How brands can avoid #festivalfail this Summer: #youthmarketing

I recently wrote an article for AdNews here on what brands need to think about when activating at music festivals this Summer. Had a little help from my good buddy, Benny Barnett who is an absolute expert on all things festivals. Thanks Benny…

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Festival season is almost upon us, and everyone wants a piece of the action. With a stacked calendar and a continued blurring-of-the-line when it comes to offerings and audiences (IDM vs EDM? Phoenix playing Future Music? Who the hell knows what’s going on anymore) it’s harder than ever for brands to stand out and drive engagement. Conservatively, 80% of brands activating at festivals are wasting their money and creating marketing pollution. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the music festival circuit is the highlight of the Gen Y social calendar and marketers see it as a massive opportunity to get their products and brands in front of this illusive group, en masse. However, approach with caution, as festivalgoers are the most cynical consumers in Australia when brands get it wrong. One negative Tweet, Facebook post or Insta photo can spread like wildfire. .  The kids are there to tune in, turn on, drop out and pick up…and will savage any brand that makes a ham-fisted attempt to horn in on their action in the name of ewmarketing.

So how do you avoid your brand making it on the #festivalfail Instagram feed this summer? How do you appeal to the right audience in the right way when not even the promoters are sure who their actual audience is anymore? Here are some tips to get you on the right track:

 Ensure there’s a genuine value exchange

Brands who think that sticking up a tent, putting your logo on some scrim will keep you top of mind, need to think again. What’s the value exchange? A big bright logo is clearly not enough. At Coachella this Year, Heineken offered free cold storage for your Heineken 6 pack which punters could you access anytime via fingerprint – keeping your beers cold in the scorching heat, #festivalwin.  For Sony Xperia’s sponsorship of Swedish House Mafia’s farewell tour earlier this year, at Iris we created the #together experience, bringing the crowd together like never before. Pre concert, fans downloaded the free Lisnr app and were able to synch their phones with the light show in real time. 50,000 phones lighting up with the main stage. Happy fans.

Don’t try and own the big moments

 Brands trying to ‘own’ the big festival moment or spectacle are destined to fail. Festival promoters and the bands themselves don’t want brands to overshadow their show. Work out what the punters want and do something to enhance their experience. How can you give fans social currency without distracting them? Or how about, hell, creating your own spontaneous moment. In 2011 a bunch of kids laid down dozens of garbage bags and turned the Woodford campground into a giant slip’n’slide. It was miles away from the live stages, but people came a-running. And all the brands were up at the festival because that’s where the action was, right guys? Guys? Buller? Buller?

Understand the varying festival needstates

Creating a one size fits all activation program is a recipe for disaster. Putting your bar, tent or stall up at Big Day Out doesn’t mean it will work at Laneway or Field Day. Status Seekers hit Field Day and Good Vibes. Get those tatts out and singlets off, lads. Remember when Harbourlife banned dudes with no shirts, and how happy that made us all? Expressives hit up Laneway, Young Explorers make the pilgrimmage to Splendour and Falls, and Blokeys get their (mid-strength) bourbon on at Big Day and Groovin’ The Moo. (Note: labels above are my descriptors, not common lingo amongst kids). But why are these kids going – for the tunes? To get off their chops, dress up, have a road trip, tell cool stories, build myth and legend amongst mates? Brands better know before they go.  

Focus on the many, not just the few

Music festivals are the ultimate melting pot, where socioeconomic divides go out the window and the experience is king.  Crews from the Shire party along with kids from the inner west, the North Shore, the Penny basin, and anywhere else you can think of.  Mainstream brands creating VIP experiences do so at a big risk. Oh look, Telco X is doing VIP dunnies? But wait, why can’t I get in there and that guy can? Screw you Telco X. It might look good on a boardroom presentation to say you gave 500 youth a special brand experience, but if the other 20,000 reckon you’re elitist, it’s a #festivalfail. Virgin Mobile got around this at Splendour a couple of years back by giving free tents to its customers, but they had to get them from a secret warehouse outside the festival. Great way to get your brand talked about pre festival.

 Forget influencers at festivals, every single festivalgoer has a massive social voice once they leave the precinct. At Singapore Night Festival, Yelp gave out thousands of glowsticks – people were fighting to get their hands on them. Now imagine a sea of glowing Heineken green at Stereosonic. Yep. 

Be an enabler of self expression

Festivals represent the ultimate opportunity for self-expression. It’s a moment of freedom where you can escape the real world and express who you really are, or would like to be. Brands who create opportunities for fans to be rewarded or celebrated for their individual creativity are the ones that win. Remember, every selfie is an opportunity for stardom within their social networks. Those at home following the festival hashtag feed expect epic pics from their mates. Punters at Burning Man paint each others’ faces with elaborate animal designs – everyone wants in, and they have the living hell photographed out of them wherever they go. And those photos spread online like Chlamydia. Fun with an animal theme? Can’t imagine a brand that would want to get on board with that *cough* Optus.   Beware though, hijacking a meme can be borderline unauthentic if you get it wrong.

