Best Brand Activations at Music Festivals

As I watch the snow from winter storm Seneca fall, I am dreaming of warmer, sunnier days. This is also due to the amazing 2014 Bonnaroo Music Festival lineup that was announced last night. As a music lover, I love seeing my favorite bands and artists share the same stage at music festivals. As a marketer, I love seeing brand activations and integrations at festivals. Experiential marketing at music festivals is becoming very popular and therefore more competitive. For my new readers who do not know, I am a loyal and enthusiastic music festival attendee. In total, I have been to five different large scale music festivals across the country nine times. In sum, I am very knowledgeable about good and bad brand activations from a consumer and marketer perspective.

I have seen an amazing brand activation effort from Chevy at the 2012 Hangout Music Festival and not so great activations from other brands that didn’t quite do their research. First, every music festival has its own personality and thus attracts a certain type of crowd. This means that the same activations will not be successful at different festivals. Researching the vibe, personality, and crowd of the music festival you want to target is essential. Festival goers are seeking a unique memorable experience and you have to be sure your brand fits in almost naturally to that overall feel. There are always four brand activations that are going to win over Millennials and other festival goers. Below are my personal favorites as a frequent festival attendee and the ones my friends love as well.

1.  Free Food

Many festivals do not allow outside food into the actual concert areas. Thus, crowds are forced to buy overpriced meals until they exit. A pack of chips, free cookies, or even a free soda is much appreciated. It’s cheap, simple, and makes attendees happy. This simple idea can be blown out into a tasting booth, eating contests, or something more creative. If you’re seeking more engagement and better ROI make it into an unforgettable food experience.

2.  Innovation

Festival goers range from teenagers to Millennials to grandparents. Beyond the music, they all are interested in new technologies from wireless speakers to Xbox to watches. The key to innovation at festivals is to make it relevant. A new wireless speaker company, Ultimate Ears, was at Bonnaroo in 2013 and they had a brilliant tent. They let people charge their phones, play crazy games for branded prizes and in between would slip in information about their product. It was the most popular booth due to the charging and crazy fun (at Bonnaroo there are no rules so their games tested people’s limits).

3.  Swag

The most popular music festivals take place in the heart of summer. A bandana, shirt to change into, or sunglasses can go a long way. Ford Fiesta handed out bandanas with “Join the Movement” promoting their Fiesta vehicle. Why were the bandanas so popular? They only handed them out with ice in them. It was a simple and cheap extra that went a long way and people remembered it. The bandanas drew people inside to learn more about the movement and play games and of course give away their valuable consumer information.

4. Transportation

Music festivals are exhausting. Yes, they are fun and only the glamorous parts are advertised, but they are long and physical. You have to journey from stage to stage in the heat and then stand for hour after hour. Having a ride to a stage or to your camping spot/hotel is the best treat. Many festivals offer this for VIP pass holders. A few car companies and energy drink brands have decided to open this up to general ticket holders which was great.

The common theme throughout each of these activation and brand immersion examples is experience enhancement. Your product or company has to add to people’s experience and somehow make it better. If you’re just there, you’re wasting marketing dollars. If you or your client plans to activate at a festival this summer or in the near future, I recommend following one of the four examples above. Also, remember to research the festival and their core audience’s needs and tastes. Happy activations and here’s to a great festival season this summer.

Editor’s Note: After writing this post, I realized there are so many more examples and tips I wanted to include. Expect another post soon.


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