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Find the venue, the experience will come

With increasing numbers of nightclubs, and many venues laying vacant across the country, Shout About London’s Ben Gamble says they can be the perfect blank canvas for an event space.

Ask pretty much anyone within the industry what experiential means and you’ll be greeted with a myriad of obtuse interpretations. Yet, it is the buzz word of the moment that just isn’t relenting. Having vastly evolved from its sample handout days with promotional teams on every street corner, experiential has proven it has a lot more to offer, firmly establishing its place as a key consideration within global brands’ wider marketing strategies.

With the increasing trend for lengthy immersive events and pop-ups showing no signs of abating, the search for the ever important ‘unique and versatile’ premises is becoming more and more challenging, or is it?

According to news reported last week (10-14 August), confirming that nearly half of the UKs nightclubs have closed in the last decade, it appears venues are plentiful, not just in London, but all around the UK, making them ripe for the taking. We have found that more and more of the capital’s closed or unused (and unlikely) venues are stealing the limelight from regular hosts.

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Events used to be for 100 people in a room, now they are for as many people that can and will engage with the event more widely on social media. This is simply because by focusing on experiential there is a much higher chance of a marketer’s dream ‘going viral’ with consumer interaction as part of a loud and engaging campaign.

This is more likely to happen if the setting is unusual, unknown and almost secretive, like they shouldn’t be there. There is more opportunity to capture that exclusive feeling in an old church or tunnel as opposed to a working hotel or livery hall. These types of venues also provide the perfect set-up for brands and corporates looking for something different.

Room to be creative

Available as ‘blank canvases’ with no, or very limited restrictions for transforming an area, these venues are like a dream for event visionaries who don’t have to ask ‘can we move this and can we remove that etc.’ Additional appeal from an unused venue is the flexibility on time and a greater opportunity to negotiate on costs, making derelict and out-of-use buildings a big draw to both large and start-up companies. And for the venue owner it’s a no brainer, especially if the premises have been branded somewhat redundant.

So for those in search of a true experiential event it starts with the venue search. Because if you get that wrong and you end up being in the wrong place for the wrong reason (i.e. you knew someone, who knew someone who got you a free upgrade from pastries to bacon rolls and that was the deciding factor), experiential will always be an afterthought hashtag rather than a spine tingling, memorable experience.

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Ben Gamble is co-founder and partner at Shout About London.

We are living in an experience generation

There’s something about being with a brand and physically taking part in an experience that really gets consumers to stop, listen and act, says Alec Braun, MD and creative lead at Slice.

More so than ever we’re seeing a trend toward integrating events even further into the marketing mix. Event magazine’s recent Power Brands report shows that experiential is now regarded as the most effective marketing channel for brands and 75% of them saw experiential budgets increase in the past 12 months.

This demonstrates that we are living in a world where consumers care more about how you involve them rather than simply what you tell or show them. Ultimately, live events need to be at the heart of the marketing mix – there is simply no better way to emotionally connect an audience with a brand than to be with them

This further strengthens our belief that the best campaigns need to go beyond ATL and harness live to really make audiences stop and listen. Experiential has the power to make consumers ‘step in’ rather than step past. You’re more inclined to remember an experience that you’re part of than a billboard you merely walk past.

In more detail

The recent Bellwether reports go further to suggest that experiential is not going unnoticed, but brands still need to be braver and move away from the traditional to think about the more experience-focused consumer. Recently we’ve seen a movement in the evolution of OOH to try and leverage this shift:

1. In April Carlsberg famously turned one of their billboard ads into a beer tap giving away free beer to passers-by. The experiential campaign got worldwide publicity and is one of the most memorable marketing stunts of the year.

Not only did it make those who were there stop and engage with the brand, the experience triggered an overwhelmingly positive response which in turn generated enormous social and PR reach through a channel that is traditionally very one-way. Again step in, not just step past.

2. WCRS recently won Gold at Cannes Lions for their digital interactive OOH campaign for Women’s Aid. The campaign used facial-recognition technology to highlight how we can all make a difference in the fight against domestic violence. The billboard, which showed bruised models, recognised when consumers stopped to pay attention. The more people that stopped and noticed, the more the woman’s injuries healed.