Enhance their experience through simple tools

Brands are looking left and right to innovate at festivals with technology such as RFID, as we saw at Coachella festival in the States this year or the Tupac hologram in 2011. The reality is that the best experiences brands can deliver are based on being super useful. Understanding context, environment and mindset is critical. Every year Splendour is a mudbath. You can put money on it. Festivalgoers without gumboots can buy them on site for $50 and up. Bargain, right? A brand giving out cheap branded gumboots would get amazing traction at the event. Or ponchos. Or cheese toasties. Or freaking water balloons! Everyone’s wet anyway, right?

Avoid the on ground social media trap

 Forget trying to do some media activations/promotions at festivals in real time. Punters aren’t checking your Facebook page. Sorry.  Despite ongoing attempts by promoters, mobile coverage is typically rubbish, yes they are taking loads of selfies, but they aren’t actually updating their Instagram and Facebook profiles in real time.  They’re waiting till the next day when they can curate, filter their pics and create highlight packages. #nofilter doesn’t exist in festival world. Which brings me to my last point.

 

Focus social amplification on the anticipation phase and festival aftermath, not during the festival

Brands should focus their content and social media strategy on the lead up to the festival, driving anticipation of their brands involvement. Use your social channels, particularly Instagram (the music festival goers channel of choice) to excite festival-goers as to what you’re going to be doing at the festival.  Generate conversations with behind the scenes footage where punters can learn more about the acts. It’s about staking your claim beforehand so that you’re top of mind when they do get to the festival. Unless your brand is sponsoring the headline act on the main stage, the whole ‘lets broadcast this 3rd tier act on a backstage on our YouTube channel’ play is a waste of money. And, if you’re going to create a wrap up hype video or picture gallery of your brands festival activation, make sure you do it within 24 hours. No on will watch a vid that comes out 3 weeks after the fact. They’ve moved on.

 So, bring on the music, fun and frivolities and hopefully this article will save a few unsuspecting brands from #festivalfail this Summer. 

 

Google goes transmedia with new ARG:: #Ingress

Google have just launched there first ARG (Alternate Reality game) called Ingress to be played on Android Smartphones. You have to request an invite to play. It’s a global mind control battle that pits you against others around the world, all via your smartphone. It’s about mind hacking, something called Niantic. Looks super cool and another example of how Google are leading the way when it comes to creating immersive brand experiences that involve consumers across all screens. An amazing participation branding example showcasing the strengths of the Android platform and I can’t wait to get involved

Smart gets #urbanyouth with #FourTwo skateboarder content

A piece of content I wish I’d created. Great piece of youth marketing by Smart, for their FourTwo. Awesome inspiring use of skateboarders Kilian Martin and Alfredo Urbon to get urban Gen Y’ers to desire their wheels. Simple message, powerfully delivered & totally shareable. Goes to show you don’t need to bombard with features to engage. Thanks to my old colleague @aj_lockhart for the shout.

#SXSW 2013 panelpicker: ‘Your brand’s next boss was born 1 minute ago – engaging youth with participation branding

Attention Bloggersphere: I’ve just put in an entry for the 2013 SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, Texas with my fellow Regional Planning Director APAC at Iris, Paul Gage @gagey501 and we need your vote. Please click on the link below and vote for us if you find the idea of ‘participation branding’ through the lens of youth culture interesting.

http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/1895

Here’s the spiel:

Put your money away Granddad! Building a successful brand with youth comes at a price, but its currency is participation. The rewired brains of tomorrow’s teens will only buy into brands that are cultural from the core and redefine how hey interact with people. This is ‘participation branding’ and it’s how business now needs to think. Participation brands have involvement hardwired into their DNA – from small scale programs to long term platforms. Involving youth in extraordinary content, experiences, conversations and communities will be essential ingredients to move them to produce, play, propagate and play for your products, services and ideas. In this talk we’ll explore the 5 principles of participation branding and also give you a glimpse of what participation branding will look like in the future – by sharing how our global client partner adidas is preparing for the 2020 Olympics.

 

Sprite ‘true self expression’ campaign #spritetrueselves

Really liking this new global Sprite campaign from my old agency BBH NY – originated by Jordan Kraemer a great copywriter i had the pleasure of working with. Taps into a universal truth about global truth, the need for ‘true self expression’ and feeling comfortable in their own skin within the tribe –  THis campaign brings this thought to life, Sprite being the catalyst for this behaviour. They’ve created awesome street art in Prague  technique by camouflage artist Liu Bolin. Nice work Sprite, will definitely cross borders.

Adidas 2012 Olympics anthem for British youth #takethestage

Awesome anthem for British youth in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympics by Adidas. Captures the spirit of British youth perfectly and the Adidas values of authenticity and  energy. I have to disclose that although my agency Iris Worldwide didn’t do this work, Adidas are a client I work on, so I am a little biased 🙂 Well done Adidas and Sid Lee.