For entrepreneurs, summer is the season of opportunity. Between beach vacations and swimming excursions, more Americans than ever are attending the marketing meccas that music festivals provide. Nielsen reports that, in a given year, 32 million people -- more than 1 in 10 Americans -- attend at least one U.S. music festival.
Businesses love festivals because they’re full of that coveted group -- the millennial demographic -- who want to enjoy themselves and share their experiences. And, that group is typically welcoming to brands. According to Nielsen, 74 percent of festivalgoers surveyed said they look favorably upon brands that sponsor festival events.
What's more, while it’s easy to target mega-festivals like Coachella or Bonnaroo, you don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands to break into the festival scene. Instead, consider smaller niche festivals, where you can offer a tailored experience at a fraction of the cost.
Need ideas? In June, Wisconsin’s Rock Fest, the nation’s biggest rock and camping festival, could be your jam. Or, if jazz or hip hop are more your brand’s style, July offers the Newport Jazz Festival -- the nation’s oldest music festival, founded in 1959 in Rhode Island -- and the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, an up-and-coming hip hop event in the heart of New York City. August brings the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, a three-day folk and dance festival in rural Hillsdale, New York.
These and hundreds of other festivals offer the chance to bring your brand experience right to its target market. Even more so, the money you’ll save by foregoing bigger festivals can be spent creating effective, high-end experiences attendees won’t soon forget.
Four ways to steal the stage
Here’s how to seize the opportunity of regional music festivals with an experiential campaign:
1. Think outside the tent. The branded tent has long been a staple of event marketing. It makes sense: A tent offers a large space with plenty of visibility. But, with $1.4 billion being spent on festival sponsorships this year, it’s time to get creative.
Oreo thought beyond the branded tent at South by Southwest Interactive in 2014. Mondelez International, the brand’s parent company, cooked up an Oreo vending machine that used 3D printing technology to enable festivalgoers to custom-print their cookies. Using the hashtag #eatthetweet, Oreo collected real-time cookie requests to wow customers with personalized sweet treats.
2. Cater to festivalgoers’ needs. Festivals aren’t all glamor. Attendees need to stay fed, hydrated and (reasonably) hygienic during the experience.
So, if you want to be their savior in a moment of need, consider what customers might want after a day in the sun. When we brought the t-shirt brand Life Is Good to Hangout Fest in 2015, for instance, it featured a simple concept: a sheltered phone-charging area, complete with hammocks and chairs. Festivalgoers appreciated the chance to recharge -- both their technology and themselves -- at a shady oasis in the Alabama heat.
3. Mix and match experiences. Many festivals last multiple days, so take advantage of the chance to create lasting relationships with customers. Switch-out your events to ensure customers find something new with your brand each day.
Life Is Good used this tactic at Hangout Fest: It debuted multiple experiences, presenting a smorgasbord of activities. One day, a festivalgoer might relax in the company's sheltered hammocks, then return the next to enjoy its photo booth or apparel stand.
4. Bring along the paparazzi. Capture your company’s day at the festival by hiring a film crew or even contracting local bloggers and social influencers. Candid shots and fun videos not only make attendees feel like VIPs but make for excellent marketing materials once it’s over.
This year, Sara Lee’s new Artesano bread held a surprise “Snow Day” event in Phoenix. A film team was on hand, documenting everything from a giant snow globe photo booth to a tubing experience. Attendees clamored to be on camera, and they enjoyed sharing the professionally shot video on social media.
This summer, you don’t need to blow your whole marketing budget on big-name events to have some festival fun. Be strategic, and target your message to regional festivals that give your brand a stage where its voice can be heard. Oh, and don't forget to have some fun along the way.