3. Last month we saw a bus stop poster which evolved over time depending on how people responded to it. This artificially intelligent outdoorad shows how media can now react to consumer emotions and change to target that specific consumer with content or messaging.

But OOH is not the only place this rapid evolution is taking place. Advances in wearable technology mean ‘stepping in’ is now becoming an integral part of an audience’s experience at many large concerts, sporting events and public experiences.

Recently, at Wimbledon, Jaguar distributed sensors to a number of spectators to measure the crowd’s sentiment, emotion and reactions. The campaign, Feel Wimbledon, used biometric watches which monitored heart rate, motion and audio levels in and around the match courts.

Using this data Jaguar was able to create an ‘emotional picture’ of the crowd atmosphere at Wimbledon – these images were then pushed out on social media and a network of video screens across the UK’s rail network. Using reactions at live events to generate this type of content is a powerful way of involving increased numbers of consumers and making them feel a part of the overall experience – whether they’re there or not.

So, whether it’s mini theatrical experiences, interactive OOH or sentiment tracking sports events it all points to one thing – consumers want to be part of a brand’s message rather than just witness it. The most memorable brands are the ones that don’t hold back in being brave and innovative in asking consumers to step in.

Why experiential marketing will boost your brand engagement

Phil Boas, director of brand engagement at Paragon, discusses the benefits of a cross-media focus and immersive experiences when it comes to brand engagement.

The convergence of social and digital media has been at the forefront of the marketing arena for many years. Now an integral marketing tool for brands of all shapes and sizes, reports suggest that social media marketing budgets will double by 2018 compared to two years ago.

However, in today’s crowded marketplace, brands who implement a cross-media focus create strategically driven campaigns and more powerful brand engagement than those just focusing on the digital element.

The combination of physical and digital presents key opportunities for marketers. Digital is able to extend a physical event/experience beyond the traditional boundaries through social, online and mobile communications, while the physical experience moves people to action through a sustained conversation that encourages brand loyalty in the most powerful way.

Escaping the switch-off

Much like traditional methods of brand promotion – the foremost example being television advertising – social and digital content will reach its saturation point as consumers begin switching off from businesses’ promoting their brand through this medium. As more social media sites appear, the most popular sites are experiencing a decline in growth. A Business Insider UK report from April revealed that Twitter’s monthly active users “have grown at a slowing pace almost every quarter”.

Businesses shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket with brand engagement. Ultimately, the biggest global brands would survive without social media due to countless years fostering strong, personal relationships founded on face-to-face communications. People are inherently social, and nothing can compete with brands bringing people together through immersive experiences.

Experiential (or ‘face-to-face’) marketing has undergone its own growth and is not just second fiddle to social and digital. Big brands find value in reaching out to their target audiences in a physical capacity.

Businesses shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket with brand engagement, says Boas

Scoring engagement

Take the Premier League, for example – the richest football league in the world. With an estimated 1.2 billion fans it turns over more annual revenue than any other football league. Fans are continually provided with innovative digital content through the club’s social media strategies.

So why do these already highly profitable Premier League teams organise overseas tours during the off-season? Not only are they financially lucrative, but fans can engage with teams on a more physical level than through social and digital content. Premier League fans can form a deeper connection with a particular team through unforgettable experiences and create a greater ‘customer lifetime value’ (CLV) than traditional, digital marketing strategies. This boosts brand loyalty and help derive further commercial benefits for the club.

Brands who invest in creating immersive experiences for their target audiences are the ones that succeed. A study examining experiential marketing trends on more than 1,600 major organisations found 84% of people believe that experiential marketing activities are important, very important or critical to their organisations.

While many brands create their own content to distribute digitally in the hope it will go viral, very little of it actually does. As 78% of people only listen to peer recommendations, it becomes more important to boost brand experiences where customers are four more times likely to become advocates for your business. It’s big business to get your customers on side and experiential activity gives them something to shout about.

