How to Execute a Successful Brand Activation at a Music Festival

BMF Media are seasoned pros when it comes to brand activations at music festivals. The team passed on their top tips on how brands can maximize festival goers’ experience and create true consumer loyalty post-event.

Other people pull off amazing festivals and events...I think ours is a little bit different, and that's what makes us distinct. – Zac Brown, singer

There are officially more music festivals in the United States than there are states.

It’s no secret: the festival industry is supersaturated. It has become an ever-growing menu of attractions -- live performances, combined with food options and vendor villages – while offering little apology for what’s frequently a diluted guest experience. Fans once first in line to buy passes are beginning to question the overall experience, as music seems to have taken a back seat to corporate priorities of filling space and mass merchandising opportunities.

At the same time, today’s festival landscape continues to offer brands unprecedented opportunities to engage with target audiences. Interactive, experiential activations with eye-catching visuals can impress festival-goers and lead to raised brand awareness once the show is over. But it takes a lot of work to create true consumer relationships.

Here are some quick tips on ways to stand out from the crowd, capture brand loyalty and ensure strong ROI for our clients. 

Give Them Something New: Be Different

Brands that truly differentiate themselves from the competition -- along with their own past work -- are the ones that people remember. While loud, compelling visuals and superior product giveaways are key tools to catching consumers’ attention, it’s the subtle differences in core elements like photo booths and charging stations that go a long way in helping brands stand out from the crowd. The cherry on top: organically weaving ‘Instagrammable’ moments into the overall experience (like we did with Café Bustelo’s giant yellow coffee can photo-booth at Meadowlands 2017). Moments like these offer patrons tailor-made opportunities to share each experience with their friends and followers – maximizing social engagement and buzz.

Give Them What They Need: Fill a Void and Be Specific

Look, festivals are fun; some even call the season the cultural highlight of the year. But the fact is that people are often hot, cold, drenched or thirsty.

Consider climate and sought-after conveniences when designing your area to ensure the brand remains top-of-mind, even during the most undesirable conditions. Portable phone batteries, comfortable couches and air-conditioned restrooms will be sure to draw a crowd. Create a personalized vibe through on-site concierge service, lounges and gifting areas (like we did with Marriott, for their influencer activation at Coachella in 2017) that anticipate needs and cater to them.

Give Them Location, Location, Location: Impact is More Important Than Size

There are a lot of factors that go into measuring an activation’s impact on a marketing campaign or quarterly sales, and its size rarely matters. More critical to success is location and experiential components within the footprint. Building relationships with festival brass in order to negotiate ideal placement, as well as understanding neighboring programming, will yield a strategic edge that influences creativity and ingenuity.

Give Them What They Want: Streamline Transportation

Transportation to and from festivals is infamously challenging. Sitting in hours of traffic to travel a few miles there and back undoubtedly sullies the guest experience. After a long day, the brands that provide on-demand car service solutions are the ones remembered by all.

Give Them What They Didn’t Know They Needed: Off-site Activations

Sometimes, due to conflicts or budgetary restraints, actually setting up shop on festival grounds is just not in the cards. Brands are forced to be creative and look for new ways to develop a ‘presence’ that aligns with the festival. In fact, sometimes this can be a blessing in disguise.

One method we’ve repeatedly found successful is ‘popping up,’ or throwing off-site parties at nearby hotspots. Capitalizing on the heavy flow of festival traffic, millennial attention, and celebs in town – brands are free to build out spaces that reflect their own identities (depending on permit restrictions,) in lieu of conforming to imposed festival guidelines. Additionally, operating independently presents both artist extension and partnership opportunities – further aligning brands with like-minded icons and thought-leaders.

Give Them What Makes Them Think: Integrate Technology

Using the newest and most compelling technologies is critical – but what’s equally as crucial is understanding how these technologies can (and can’t) be used to offer new experiences. A brand that falls behind the technology curve is sure to receive less foot-traffic and fewer social media impressions than the brand that promises to let consumers explore every possible dimension and vantage point. Of course, be careful to, anticipate all of the potential consequences to avoid long lines and irritated patrons. And never recycle last year’s ideas. During the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, we partnered with Dell to showcase its first virtual reality (VR) experience in 4D. In collaboration with the brand’s Social Good Advocate, Adrian Grenier, we created a new, interactive VR experience to demonstrate Dell’s leadership in the space and how technology can educate and inspire action about critical environmental issues.

Activating brands at festivals can be a key channel of communication and exposure to capture target audiences. Creating an experience that nobody wants to leave, while showcasing new products or service offerings to the festival lifestyle, is a dream-scenario for any brand. Whether building out a chic after-party or a quiet safe-haven, disrupting the status quo elevates activations to the next level and leaves a lasting impression.

New Hotels to Have on Your Radar

The only cure to the end-of-summer sadness is having something new to look forward to, right? Here, we bring you five. A handful of hotels are popping up from NYC to LA, bringing the best in design, dining and beyond. There’s something for everyone: art-centric spaces, posh hospitality heavyweights, new locations of old favorites, and so on.

Read on to find out which NYC neighborhood is attracting all the openings, plus what to look forward to on the West Coast.

MADE Hotel 

Hospitality entrepreneur Sam Gelin steps onto the hotel scene with MADE. Gelin’s debut hotel property opened on September 5th, welcoming guests into the 18-story space. The NoMad hotel was designed to be something of a retreat for both guests and visitors alike; a place that can be enjoyed from morning to night. As such, MADE is already staking its claim as visitors’ go-to workspace, coffee shop, restaurant and cocktail spot. Stop by before it’s too cold to enjoy the rooftop.

Freehand New York 
With outposts in Miami, Chicago and LA, Freehand finally makes its way to NYC. The hotel is set to open its doors in the former George Washington Hotel early next year. Restaurateur Gabriel Stulman will helm the restaurant and lobby bar, adding Freehand to Happy Cooking Hospitality’s list of hot spots like Joseph Leonard and Bar Sardine. Don’t fret--Bar Lab’s Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi will bring fan-favorite bar Broken Shaker, too. Freehand wouldn’t be complete without an art element; The Freehand Fellowship will offer select artists a place to live, work and exhibit their work.

James New York, NoMad

A Soho favorite, James New York will takes up a second residence in NoMad. The luxury boutique hotel channels the buzzing neighborhood with its modern design. Its meeting and event spaces will undoubtedly be a hit with the surrounding work crowd. As for food and beverage, a partnership with LDV Hospitality will bring Scarpetta, plus a new cocktail bar, to the space this fall.

Mondrian Park Avenue
NoMad is definitely growing by the day, with the Mondrian Park Avenue solidifying its status as the neighborhood to watch. The posh hotel takes a cue from the NYC energy with eclectic yet sophisticated designs and, of course, a rooftop lounge. Chef Danny Elmaleh brings Mediterranean concept Cleo to the brand new space.

NoMAD Los Angeles 
NY transplant NoMAD is heading west. NoMAD Los Angeles will be housed in the historic Giannini Building, complete with the marble floors and and golden ceilings it was designed with in 1923. The 241-room hotel will also feature a meeting and event space as well as a rooftop pool with panoramic city views.

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