When ‘Festival’ Means Marketing Power

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Grab your denim shorts and your flower crowns friends because spring is ON! (Well, maybe not in Munich…) and well, that means only one thing – festival season!

Once again, we’re saying no to FOMO and yes, yes, yes to a season filled with Glastonbury, Tomorrowland, Burning Man and Sonar. But make no mistake, as we watched the sun set on another sold out double weekend at Coachella, we’re hard to shy away from the fact that festivals have become more than just a music lover’s paradise.

Thanks to social media (hello Instagram) a new wave of festival goers including celebs, bloggers, journos and ehem, wannabes, have made even the most average festival grow in popularity, with fashion and lifestyle brands developing their own means of attracting their desired target. Sponsored VIP parties, branded booths, high-end pop ups and even virtual reality stalls are just at the tip of iceberg when it comes to clever and creative marketing.

Festival marketing power is one of the hottest topics for PR and Marketing experts, but when it comes to numbers and results, are we really sure the ROI is worth a try?

2015 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival

Festival goers at the 2015 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival – Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Coachella

Festivals in Numbers

Music festivals made themselves known during the hippy generation. But those old clichés of rock music, mud, peace, love and all out freedom have come to evolve into a huge entertainment and money making machine, offering audiences sell-out line-ups, sun-kissed beaches and vast LA desert complete with interactive experiences and cool shareable parties.  

Introduced in 1999, Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival has turned into a cultural landmark for music (& fashion) obsessives the world over. Its ‘99 debut attracted around 10,000 people across two days; switch that up to 579,000 attendees in 2014 (with tickets selling out 11 months in advance). Here’s a rough estimation… this year ticket sales brought in $90 million from an average ticket price range of  $399-899. Value for money? Maybe.

Coachella 2016

Festival-goers attend day 1 of the 2016 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival Weekend 2 at the Empire Polo Club – Photo: Getty

But hey, let’s talk more than just Coachella. Every year in the US, 33 million people attend music festivals, whilst in the UK festival-goers are an estimated 14 million. Can you seriously imagine the marketing potential of these numbers? Yep, you can. And so do all those fashion, lifestyle and digital brands.

The secret to a successful festival marketing partnership

“There aren’t many places where you’re able to reach 100,000 people in a day in a captive environment. We tell brands to come big or don’t come at all” recently declared Andrew Klein, AEG Live’s svp, global partnerships (aka the largest producer of festivals in North America).

And the marketing options for brands are infinite, the only challenge, is to find the right in-site and off-site strategy to emerge.

Marybeth Schmitt, North America communications director for H&M told Digiday: “Coachella is the epicenter of where music and fashion collide”. With the high-street chain’s launch of ‘H&M Loves Coachella’ collection in 2015; this year the Scandi brand went all out to make the festival marketing strategy even bigger. Going so far in fact as to implement a tent installation – titled “Reborn” -which features an interactive video of a colorful desert landscape, along with a digital photo booth and a 360-degree scene-scape that’s able to be filmed and shared on social. No need to mention the huge social media sharing potential, right?

H&M Loves Coachella collection 2016

H&M Loves Coachella collection – Photo: theupcoming.co.uk

Those brands who are investing in big-name festival partnerships, however, are not the ones you would have initially thought of. Just take American Express. In 2015 the credit card company brought a new payment method to the Coachella ground, as up until then, cash was the only way you could pay for your double-shot vodka Red Bull. A partnership that exclusively allows AmEx to offer their clients special packages for their cool weekend in Indio, California.

The power of indirect reach – AKA ‘Thank you, social’

Numbers are huge but they become even bigger when we take the indirect reach into consideration. Creating content that holds both the active festival goer and those who live the event via a digital means is key. The super instagrammable landscape and atmosphere surrounding festivals makes it super easy for brands to capitalize on the festival’s hype. Sending out tweets, photos, posts and videos to the millions of social media followers experiencing the event straight from the comfort of their couch. In fact, last year’s Coachella Snapchat story was viewed by 40 million people across the globe, making that almost 200x the number of actual attendees.

“Not everyone has the means to buy the tickets… but a lot of people are interested in the influencers — the clothes they’re wearing, the music they’re listening to, what their hair looks like,” said Carol Han, partner of digital & social media agency ‘CA Creative’ to Business of Fashion. “There’s a huge group of people that are paying attention to what’s happening at the festival, even though they’re not physically present.”

Yep, we’re talking about those people. Let’s face it, if you want to meet Millennials, festivals are the place to be (physically or virtually). This mobile & social media obsessed target group has a global spending power of more than $2.45 trillion (2015) and accounts for nearly 50 million Instagram users in the US. FYI, 63% of Snapchat’s users are Millennials.

Jumping on the Snap wagon, US fashion e-tailer Revolve recently partnered with San Fran-based mobile courier service Postmates, in order to deliver instant access to festival wear during Coachella’s opening weekend.

Looks from Revolve’s new collection (as seen on Sincerely Jules and Song of Style) were posted on the brand’s Snapchat account – with the goal to encourage fans to purchase featured items via their app and e-commerce site. And it worked. Customers received orders in less than 60 minutes. Allowing Revolve to measure the success of their project by tracking sales spikes after each posting.

Revolve Desert House 2016

REVOLVE Desert House 2016 – Photo: Getty

Are festivals too…mainstream?

That said, it sounds like we should really start saving our pennies (GIANT piggy bank- check) and bring our brand to next year’s Coachella. As for every marketing opportunity, all that glitters ain’t gold and lately some brands and celebs have expressed their doubts about how cool it is to still be a part of the festival event industry.

Coachella’s evolution, together with the growing presence of huge corporations, brought about big problems for smaller brands who don’t have the same budget capacity like H&M and Heineken (we’re talking six figure budgets here…). Their answer to the big issues? Off-site events such as runway show – ‘Coachella style’ hosted by Alice + Olivia some days before the opening of the first weekend.

And yet, Coachella may not be the ideal for those for brands who aren’t aiming to reach the masses but still want to have an exclusive and selective goa. Too mainstream, too commercialized. Those are the brands who are already on the lookout for the next best thing.

From a user perspective… aren’t you even the littlest bit tired of seeing parties/denim shorts/flowers crowns/peace signs just about all day, everyday? The key is to innovate and create something new that’s going to really engage for the user – who’s not only a voyeur but also YOUR customer. There’s a festival for every brand and (almost) every budget: find your own niche and get the best out of this great marketing marvel.

|By Ilenia Sarman – Senior PR & Communications Manager Italy|

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