Is your brand maximising its social media presence

In the ever-changing world of online marketing, it is no longer a secret that maximising your brand’s potential through social media is a necessity, says Ian Sullivan, managing director of Paperhat Consorcio.

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The interactive, instantaneous, worldwide messaging service has fast become the preferred choice of communication and consistent statistics indicate that it will continue to do so.

So is your brand maximising this potential opportunity or is it continuing to regard this prolific marketing channel as a ‘nice to have’? Regardless of whether your brand is B2B or B2C, public or private sector, profit or not-for-profit, social media marketing is a communication delivery channel that now demands every brand’s respect.

I can easily lose count the amount of times I’ve heard: “Social media? The graduate manages all that stuff.” What other marketing channel do you leave to ‘the graduate’? Probably none, purely because marketing your brand is a key function within your organisation.

Whose job is social media?

So why do so many brands still leave social media marketing to the junior team members? There is no real definitive answer, suffice to say that it is probably a combination of cost, ignorance and convenience.

Marketing your brand on social media is no longer a luxury. It has now become essential to communicate with your potential online audience. Gone are the days when it was only used by tech-savvy teenagers. Facebook has been around for 10 years this year.

That means those tech-savvy teenagers are now almost 30 years old. That’s a key purchasing demographic that feel natural communicating, operating and buying via social media. Couple this with the easier to access social media graphic user interfaces and you also see an older generation joining and interacting. Just ask yourself, how many people do you know that have never used social media?

Social media is ‘opt in’ marketing

The other key point to note with social media marketing is that it is an ‘opt in’ marketing channel. The people you organically communicate with have chosen to follow and hear from your brand. These reasons are why it is so important to ensure the social media marketing content has the full respect and budget to deliver your brand’s messaging as you would with all your other marketing channels.

However, the content, curation and messaging is just one part of the social media marketing strategy. Tone of voice, interaction, customer profiling, data analysis, timing, contingency planning, customer service and managing negative sentiment are some of the other elements that have to be considered every time your brand interacts online.

So where do you start? Strangely, not posting anything on your brand’s social medi. Take a step back as you would naturally with any other marketing channel. The key question is ‘what is my brand’s overarching marketing strategy?’ Understand clearly what message your brand is underpinning. Only then can you utilise the marketing tools to deliver the messaging.

The next step is to select the correct social media platforms that suit your brands audience. Due to the verity to choose from you may well end up selecting more than one platform. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn are the big four, followed by Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. Each have their own unique strengths, weaknesses and online audience.

Decide on your content

So now you have the marketing strategy, the social media platforms and most importantly, the consideration for professional social media marketing. Now comes the hard bit – the content. What are you going to publish? Beware, social media is extremely content hungry. If you post unique content once a day on two platforms you will need 10 items of content in a working week.

You cannot get away with posting the same content in the same format across two or more different social media platforms. The audiences your brand is communicating with are on their preferred social media platform because that is the way they like to communicate online. Your brand must respect that and communicate its content format accordingly.

Now go and build your audience. But why would you actually follow a brand on social media? Simply, because you are interested in what they have to say. Not just today, but at all times. Therefore to attract the right audience, your brand needs to communicate its marketing messages consistently.

It needs to consistently engage with like-minded individuals online who have a need or a requirement that your brand can fulfil. This is why switching your brand’s social media communication on and off will never work. It needs to be consistent. Only this way can your brand maximise its social media presence.

Marketing your brand on social media is no longer a luxury, says Ian Sullivan

Ian Sullivan is managing director of Paperhat Consorcio.

Blog: Making the most of festival experiences

George Chapman, head of operations and production at Wasserman Experience, talks to Event about how brands can make the most of festival experiences. 

How can brands get their festival strategy right?

For brands and their marketers, this month signals the start of the UK festival season. At the weekend we had Wireless, and before that Glastonbury, and with events such as T in The Park, Latitude and Secret Garden Party imminent, it’s going to be a busy month for brands hoping to engage and create a lasting relationship with festival-goers.

