baloonicorn at Bonaroo Festival, a light heard, colourful activation that got the audience up on their feet and fully involved.

2. Think harder

The festival landscape has always been a great awareness / visibility platform – thousands of your target consumers in one place, more susceptible to relevant communication than at any time of the year.

Being seen however, is no longer enough. The landscape is too saturated to blend in – you need to stand out in order to differentiate. Invest in real groundbreaking activation & creativity that etches into the hearts and souls of your audience.

Such as Rhythmical Potties at Personal fest - seven toilets with an audible device that was activated only when was occupied.

Each one had a different sound, the result of combining them was lots of musical melodies. Each time people entered it modified the sound that was playing.

3. Consider your consumer 

Festivals are moving away from muddy fields and substandard food – the upsurge in niche, tailored festivals means they are being re-classified as almost mini holidays.

Consumers are looking for that little bit of thought and convenience that enables them to maximise their festival experience – Such as Wrangler Laundromat at Lowlands festival.

They brought a fully functional laundry service that provided a washing service for all those grubby festival clothes – whilst giving out Wrangler branded boiler suits to put on while you wait.

This is not only a great piece of brand experience, but it also transformed 3000 festival goers into walking billboards for the brand across the festival site!

4. Don’t be a one hit wonder 

Festivals are big business and quickly becoming a key communication channel within the broader campaign plan.

It’s no use to do a one off activation and then disappear – this connected generation want to feel part of it well before the event, to well after.

Effective pre comms, will ensure effective on-site activation, which will then enhance advocacy post event – seamless & simple! Strongbow did this brilliantly with their ‘Graft and Glory’ pub build activation at the Isle of Wight Festival – engaged audiences online asking attendees to ‘build their crew’, while onsite they had a live pub build, where the chosen team actually got to build THE activation from scratch.

Whilst post festival, content was released and fed through social channels. A really well-crafted and successful campaign.

5. Make them feel integral

The role for the consumer at a festival has shifted from passive onlooker to active participant. Along with investment, brands have brought tactility and experience to the festival scene.

As a generation of content sharers and creators - experiences provide the ultimate currency for your audience to feel part of something unique whilst earning fame and recognition in the process –Look how well Mini Cooper did it at Lolopalooza.

Throughout the campaign, guests could reserve a ride in the new Mini Paceman on Friday and Saturday for a "nightlife adventure," which included stops at Lollapalooza parties around town.

Media, local influencers, and festival bands such as Imagine Dragons sampled the service, which left from the Hard Rock Hotel.


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