Festival Concert with crowd of people

Bring On Summer!

The holiday season is over, New Years has faded into the past, and the Super Bowl is a done deal. It’s now late winter with spring just around the corner and the anticipation is beginning to build for summer. A time when fans and brands turn their attention toward festival season looking at ways to get in on the action.

This year may be the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic where we may see some resemblance of normality. A year that allows us the opportunity to actually celebrate freely. And as brands mull over where to go, what to do, and how to activate, it’s worth taking a step back and considering how to stand out from the crowd.

With sensory overload already turned up to 11 at a festival, standing out from the crowd and noise is the top priority for a brand looking to engage with a seemingly endless sea of consumers. The days of simply setting up a tent with bright colors and brand ambassadors buzzing around, handing out flyers and cheap freebies are long gone. Consumers have become more and more savvy and their expectations from brand activations have grown both in meaning and in value.

Know Before You Go

Before you go pitching your tent at Coachella, Bonnaroo or Gov Ball, take the time to ask yourself questions that will really help to vet opportunities and qualify where to go and what to do.

Does the event align with my brand?

Considerations here are geographically, culturally and financially – does this work for your brand? It’s time to ask, what are the KPIs that you want to hit? Is this an opportunity to reach them.

Does the audience align with my target demographic?

Knowing your audience before committing to a festival is important. This is a time to consider what your target audience is looking for. Don’t hope to find your audience at a festival, but instead work to create the opportunity to connect instead.

What do I want to achieve with this activation?

Activating around festivals can take on many shapes and forms. Onsite and offsite the playbook for activating can be fairly limitless and as can the budget. Backing into an activation knowing what you want to achieve will ensure effectiveness and efficiency

What is the guest take away? 

What is the lasting impression from the activation? Is there a call to action? Can the take away be measured? Is there content or moments that can be shared socially? All of these considerations need to be addressed when vetting festival opportunities.

Is there content that can be shared?

Having the ability to continue engagement beyond the moment creates more impact. The ability to amplify the result socially will ostensibly connect the smaller core audience to a wider crew, and ultimately to a much wider community. By creating this amplification, we elongate brand engagement and also impact a much wider audience.

Know Your Audience

First off, festival goers, especially millennials and Gen Z, are known for their aversion to deliberate advertising. This can be challenging in and of itself for some brands, while also creating a golden opportunity for others to dare to think outside of the box.

Secondly, studies have found that millennials have a 12-second attention span, and Gen Z is even lower at 9 seconds, so holding their attention is of the utmost importance when concepting your activation. First impressions matter and it’s important to capture guests attention fast.

With Gen Z accounting for 40% of today’s U.S. consumers, having a meaningful impact on them from the start is vital when attempting to get your message, mission or product across. And if you can’t solve the problem now, you better find a solution soon because by 2026, Gen Z will surpass millennials as the largest consumer base in the country. These younger demographics not only want activations to be engaging but also expect brand inclusion to be organic – you need to look and feel like you belong. Don’t waste your time or budget activating at an event where you could stick out like a sore thumb for all the wrong reasons.

The solution to connecting with your audience is to be creative with your approach, think consumer experience first. Avoid the compulsion to deploy lazy tactics. Don’t allow the immediacy of your brand goals to stand in the way of a great experience!

Create a Meaningful Experience

While understanding your audience is key, bringing your brand’s position to life is probably the most important factor when considering how to activate. Many brands attach themselves to a festival to get the equity rub from being involved, but when it comes time to activate, they struggle to physically articulate their brand pillars and values.

Remember, the No.1 thing audiences want from an activation is to be engaged. Walking by a pop-up tent and being handed collateral is outdated and totally ineffective. Most times the collateral is just trashed, often within steps of receiving it.

In an effort to focus on brand pillars, NRG used music and art, two key cultural expressions behind the ASICS brand. To do this, we enlisted the help of sneaker-obsessed influencers, musicians, and artists that defined the evolution of the brand with the ASICS Gel Lyte 1 launch. In order to connect the dots and give guests a moment to remember, something that felt true to the brand and authentic in the environment, we produced a one-of-a-kind experience merging the two sentiments.

We partnered with some of the best street artists and created a space for them to go head-to-head in a live art battle inspired by the story and history of the ASICS brand. Not only was this activation authentic, guests were able to connect with the brand’s pillars on a new more engaged level.

It’s not only important to be authentic, but you should also make an impact.

Take a look at LG’s LaundROO Lounge and Vintage Clothing Swap at Bonnaroo they did a few years ago. Anyone who has camped out at a music festival understands the heat, dirt, and sweat that comes along with the music and vibes. Paying to take a shower is one thing, but offering a free laundry service is a luxury that may feel like a fever dream.

Driving back home from the festival in clean clothes? Unheard of! Providing comfort to attendees even after the festival ends is both an engaging and clever way to showcase products.

Now-a-days on-site festival activations aren’t the only opportunities to showcase your brand. More and more brands are actually opting out of the on-site activations and investing more into the off-site activations.

Not only does it narrow your audience allowing for a more targeted approach, but it also gives brands that opportunity to really own the experience. Events like pool parties, pop-up retail activations, and branded hotel takeovers may actually be more impactful in the long run.

NRG worked with Nike on a Hotel NoTell activation one year, transforming 16 rooms and the courtyard of a local hotel into an athlete’s paradise. By creating an inclusive ambiance that combined programming such as yoga classes, art galleries, movie screenings and workshops, guests felt more like a community than visitors. These types of activities are an excellent opportunity to connect one-on-one with your audience in a more intimate setting than you would at the festival itself.

Talk about making an impact and leaving a lasting impression, here we are years later talking about washing machines and how these killer artists battled over a shoe. That’s the sort of impact brands are looking to create at these events.

In Summary

Like anything, it’s always easier said than done, but if you (a) understand and stand behind your brand and its pillars and (b) identify the appropriate audience and where and how to engage with them; you’ll be one of the few things festival goers remember from a long weekend camping out in the desert.