With an abundance of festivals now on offer to the UK public – eight million people attended 700 festivals last year – there is a huge opportunity for brands to engage with consumers. But for brands to truly make the most of the opportunity, they need to have a clear and focused strategy when considering festivals.

Is a festival right for you?

First of all, you need to consider if the festival really is the best match for your brand. Festivals have extremely varied demographics and nuances, so this is key. Make sure you do the research.

One of the best strategies lies in engaging with the festival promoters. They have the data from previous years to evaluate whether their proposition is the right fit for your brand. Some brands in certain sectors will find it much more difficult than others; however creative the execution. For instance, it’s difficult to envisage how a luxury car or high-end watch brand would be the best fit at a largely teenage attended music festival such as Leeds or Reading.

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Plan and do it early

Once you’ve found the right festival fit for your brand. It’s important you plan, and you do it early. By approaching and connecting with festival organisers at an early stage, you can work with them to get the insights into crowd flows and behaviour, to ensure your brand and specific requirements are part of their planning, and more importantly that it can be integrated into the overall festival curation.

This year Jägermeister has got its strategy bang-on. The drinks brand has invested close to one million pounds in order to bring its “Jägerhaus” installation to life across seven UK festivals. It’s worked closely with each festival to get specific site spaces – that means its bespoke installation will get the full ROI its investment requires.

A lot of festivals have strict deadlines on access for brands, so if you’re coming late to the party – you won’t ever have this level of flexibility. Beware of festivals who are willing to allow almost any brand to activate as late as weeks or days before it is due to start, if the site fee is met. This should be a huge red flag to any brand that the care and consideration will be lacking and your activation will suffer as a result.

Ensure what you do engages with the crowd and adds value to the festival experience

 Above all else, what you need to ensure is that what you do engages and adds value to the festival experience. There are many different routes you can take to ensure you do this, but perhaps two of the most important are:

Go back to basics

Rather than overcomplicating your idea with how flash you can make your brand activation – consider the basic needs of the festival-goer: clean toilets, showers and a charged phone.

With Vodafone, we toured festivals between 2011-2013 with recharging trucks, this offered festival-goers something useful – free to use charging docks – while Vodafone were able to reaffirm its relationship and engage with new and existing Vodafone customers.

Outside of phone charging, Lynx activated its ‘Manwash’ campaign at Reading, V Festival and Global Gathering in 2007. Offering festival-goers a free shower (of sorts) from a number of attractive ladies. Tying in with its brand proposition, it delivered great PR, but also great bang for its buck.

Create a lasting memory

Alternatively, you can look to give consumers a unique or memorable experience, enhancing what the audience is already there to do. As part of the same Vodafone campaign we built bespoke viewing platforms which gave exclusive access to superb views of the main stage – which aligned with the brands overall strategy in rewarding customers.

HP did this too, through its connected music campaign. It had Labrinth and other artists perform exclusive acoustic sets at Wireless Festival in 2012. By creating a unique moment, HP was able to connect and engage with festival-goers despite the lack of product relativity.

The ultimate goal for any brand activating at a festival is to become synonymous with their chosen festivals over a number of years. So much so that festival-goers expect you to be there year after year. If you can achieve this then you will truly know that your festival strategy is a success.

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George Chapman is head of operations and production at Wasserman Experience.

Blog: A view from Australia

Rebecca Rynehart from TRO Australia discusses the impact the latest technology has on experiential marketers.

In a world where humans now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish, experiential marketers must be smarter than ever.

You wake up and the first thing you do is check your smartphone. Sound familiar? At least 80% of us should be nodding our heads in (perhaps reluctant) agreement.

The convergence of the digital and physical worlds is no longer new news, in fact it’s operation normal. What might be new news is that it’s changing the way our brains behave.

A recent study has attributed a more digital lifestyle to an overall decrease in sustained attention. So much so that we now have an attention span of eight seconds compared to the nine seconds of a goldfish. Clearly there’s a land grab for attention and if we want a piece of it we will need to think differently with our experiential campaigns.

