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.

George Chapman from Wasserman Experience asks how brands get their brand strategy right
George Chapman from Wasserman Experience asks how brands get their brand strategy right

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.

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.

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

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