Is your brand 'cool' enough for Coachella or SXSW?
Festivals aren’t just meccas for concertgoers to sweat through flower crowns and multiple layers of costume material. They’re also now experiential marketing havens for brands looking to reach a wider audience.
These events serve as a springboard for providing engaging marketing experiences. Everyone from LinkedIn to Vice to Rent the Runway attends SXSW, for example, making the event ideal for brands of all stripes. Slightly smaller festivals like Bonnaroo, which attracts around 80,000 attendees and reaches roughly 5 million households, also have potential.
Festival platforms aren’t just for showing off your products, either. They help potential customers engage with them.
Finding your ‘cool’ factor
Because of their extensive reach, it’s tempting to start planning your brand’s exotic foray into the festival world. Unfortunately, even the flashiest experiences flop when they don’t appeal to the right audience—and those brands enter “uncool” territory. According to a 2017 study, 79 percent of millennials attend festivals that resonate with their values. The first question marketers should ask themselves, then, is whether they can make things work with that demographic.
Because many festivalgoers consider themselves influencers, lifestyle brands that value social media would probably benefit from being there. Consider all the people you’ve met who obsessively arrange their Instagram feeds or travel places solely for social media opportunities, and you’ll understand why: They spend a good amount of free time at events.
If you’re not really interested in this consumer cadre, though, you won’t hit it off with the crowd. Hardcore “festies” might not share your vision, and you’ll have a tough time navigating the scene.
A better way to stand out
To survive and thrive among the festival crowd, you’ll need to have all your touch points in sync. Social media, public relations and advertising should align for your brand to make waves. The challenge is, as events get bigger, share of mind decreases.
Those who can’t succeed at bigger festivals should focus their efforts on smaller ones. They might not amass the same number of visual impressions as, say, SXSW. But because there’s less competition, it can give brands an edge.
As clichéd as it sounds, prioritizing smaller opportunities ensures you’ll be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Smaller events attract crowds that view your cool factor in a way attendees at larger festivals won’t. Word-of-mouth marketing is easier at these festivals due to their intimacy, and you can unleash your creative side and earn more bang for your buck.
Depending on whether your product meshes with the nature of the festival—Mountain Music Festival, for instance, takes place at an adventure resort, while 4 Peaks Music Festival offers a family-friendly atmosphere—these opportunities could even foster more connections than the household-name that festivals brands scramble to get into. Additionally, just about every county in America has a county fair that may be perfect for your brand and allow you to stand out and engage visitors.
Sizing up a festival
To determine whether debuting at a smaller festival is right for you, do some soul-searching. Map out your brand in its entirety. Evaluate your product, your mission and what you represent. Then single out festivals that share these common values. These events will be less of a shot in the dark when it comes to attendee engagement and it’ll be easier to grab attention. When it's time to choose an event, consider geography and cost. Does your marketplace presence in an area warrant you being there? Will your budget fit?
Festivals can be a lucrative experience for brands, but they can also be daunting. Your greatest challenge is deciding whether trendy festivals are ideal—and accepting it when they’re not. If you’re not hip to the crowd, that’s OK. After all, marketing is about telling your brand story and helping people experience your product, not showing up uninvited with a flashy exhibit.