This jostle to get noticed is pertinent for brands in Australia where smartphone penetration and adoption of wearables is higher than many markets. Over here, the best in class campaigns are blending creative technology with the things that matter to us most, resulting in a deeper, more intuitive and interconnected engagement.

Selfies, cling wrap and rugby

Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications provider has been embracing this approach for years with their award-winning interactive windows. At Christmas, knowing the popularity of a selfie, they transformed one of their windows into an interactive photo booth.

Busy Melburnians were invited to snap themselves and then customise with festive augmented reality props before receiving the image on their phone. This combination of personalisation and instant gratification meant a record number of shoppers stopped to take part.

Glad Cling Wrap’s recent #gladeveryday campaign encouraged us to take a welcome pause for a brief moment and consider more deeply the things that we are grateful for in our lives. Thoughts of gratitude were shared via social channels and a ‘great wall of glad’ installed in shopping centres. All content is aggregated and visible on a conversation hub, offering a great insight into what Australians are glad about.

In general, brand experiences that index high on fun times are #winning over here. The Samsung Slideliner grabbed our attention by tapping into the nation’s obsession for rugby, offering up the best seat in the house and a money-can’t-buy-piece of the action.

The Slideliner is an impressive four-person ‘couch’ that sits beside the pitch, moving along the field of play to follow the game in real time.  Lucky Slideliners had access to an internet-enabled Samsung tablet and cameras were built into the structure to enable snapping and sharing during the game.

Ultimately, technology is now enabling more immersive experiences, transporting people in a completely unique and magical way. Expect to see increased use of VR platforms, such as Google Cardboard, which are the next generation of storytelling mediums and excitingly accessible to anyone with a smartphone.

Unplugged experiences

We are physical beings and it’s important to step away from the touchscreen from time to time. In fact after a day of multiscreen multitasking, what we often crave is a good nights sleep. Ikea recognised this and teamed up with Airbnb to provide a once in a lifetime sleeping experience with a campaign that gained huge coverage from minimal media spend.

Three Australian families stayed overnight at a Sydney Ikea after applying for a unique Airbnb listing. They slept in themed Ikea showrooms, ate traditional Swedish food and were woken by puppies, an orchestra and breakfast in bed.

A refreshing change to being woken by your smartphone.

Rebecca Rynehart is managing director of TRO Australia.

A curious mind at Cannes Lions

Be mindful of the subtle dynamics of human interactions to create successful brand experiences, says Jack Morton Worldwide’s Lewis Robbins, who was at Cannes Lions last week.

Some people just grab you. Last week at Cannes Lions I saw a talk by Brian Grazer, a Hollywood Producer who, every two weeks for the past 35 years, has sought out conversation with the world’s leading experts, which he’s collected in his book, ‘A Curious Mind’.

One of the things the talk reaffirmed was that brand experience can still learn a lot about building relationships by being mindful of the subtle dynamics of human interactions.

Brands that ask for too much, or have an obvious ulterior motive, are dismissed – just like people who share the same traits. But Garvis was strategic and thoughtful in every encounter he created. He would emphasise he wasn’t asking for anything, other than the meeting himself. He stressed that they could stay for as long or as little as they liked, never suggesting lunch because it might seem like too much of a commitment. He gave people gifts to create trust and engagement early on, and to show he cared – something he thought they’d like. And he researched the topic, so that he had a way into the conversation – making an effort his expert would appreciate.

He also has a very intuitive knack of finding the one thing that would make people open up – an ‘insight’, if you like – that created the richest and most rewarding exchange possible. How do you get Michael Jackson to shed his persona? Ask him to take off his gloves. (“He looked at me like no one had asked him anything before.”) 

Sitting opposite Princess Diana at a dinner, he wondered – ‘How do I make this moment matter?’ So he decided to flout the Royal rules of etiquette – and to use his stories of Hollywood to make her laugh and share a bowl of ice cream with him. (‘Her smile had such elasticity, you could feel her humanity.’) 

And as Eminem stood up to leave after 40 minutes of refusing to talk, a final challenge – “Why don’t you animate?” – provoked the rapper to open up.

