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Festival Season - Who Were The Winners?

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Festival Season - Who Were The Winners?

By Victoria Burke

As we march on into autumn, it’s safe to say that the 2019 festival season has most definitely come to a close. And what a season it was!

The return of Glastonbury was definitely a highlight for me. There’s something about watching live music events; I can't help but get swept up in the atmosphere and feel a part of something much bigger.

And that’s the whole point. Festivals are all about the experience. Both for the people lucky enough to snag a ticket to be there in person, and those (like me) that are peeking in from the outside thanks to TV coverage and the power of social media.

That’s exactly why brands are flocking to festivals in their droves. It’s a no-brainer; unparalleled access to 18-34 year olds with a disposable income, the ability to capture a plethora of content for social feeds and the ability to amplify their brand activity far beyond the remote fields of the festival itself.

Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, if done right, festival activations can really deliver on brand objectives and result in high-fives all round. But, if executed poorly, you might be left paying the price when pitching your 2020 marketing budget, because these partnerships don’t come cheap!

We’ve taken a look at some activations from this summer’s festival circuit, and here are our top three in reverse order.

Pukka Herbs - Latitude Festival

Pukka, producers of organic teas and supplements from ethically-sourced herbs, returned to Latitude Festival for a second consecutive year with its #pukkaswildsummer activation.

Providing festival-goers with a much-needed place of relaxation away from the noise, along with free organic pukka beverages and herbal mocktails, the brand created an immersive environment that was spot on for a festival and specifically for the Latitude audience.

Pukka managed to find the sweet spot between product promotion and value-added activities for visitors that also support the brand ethos, like offering free sessions with a herbal education specialist.

Kudos to its team as well for providing 'Plant a seed, save a bee' workshops. Environmental impact has without a doubt been at the top of the festival agenda this year, and the Pukka approach not only does some actual good, it helps to educate the next generation too.

REN Clean Skincare - Wilderness

REN Clean Skincare is the activist brand challenging the beauty industry with its mission to be zero waste by 2021 through recycled, recyclable, reusable and compostable packaging.

Working with Wilderness Festival, REN made sure there was nothing new about its sustainable stand. Everything was made from either reclaimed wood or recycled plastic – a must for a brand whose mission is so steeped in sustainability. It also had a bin to collect empty cosmetics that were ready to be recycled.

The standout piece was a large pledge wall where visitors were asked to make a commitment to reduce their single-use plastic consumption. In return, those pledging received a free travel-size sun screen product from REN.

The brand also hosted talks with a couple of its brand ambassadors, offering festival-goers tips on how they can all do more to help reduce their impact on the environment.

For a brand that has committed to zero waste by 2021, attending any festival might seem at odds with that commitment, but, as a brand, they still have a job to do, which is to sell products, and at least those products have a less negative impact on the environment than competitors.

The marketer in me can appreciate that Wilderness Festival is a good tie-up for REN; the festival has a rigorous environmental policy and as a brand REN is using the activation to get people really thinking about what they can do in order to reduce their own environmental impact, rather than just shamelessly plugging products.

McDonalds - Wireless, TRSMT, Y Not?, Reading & Leeds and Sundown

Our stand out activation was from fast-food giant McDonalds, which hit the road this summer visiting a number of festivals to generate brand love with 16-24 year olds in a way that kept product at the heart of things.

Festivals are not new to McDonalds by any stretch, having served more than 88,000 McFlurrys to festival-goers over three consecutive summers. So, when they decided to hit the road this summer and offer free McNuggets, it was always going to pull in the crowds.

What makes this activation stand out for me is that McDonalds always knew free nuggets would be a crowd pleaser, so it made the most of the audience queuing up for the freebie. Instead of trying to get festival-goers to interact with the brand and endure long queues for free nuggets, McDonalds combined it all together.

Sounds simple, but you’d be amazed at how many activations still keep things totally separate! The crowds were treated to an immersive brand activation that they moved through before finally reaching the airstream trailer that served up free McNuggets.

The use of technology and encouraging an Instagram-savvy audience to share content online played a pivotal role in the activation, as did influencers and reality stars including Joey Essex, whose ad on Instagram has had well over one million views.

This activation definitely doesn’t have that intrinsic link between brand and festival that some of the other examples have, but it certainly gained a lot more press coverage and had a stronger pre-event campaign (offering free tickets to each festival alongside MTV).

So when all is said and done, as someone who is always championing the power of face-to-face for brands, it’s safe to say that brand activations at festivals are still very much on trend as the realisation sinks in that without them, you can’t build a genuine connection with the consumer.

For me, the activation that fuses together the more organic blend of brand and festival, along with some of the learnings from the commercial approach of McDonalds, would be the real winner.