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Woodstock, which began with three days of peace and music on Max Yasgur's farm back in 1969, has evolved into a music festival season that spreads across the country for months on end.
From The Hangout Festival in Alabama in May to New York City's Governors Ball in June and Maryland's Virgin Freefest in September, music festivals are experiencing a major renaissance. Along with the fans come the brands, eager to market their products to millennials in attendance.
If you don't want to miss out on any of the music festival action, you will literally need to be all over the country, all summer long. In fact, Rolling Stone listed no less than 40 "must-see" music festivals for 2014. With so many geographically-dispersed festivals, it's physically impossible not to miss out on some of the fun. Yet it's that fear -- the fear of missing out (#FOMO) -- which is an essential reason for the growing popularity of these festivals.
While marketers are investing in music festivals like never before -- more than $1.34 billion will be spent sponsoring music venues, festivals and tours this year -- marketers who understand #FOMO will be most successful in reaching the millennial demographic.
Sharing real-time in social
Millennials live in an Instagram world, capturing and sharing events as they are happening. Instagam's popularity has soared to some 200 million users; more than 20 billion photos have been uploaded to the app so far and of course, it's not just Instagram -- it's Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, too. Music festivals and social media are a perfect pair -- you see the festivals on social media, and you feel like you're missing out so you make sure you attend the next festival -- or drop what you're doing and head to the festival as it's happening.
Even those who do attend the events may still surprisingly experience #FOMO. A recent Los Angeles Times article recounted one festival-goer's experience of #FOMO while attending Coachella, where a minimum of six performances are happening at any given moment and where "there is always the unshakable sense that something else better and buzzier… is unfolding several hundred feet away." In fact, many music festivals feature jumbotrons to display Instagram photos shared by attendees in real-time, so attendees are literally watching other people's experiences on social media while they are in the midst of the festival itself.
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How marketers can capitalize on festival #FOMO
Understanding the #FOMO psychology is key to successful music festival marketing. Here's how marketers can maximize their investments:
1. Create shareable photo moments. Incorporate your brand in photos that millennials will want to share. Think fun, interactive and not obvious.
2. Come as fans, not authorities. Festival-goers don't want to be "marketed to" and brands need to be present at festivals as fans. If they present as authority figures, it will be an instant turn-off.
3. Ensure the experience is transactional. Millennials want to feel they are getting something out of their interaction with a brand, so activations must create organic opportunities that add value to the festival experience and which festival-goers will want to share on social media.
4. Use instant feedback. Through direct one-on-one interactions at the events, marketers get invaluable real-time feedback on the products in a way that isn't possible through traditional advertising or marketing, and can make changes to improve the experience in real-time.
5. Encourage ongoing relationships. By allowing attendees to opt-in for data collection and ongoing contact, brands can create ongoing relationships with festival-goers beyond just one event.
As the summer music festival lineup becomes an endless cycle, extending further into the spring and fall and across more and more cities, the opportunities for marketers will continue to abound, thanks to millennials not wanting #FOMO to headline their summer experience.