It’s an inspiring project and something we could probably all seek out more ourselves. Garvis said that every time he met someone, he was surprised, failing to anticipate their point-of-view. It broke him out of himself – deepening his powers of empathy, and enabling him to apply new perspectives to the work he created in his own world. Amen to that.

Lewis Robbins is senior associate strategist at Jack Morton Worldwide.

Blog: The winning brand activations at Goodwood

What are the stand-out brand experiences at Goodwood Festival of Speed this year? Hayley Lawrence, director of events at agency Brand and Deliver, gives her verdict.

A day at the world famous Goodwood Festival of Speed did not disappoint. You can hear it before you can see it and the energy you feel on arrival is of epic proportions. Even a look around the supercar parking area before you get through the gates is an experience.

Goodwood is every car lover’s dream and every car manufacturer is fighting for attention. The scale of the temporary structures and hospitality suites is astounding, many of them as big as a permanent car showrooms.

I wanted to see what car brands were doing something different. How had they gone the extra mile to impress and engage with the festival goers?

I expected to see a lot of car simulator experiences – which there were – but a few brands stood out above the rest, these were the brands that had the largest queues and the biggest draw.

Mini

Mini created a car simulator activity using the mini itself. It allowed visitors to sit in the driving seat and race the fastest mini ever. A screen array in front of the windscreen allowed for a really immersive interaction whilst actually being able to experience the interior of the vehicle.

Ford

Ford had the largest queue of the day. Their stand incorporated a huge slide, which was almost vertical with multiple twists. Visitors were offered the chance to use the slide and ‘Test’ their speed on the performance power slide. I gave it a miss myself but it was certainly a crowd-pleaser and a great example of how to attract and engage the audience.

Honda

The brand that excelled for me was Honda, which created the 2015 Playset to showcase its new range of models. The entire stand was created to look like toy car boxes, housing the cars inside the units. Each toy box was designed differently and consumers could interact on a number of photo opportunities with prize draws that included a holiday to Lapland and a £3,000 personal shopping experience at Selfridges.

It no surprise that the stand was really well received. A great example of how to stand out from the crowd.

Hayley Lawrence is director of events at agency Brand and Deliver


Comment below to let us know what you think.

Blog: Alton Towers… please never on my watch

Black-sky thinking is vital for delivering brand experiences, says Mark Stringer, founder and chief executive of agency PrettyGreen.

Most of us over the years have been involved in putting on stunts and experiences featuring an element of danger or potential risk of injury – purely thanks to the activity itself.

I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the virtual agency/client team that put a man to the edge of space, back flipped an BMXrider over Tower Bridge and thrown people off death slides and what being involved in these extreme brand stunts and experiences has taught me is the importance of what I term “black-sky” planning. 

Black Sky planning is a horrible session (or series of sessions) where the full team run through every single “what if” scenario under the sun. A session where you sit with the production and health and safety and comms teams and jointly pull apart everything that could go wrong, how you escalate issues, how you think through every possibility – be it a minor or major issue.

  • What happens if someone’s sick in the line, how do we get rid of the smell?
  • What if it there’s a heatwave, can we distribute water?
  • What’s the nearest hospital, do we have the contact details?
  • How many fire extinguishers and where are they located?
  • Who’s in the ELT when there’s a code silver?

As an outsider, it would appear Alton Towers ELT kicked in quickly (although I’m sure there was a period of panic before the calm of the crises kicked in). And it’s about the team/brand and co. remaining in control whilst enabling the experts to do their job, and the comms teams ensuring the media are being managed and catered for.

They’ll be a lot of clients sat around probably dismissing the relevance of the Alton Towers shocking disaster. “What’s putting on a pop-up in a disused shop got to do with Alton Towers?” they’ll ask their agencies. Well, for me, that’s probably the biggest mistake a brand/client can make. 

