The summer of (brand) love begins

With summer suddenly upon us brands are turning to the experiential space to engage with consumers who are out enjoying environments ideally suited for building brand awareness and loyalty. Beaches, zoos, parks, waterfronts and city streets are about to provide a tableau of (hopefully) meaningful and engaging brand activity to provide some ‘surprise and delight’ moments to make your summer more fun and enjoyable.

Key amongst these touch points are music festivals where brands are now seemingly everywhere, creating experiences that resonate with their bulls-eye target market in an environment that enables them to create an emotional connection with the brand.

This summer in NZ music festivals are under immense pressure to sell tickets. With the GFC, an increased number of music events, and the RWC taking much of the consumer’s summer event spend festivals are having to offer a unique and memorable experience for their fans – and sponsor’s brands are key to this.

Recent news of some of Australasia’s biggest events scaling down their production and cancelling shows has even got the heads on breakfast television talking, so this summer it is more important than ever that brands not only select the right festival to activate at, but also come up with the right idea to connect with the consumer.

Festival activation 1.0 was all about the ‘tent, beanbag and flags’ in a field which provided some ‘brand slap’ visual presence but provided no emotional connection with the music fan – ‘doing’ rather than connecting. 2012 sees brands enchanting the festival fans in a passion-led context – connecting with a captive and emotionally charged audience.

FLUXX have travelled the world inspecting brand activity at festivals – enjoying Coca Cola’s delights at Tokyo’s SummerSonic Festival through to relaxing in Orange Mobile’s ‘Chill and Charge’ tent at Glastonbury; so here are a few quick tips to ensure your brands and clients create a successful connection with the festival fan base.

Firstly, research your audience and select the right event. This is critical, with up to a dozen brands sponsoring and activating at each of NZ’s top festivals this year. Ask the right questions: Is this your audience? Is there enough ‘dwell-time’ for the consumer to play with the brand. Recent surveys of three-day events show that fans often only spend 40 percent of their time watching bands – the remaining 60 percent of the time they are out experiencing things at the event. So think about whether a short, one-day event is right for your activation strategy.

Set goals and KPIs. It sounds like a no-brainer but so many clients forget this. You need to measure what you want the fan to take away from the brand activation. The brand message needs to be ‘bang on’ to connect with the consumer so it is also vital that their behavior, awareness and loyalty to the brand are measured in some way to show ROI for the client.

Creativity is key! The festival space is now cluttered with brands and consumers are used to seeing the same approach of deck chairs and tent rolled out year after year – so dare to be different. If you’ve done your homework and found out what your audience want and need at an event then you should be able to apply these learning’s to your activation. Be distinctive, be individual and offer a helping hand to the punter.

With all this brand clutter taking over festival site it’s vital that the activation is leveraged pre and post event. You wouldn’t set up a shop without marketing it so don’t leave your activation sitting alone in a field without any way to amplify the connection. Activation starts on the way to the event and continues by integrating with other channels such as social media, PR and digital.

In summary, festival activation isn’t just about eyeballs for brands; it’s a battle for the hearts and minds of the festival fan and bringing them closer to their passion – music. Experience is everything and brands need to provide something useful and memorable for the punter – it’s all about memories, not freebies!

See you in the VIP!

Mark Pickering is Founder and Creative Strategist at FLUXX: Ideas in Motion. He is also Chairman of The Experiential Marketing Association of NZ (EMANZ) and member of the CAANZ Marcoms Leadership Group, as well as a festival addict.

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