How Four Brands Stand Out Activating at Festivals

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

By Cassie Hughes and Gabrey Means

From Coachella to Wanderlust to Taste of the Nation and beyond, there’s no denying that festivals are having a moment. And, that moment isn’t going to expire anytime soon. For consumers of all ages, but especially the coveted Millennial group, festivals are the perfect combination of dwell time and social sharing, offering the music, food and brands that consumers love in an atmosphere full of contagious energy. And brands are taking notice, looking to grab a piece of the action (and consumer attention).

festival activation
Ole Henriksen activated at Wanderlust Festivals across the country.

Although activating at festivals seems like a no-brainer, there’s a fine line between cutting through the clutter and adding to the noise. Finding a way to stand out and make a true emotional connection with a consumer is essential for any brand looking to take the festival scene by storm. Here’s how four top brands are doing just that.

The Glenlivet—Stand out from the crowd

Culinary festivals are crowded landscapes, and most brands go with the flow by creating a quick-hit experience that rapidly engages guests for a single taste or bite. As a result, meaningful experiences that encourage guests to pause and savor (rather than scarf) make a big impression.

The Glenlivet wanted to showcase the flavor of their whiskys while engaging guests on a deeper level to appeal to whisky newcomers and aficionados alike. The Glenlivet Dram Room, an interactive activation that popped up food festivals nationwide, was truly a miniature house of scotch, with a flavor-focused corridor opening up to an inviting lounge space outfitted with a multi-sensory aroma wall, interactive drink machine and engaging touchpoints about the brand’s history. (Read the case study).

Ole Henriksen—Meet a need

At this year’s Ole Henriksen Glow Tour at Wanderlust Festivals across the U.S., the brand offered marketing as a service by helping transport visitors away from the heat with onsite body wipes and refreshing spritzes of facial mist. Tapping into this need led to Ole Henriksen’s brand experience being a calming respite for guests to relax and enjoy. They also successfully integrated themselves in the festival environment by gearing brand ambassadors with roaming bikes to reach far-flung festival goers and creating social moments for visitors to capture these experiences.

Google Chromecast—Give them the ultimate VIP treatment

Google Chromecast brought innovation to the already tech-packed Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco by giving guests their VIP moment on the big screen—literally. The brand popped up an interactive “living room” experience that grabbed the attention of the Millennial attendees, offering Chromecast and Chromecast Audio product demos alongside a GIF booth that Cast select GIFs to the mainstage screens. The experience was a true showcase of the magic consumers witnessed when they saw content move from the small to big screen. Select music artists performing at Outside Lands and YouTube Creators also stopped by the space to meet with fans and rock out with them in the GIF booth.

H&M—Make a commitment

H&M has been a long-standing partner of Coachella over the years, consistently engaging festival-goers and always amping up the anticipation of what’s next. H&M not only collaborated with Coachella on a new clothing line (hello, Millennial gold!) but also showed off their sustainable practices at the festival itself. Guests used augmented reality to “try on” H&M gear in a virtual fitting room before recycling their old duds in exchange for a fresh new look. Through providing fresh activation content annually while remaining true to the ongoing partnership, H&M gained strong brand equity while reaching their target in an authentic way.

Whether it’s by cutting through the clutter of a food festival with a moment of savoring or helping festival-goers beat the heat, several brands are making waves in the festival landscape by getting through to consumers and making an impact.

Cassie Hughes and Gabrey Means are co-founders at Grow Marketing.


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Damon Swenson, Brand Activation Manager at Dr Pepper, on crafting a retail program using custom labels tied to Millennials’ passion points and lifestyle interests like fashion, music and pop-culture. He presented his case study at Marketing to Millennials 2017.