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Why you only see some brands at a festival once

Matt Beech Account Director at smp - Creative Marketing Agency
By Matt Beech  //  Fri 13th December 2013
As brands and marketers look ahead to next year, Matt Beech, Account Director, smp, imparts words of wisdom to those brands thinking about being a part of the Festival experience 2014.

Having been to a number of festivals in my short 31 years, I have seen a lot of brand activations come and go. What has really struck me is the sheer number of brands that I have seen.

I was at Wireless Festival in the summer and I realised why: some brands are wasting their money.

There have been some great activations over the years, Strongbow and Jägermeister to name but two. What these brands have done is followed the core rule for festival marketing – forget about being a brand for the day and focus on entertainment, fun and being part of the festival experience.For the last two years we have taken our femfresh V.I.Pee loos to V Festival, and the reason that it was so successful (and ultimately drove sales) is that we ensured the activity was incorporated into the overall festival experience. We were giving women something that they couldn’t get anywhere else in the festival – nice toilets. The fact that this was given to them courtesy of femfresh helped to build brand affinity (and they got a free Vajazzle Kit, which always helps).

At Wireless I saw 2 campaigns in particular that stood out for me. Doritos had set up their own stage for the Doritos Mariachi Band. Made famous by their recent TV advertising, the band was performing modern classics in their own Mariachi style. It was fun, it drew a crowd and it was perfectly integrated into the music entertainment experience. What’s more, it was integration at its best – bringing the TV ad truly to life. This is one of the best festival activations I have seen for a while, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it become a fixture in the brand’s marketing mix for as long as the Mariachi band are part of the creative execution.

When I got home, I even saw that friends of mine that I hadn’t seen at the festival had been uploading clips of the band to Facebook – sharing their experience. It was word-of-mouth gold dust. On the flip side, Tic Tac had set up a giant ball pit that festival-goers were encouraged to search within to win backstage passes. Although the prize idea is nice, the activation just didn’t suit the environment or the mindset of the consumer. The number allowed in the ball pit was limited to just a few and nobody was there to queue. As a result, Tic Tac had an empty stand. I am reliably informed that over 30,000 samples were given away at the event; however, with the cost of festival activations normally exceeding £100k, that is an expensive cost per sample with little further consumer engagement to drive word of mouth or brand love.

In summary, if you want your festival brand activation to deliver a return on investment, follow these three simple rules:
1. Make it part of the festival experience
2. Make it fun and engaging
3. Make it something worth talking about or sharing online.

By doing so, brands can stop wasting their money and start to see the benefits that have helped grow brands like Brothers Cider from their infancy into major players in their respective markets.
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