Five Ways to Harness the Music Festival Effect

Music festivals have always been powerful activation platforms for event marketers. But in an interesting twist, those same festivals that used to be the platform for activating your brand have become experiential brands of their own, influencing attendee expectations, popular culture and even how business gets done, a trend known as the music festival effect.

According to a Nielsen Music study, in 2014 more than 32 million Americans (nearly the population of California) attended at least one music festival. Of them, not quite half (14.7 million) were millennials, proving that while the demographic is certainly driving the trend, they aren’t the only festival-crazy group out there. With an estimated 800 music festivals (and counting) taking place in the U.S. each year, it’s hard to deny the powerful interest in these events.

We took a few cues from this “Coachella Effect” to outline five truths about festival culture, and how you can imbed them into your next b-to-c or b-to-b event. Rock on.

Truth #1. Festivals Are Inherently Communal

Meeting up with friends and road tripping to festivals are all part of the attraction. Event technology tools that enable that sense of connection can create a halo for your brand. SXSW offers an app that uses attendee data to recommend experiences and connect attendees with one another based on geographic proximity. Similarly, Acura taps into Pandora’s genome project and its listener data to target attendees based on their music preferences and then invite them to a special concert series featuring only the artists they love.

Truth #2. Festivals Put a Premium on Play

From silent dance parties and bad dancing competitions to giant Jenga and rock, paper, scissors championships, festivals offer a wild array of games and activities that bring out the kid in everyone. The C2 (Creativity and Commerce) conference in Montreal erected a Ferris wheel inside its event space and invited attendees to conduct meetings suspended in mid-air above a net. Oracle at its annual OpenWorld event this year invited attendees to “immerse themselves in the cloud” (a giant ball pit). At Google I/O’s closing night event, attendees could take a spin in a karaoke rickshaw. Playful experiences, especially in a b-to-b context, are highly-shareable experiences.

Truth #3. Festivals Are Ripe for Amenities

Remote locations make everyday amenities like hot showers and a decent hair day hard to come by. At Bonnaroo, enterprising brands like Kohler and Garnier Fructis answered the call with shower and hair salon activations. What needs or pain points do your attendees have that are not being met, and how can you provide them that service at your event or activation?

Truth #4. Festivals Have a Counterculture Sensibility

Festivalgoers go to the desert, the woods and the mountains to escape “the man” and all the marketing clutter that comes with it, and this is sparking a whole new trend towards subtlety and authenticity in the form of natural exhibit materials and understated on-site branding. Gotta get your logo on something? Think about incorporating it into a trendy design on a custom-printed t-shirt or bandana, like Toyota did at the Stagecoach festival.

Truth #5. Festivals Invite Attendees to Express Themselves

Whether it’s a simple hands-on art project, like picking up a pen and contributing to your activations graffiti wall, or a cutting-edge high-tech installation like those at this year’s Panorama music festival, attendees love to flex their artistic skills at music festivals. Smart marketers can use an art-inspired engagement to show off their products in an interesting and relevant context, or to simply boost dwell time.

With millennials aging up and music festivals not slowing down, the fact is, the same people who go to your events go to Coachella, too. How do your experiences stack up?

Targeting boomers and new empty nesters with disposable incomes? Consider “Oldchella,” or the Desert Trip festival, featuring acts like Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. It drew more than 75,000 attendees to Indio, CA, for its inaugural weekend music festival.

Posted by Kristy Elisano | Request as a Speaker

Caffeine dependent Jersey girl. Inspired by creative risk takers and underdogs. Chief Marketing Officer, Doodle owner and lover of all things chocolate.