How Brands Can Develop More Engaging Experiential Marketing for Festivals (And Beyond)

03/11/2016 10:48 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017
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By Alexis Levine

When I entered the technology and music arena, the world was shifting. Technology was making physical offices less relevant, and so gathering thought leaders and tastemakers in relevant cities for industry events was becoming the best way to create culture.

After a few years, I noticed that culture had also changed. You didn't need to gather to be part of the gathering anymore, which flipped the existing script. The experience became less about the richness of the context -- the film or the show -- and more about who was spotted there. Those who simply positioned themselves in the spotlight did the best. However, this led to stages with no real talent. We're now paying to attend festivals where ghostwriters have written the music that popular DJs are lip-singing. As well, smartphones became all-important. These days, you have to take the perfect picture for social media, and gain an impressive number of "likes," in order to be considered worthy.

But how many "likes" on social media does it take to make a festival ticket worth the price? As the founder of an experiential marketing agency, I've been at the forefront of this industry and have seen a few cultural shifts as a result of the camera phone and social media.

The New Festival Attendees

One of the cultural shifts I've seen is that the new festival-goer has never known a concert without a cell phone, and never experienced culture and community coming together without Facebook. They've lived their entire lives with the Internet. Rather than the 30-somethings that populated Lollapalooza and Coachella 20 years ago, this festival culture -- which is always intrinsically tied to the youth -- has almost no experience when it comes to music from disciplined and talented musicians. Technology has put those who are clever but mediocre musicians at the top, and our music culture is suffering from it.

An Untapped Demographic

What I've learned from this is that there's an untapped demographic, savvy to what is superficial and yet yearning for real experiences. These new, tech-savvy festival attendees crave experience and participation, and demonstrate that social media is a direct link to youth culture. Currently, there's a vacuum when it comes to truly engaging experiences that demonstrate creativity, entertainment and innovation. This provides festival creators, creative agencies, sponsors and other marketers with the space and capital needed for investment into cutting-edge marketing strategies aimed at this untapped clientele.

A few companies are already doing this, such as Red Bull Sound Select, which provides high-end brand integration and turns their experience-based marketing into a self-propelling cultural driver. By using curated talent in targeted cities, providing festivals the capital to create a real-life cultural gathering, and delivering a message of innovation by providing discoverable new talent, Red Bull has secured itself a place in cultural identification.

The Value of a Festival Ticket

In a time when young people measure value in terms of a "like" on social media, an important question is this idea of the conversion rate on the number of "likes," and how many "likes" it takes to make a festival ticket worth the price. While at first the question might seem unanswerable, it's important to realize how modern consumers measure value. These days, providing someone with more "likes" than they've ever gotten before may be of more value than simply offering them money.

Creating engaging experiences designed specifically to enhance this sort of value can drive higher margins, increase brand exposure and reputability, and ensure a more loyal customer base. In this changing, technology-driven culture, there are new horizons to aspire to. Meaningful and creative marketing and advertising strategies -- rooted in defining your brand as a leader and investor in culture, and delivering on that promise through socially valued events -- create a lasting bond between brands and consumers. The question then becomes, which brands are creating something amazing and real? Red Bull has, and they've seen substantial payoffs. Not only have they sustained their developed clientele, but they're also now a leader in youth culture.

Alexis Levine founded Savvy Media at age 23, and launched her project #savvycity at insider events at film and music festivals across the world. An expert to the festival scene, Alexis knows what it takes to market to festival-goers through unique and exciting activations. She understands how to make a brand stand out to receive nothing but amazing results.