Festival Branding: Are You Experienced?

Wake up and smell the flower crowns, because festival season is fully upon us. The list of events to attend is never ending, and they all seem to cram in as many stimulating interactions as possible. There’s the music of course, over the top art installations, culinary wonders of the world (all optimized for portability), sponsored parties, and rows of tech booths vying to show you why their product is more innovative than the next guy’s. For a person with a mind for branding, roaming around a festival becomes much more than just an exhilarating experience, it’s almost like being at work. It makes you wonder: what does it take to stand out from the crowd? 

When you’re a business trying to grab attention from the party-goers at a festival, you might find there are many challenging aspects, like how to engage your audience without weighing them down with merch that’s destined to be thrown out. There’s an old marketing legend that goes like this: if you promise free shit, they will come. The more free shit you give them, the more they’re likely to remember your brand and purchase your product, right? Not quite. The infographics from a recent AdWeek article break down what millennials want out of a branded event and it’s pretty interesting stuff. Turns out, a memorable experience is much more valuable than a pair of sunglasses plus a t-shirt and a tote bag. No one wants to be a walking billboard for your brand. What they want is to be shown something that they’ll never forget, to be shown why they need your product in their life and how your company relates to them.


Has this been you? 

The importance of providing an experience has become make or break for brands both big and small. Millennials are the largest consumer generation since the baby boomers, and they are spending an increasing amount of time and money attending experiential events. Millennials also provide the most crucial marketing tool of all: word of mouth. Word of mouth combined with delivery via multiple social media platforms travels fast and is (essentially) free marketing for brands. But just like free merch isn’t cutting it anymore, businesses need to make sure their experiential events are exciting enough for millennials to want to talk about them. Virtual reality has become an increasingly popular experience — for example, companies like McDonald’s and Gillette offered up gigantic VR installations at SXSW this year. These brands recognized that if visitors are feeling a sensation while simultaneously thinking of the brand that’s providing it, they’re going to make a correlation that sticks with them.


Virtual realities at McLoft @ SXSW

Experiential marketing within a festival is one way to appeal to visitors, but with all these festivals and the many elements that contribute to them, which ones are the most successful? The musical line up is vital of course, but good branding of the festival itself is major when it comes to turning out numbers. A cool logo that conveys the energy of the fest and is easily applicable to merchandise can be a huge contributing factor for someone deciding to pull the trigger on tickets, or to spend the $50 on that hoodie. Web presence is equally important as the site needs to be easy to navigate while staying true to the branding. Success of the festival is heavily dependent on its first impression – no one wants to spend money on an event that hasn’t put in the time in to make themselves look good, what will that say about the rest of the festival?

Some of our favorite festivals also have great branding (big surprise, right?) like the ethereal look of Vertex in Colorado and FYF’s glowing neon logo over the city of Los Angeles. There’s also Burger Boogaloo presented by Burger Records in Oakland that stays true to a punk rock, zine-inspired branding perfectly suited to its lineup. Other local festivals we love include Stern Grove Festival, which spans over the course of two months with a free concert every Sunday, Treasure Island Festival with it’s iconic upside-down ship logo and carnival attractions, and of course (if time and budget allows) there’s Outside Lands.

Vertex logoTIshipOLbrandingFFFpatches

There are many different aspects that go into the branding of a music festival – the festival itself, the brands participating within the festival, and then finding a way to tie it all together without overloading the attendees with branded content. Each year needs to be different and exciting while maintaining the nostalgia that keeps people coming back. As technology and communication constantly advance, who knows if the trends we’re seeing this year will still be relevant the next.

For now we’ll just leave you with a taste of the experience from another favorite festival of ours, BottleRock Napa, in the form of our awesome co-worker Amanda’s contest winning video from last year!


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