In all my years of being involved in putting on some (frankly ridiculous at times) experiences, the biggest issues I’ve ever experienced haven’t been on seemingly “dangerous” events, but from the ones that on the outside just feel like warm fluffy experiences; a stabbing at a ticket give-away, a bag of heroin found at a tea party,  a dislocated shoulder in a ball pit, broken bones on a slide, guarddog attacking a journalist’s son, total police shut down due to crowd safety, World War II bombs uncovered on the day of opening. These are real examples might I add!

I’m not saying you can plan for every scenario or that a simple sampling product giveaway needs a CEO escalation session. But a small loose thread when pulled hard enough can destroy the fabric of the whole company and an experiential campaign without a joined up crises plan is putting both your client and your agency in an unnecessary precarious position.

My advice? Plan for the worst, learn from the disasters and never think it won’t happen on your watch.

Mark Stringer is founder and chief executive of agency PrettyGreen.

More: PrettyGreen launches partnerships and promotions division

Using festivals to build a brand

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David Atkinson, managing partner, Space

There has been a re-evaluation of the role of brands and festivals in recent years, says David Atkinson, managing partner of Space.

The middle of the year has always been a focus for face-to-face activity, more so with the growing status of festival culture. Around eight million people attend the UK’s 700 festivals spending £1.5 billion in the process. For many, the festival has become an alternative to a holiday.

In recent years there has also been a re-evaluation of the role of brands and festivals. Where once brands were a necessary evil to bring some additional income to let the promoter to pay for better acts, or providing functional elements such as alcohol, they can now be a more integral part of the experience.

As the festival market has mushroomed, the audience for festivals has changed radically. There is a more diverse demographic mix, tending towards the more mainstream, taking in older groups, families and more middle class festival goers. Consequently festival goers are also more affluent.

At a time when many traditional media options are showing declining potency, festivals have emerged as an opportunity for brands to get in the faces, and hands, of their audiences. However regarding these crowds as captive and passive consumers of marketing is to misunderstand the brand/festival dynamic.

Brand resistance

Yes, festival audiences are more prepared to accept that brands have a role, but the resistance to feeling that they are being targeted remains intense. Today’s festival goer may be something of a weekend rebel, slinking back to their electrically hooked up tent between acts, but the cynicism about overt marketing is as intense as it was with any Sixties flower child.

Rear view of a crowd of people watching their band perform beneath the strobe lights on stage

For brands to find a space at events, they have to prove their relevance and usefulness. Fortunately most festivals are almost uniquely flexible in allowing brands free rein when it comes to creative face-to-face marketing.

Brands need to chill

To really make festival activation work, like festival goers, brands have to chill out. Being a control freak is not the best way to get the most from a festival. Work closely with organisers right from the initial planning stages. They know their audience better than anyone, and are sitting on ticket data that can provide insight for brands.

Rather than brands seeing this as unnecessary interference, they should accept that collaboration creates a better experience and a win-win for all involved. Steamrollering an event with your brand is not the way to build acceptance. Working to create an event within an event that truly adds to the festival experience, will have a great and longer lasting effect.

Space worked closely with Parklife to curate its Desperados Factory warehouse space. Both parties sat down together to create something that fit well within the overall event, but provided the brand with a stand-out property. By using the organiser’s sway with acts, Desperados was also able to attract more compelling talent.

This more strategic approach is seeing brands moving from a position of passive badging of existing assets, to creating of their own experiences and stories, driven by an increasing need to demonstrate that they are culturally relevant and connected.

One-off deals have less currency that ongoing partnerships. Two- to three-year agreements allow brands to build on their learnings and make the following year bigger and better. Desperados took its festival experience forward with Detonate, a multi-sensorial event that mixed music, graffiti, dry ice, lasers and confetti cannons to produce an amazingly memorable event.

Savvy brands are realising that festival activity like this can provide a focus for ongoing communication throughout the year. Red Bull’s Music Academy is an example with its series of workshops and concerts around the world providing a brand experience that is longer lasting.

Festivals were social before social media, but with digital options now well used, brands can amplify their message and use social to stay in touch all year round. Offering up shareable content keeps people interested in the brand beyond a few heady days in summer.

David Atkinson is managing partner of agency Space

More: Top brand experience agencies: Space