How to Create Successful Music Festival Brand Activations

The weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer, and that can only mean one thing; music festival season is upon us. These multi-day concert extravaganzas have become a playground for attendees and brands alike, and are the perfect place to hold an experiential marketing activation.

As with any marketing campaign, though, there are right and wrong ways to create a music festival activation. Let’s take a look at how to create a successful music festival activation, and why you should care.

Ready to activate? Let’s talk. 

Why Music Festivals are the Perfect Venue for Experiential Marketing

When it comes to music and marketing, it’s a perfect duet. In fact, a Nielsen study found that brands sponsoring music events hit the right note with listeners. However, brands need to think outside of the Bach’s to make the activation a hit.

Okay, no more music puns. I promise. It is true, though, that consumers like when brands partner with concerts. 76% of festival-goers favor brands that sponsor events, and 74% of music streamers like when brands engage with them through music giveaways and sweepstakes. It’s clear that consumers like to encounter brands at music events, but why else would a brand want to try music festival experiential marketing?

Music festivals are full of crowds looking to have fun

Concert and festival attendees aren’t just passionate about music; they’re passionate about fun. Festivals are essentially multi-day parties that give attendees a chance to hang out with friends under the summer sun. In reality, 84% of millennials attend music festivals simply to escape the daily grind.

Attendees want a break from their normal, and this includes traditional marketing. Experiential marketing activations are fun and unique, and definitely don’t fit the mold of how consumers expect to engage with brands.

Music festivals are insta-worthy

Concerts, festivals, and experiential marketing activations are three places where consumers love to take and share pictures. 98% of consumers create social content at events and experiences, and they are especially primed for sharing when attending a music festival.

Your activation may not elicit the 28 million global interactions that “Beychella” received after Beyonce’s recent Coachella performance, but even a gaining a fraction of social media content that comes out of the festival for your event makes the investment worthwhile.

Music festivals are curated

There are (at least) hundreds of music festivals that take place all across the U.S., so you’re bound to be able to find one that caters to your demographic. Festivals of every size, genre, and location can be chosen to match most closely with your brand and target audience. You’ll be especially intrigued by music festivals if you happen to target millennials since they make up almost half of the 32 million annual festival attendees.

Festivals, particularly the largest ones, can also be pricey. The average low-end price to attend Coachella is $627, which indicates that all of the attendees have at least some level of disposable income that they are willing to part with.

Elements of Successful Music Festival Brand Activations

Now that we understand how lucrative music festivals can be for experiential marketing campaigns, let’s take a look at brands who have incorporated the elements needed for a successful activation.

Connect to a cause

Nearly 2/3rd of millennial and generation Z consumers prefer brands with a point of view who stand for a cause. CLIF incorporated this element into their activation at the 2017 Pitchfork Music Festival.

The energy bar brand partnered with Alliance Great Lakes, a non-profit focused on conserving and restoring the Great Lakes, to create an activation that led to an average dwell time of 13 minutes. CLIF’s activation included a temporary tattoo station where the brand would match donations to the non-profit, along with a solar-powered charging station, product sampling, and adult coloring station. The activation cassette tape backdrop also appeared in the background of 1 in 20 Instagram photos for the hashtag #PitchforkFest.

Make it (feel) Exclusive

Exclusivity is alluring, and lucrative, as Marriott displayed at their 2018 Coachella activation. Their Luxury W Hotel Yurts offered something for Marriott Rewards members and the general public alike, though rewards members got a sweeter deal. Before the event, rewards members could bid on the rights to use one of the luxury yurts to escape the heat and crowds, and one yurt went for 800,000 reward points, which is the equivalent of $38,233.

Rewards members at the festival who didn’t score a Yurt could get exclusive access to WiFi and summer treats, while non-members could still escape the heat in their general admission tent. The entire activation rewarded members of their loyalty program and likely caused some serious FOMO for non-members.

Make an Impact Before and After the Event

Experiential marketing activations are all about creating a “wow” experience in the moment, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the time before and after the event.

Peet’s coffee built awareness and anticipation for the festival by presenting a contest to win a VIP experience to Coachella by texting in “coldbrew.” Their product promotion continued as brand ambassadors rode bikes around the festival handing out ice-cold cold brew coffees.

While Peet’s extended their experience to include the time before the event, Levi’s focused on creating an activation that would have a lasting impact after the festival was over. They did so by creating a tailor shop popup event that allowed influencers to customize Levi’s pieces. These customized accessories are takeaways that will be worn and shown off even after the event is over.

Another way to make your music festival activation expand beyond festival grounds is through live streaming. In addition to the social content that you’ll create and share before, during, and after the event, live streaming allows you to share your experience with fans who couldn’t make it.

Make it Useful

It’s great to have an activation that is wild and exciting, but sometimes the most lasting impressions are made when you’re simply there to help. Method used this idea when they partnered with Coachella to create “clean zone” washing stations featuring their products. Naturally, their cleaning station featured a giant rubber ducky photo opp and made their Instagram followers wish they were there.

Make it High Tech

Technology like AR and VR are becoming more widespread, but there is definitely still a “cool” factor to these technologies that intrigues festival attendees to check out experiences that use them.

Amex is one such company that is promoting the use of AR through experiential campaigns. The credit card company previously created a “Pro Walk” AR experience at the US Open where visitors could experience what it was like to walk onto the court as a tennis star. Most recently, however, they partnered with the Coachella mobile app to integrate shoppable AR technology. Amex cardmembers could click the “shop” button in the app and see an array of AR items that they could buy appear in front of them.

Gatorade also brought a high-tech experience to 2017’s SXSW with their “Gatorade Combine” activation. At the event, visitors could “experience the future of athletic evaluation” with a glimpse into three high-tech ways that athletic performance can be measured. Gatorade’s activation is a perfect example of how to bring in unique experiences that intrigue and excite, while still aligning with your brand identity.

Make it your own

There are plenty of existing festivals with built-in audiences to connect with, but what if none of them fit your brand just right? In that case, you can just create your own festival. Absolut vodka decided they could make a festival experience all their own, and created Midsommer in Sweden. A Midsommer, or summer solstice celebration, in Sweden isn’t a new concept, but Absolut did put their own spin on it. The event brought in guests from 25 countries, and featured music, games, and of course, cocktails.

Music festivals are the perfect venue for experiential marketing campaigns, and there’s nearly no limit to the wild and wonderful campaigns that you can create. Above all, though, it’s important to make sure that the activation has a clear brand connection. If there isn’t an obvious correlation, it can create a negative association. 

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