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Fans listen to David Guetta at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California April 12, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS)
Fans listen to David Guetta at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California April 12, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS)

Marketing tips from the summer festival circuit Add to ...

For many Canadians, nothing says summer like a car full of camping gear, a couple of brightly coloured wristbands, and a weekend date with thousands of fellow fans at any one of the many music festivals that dot the calendar in July and August.

From the built up anticipation of the festival lineup reveal, to the excitement of the event itself, it’s hard not to marvel at the energy surrounding a music festival.

Over time, yearly music festivals develop their own hard core fans; ardent supporters who turn the weekend into an annual pilgrimage of sorts.

A lot of brands would love to inspire that kind of loyalty. So what can we learn from the likes of Coachella, Osheaga or Boots and Hearts?

At the core of every music festival is the simple truth of why everyone has gathered in a field for a weekend: the music. No matter the festival, the principle hasn’t changed much from when Jimi Hendrix powered through The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock.

The heart and soul of the music festival is still the music. The accoutrements – whether it’s food trucks, beer vendors, t-shirt stands or social media hashtags – are definitely noticed and likely enjoyed. But the reason someone attends these events isn’t for those bells and whistles; it’s because of the music.

Brands should mimic this when looking to create a killer marketing concept. It’s about coming up with a concept that maintains a strong core message. One that is true to the brand’s values. It’s an idea that will withstand the test of time. Once found, it’s paramount to maintain the integrity of the idea and not lose sight of it. The extras come later.

Look at the Molson Canada Beer Fridge: it’s a long running campaign rooted in Canadian pride and cold beer on ice. Whether you need to sing the national anthem to open it up, scan your passport or band together with five strangers, the central idea is always rooted in Canadian pride and cold beer. The idea moves seamlessly from season to place to moment, playing on what Canadians love, and always invokes patriotism and pride to its audience.

For those brands looking to partner with a musical act, it’s time to think about more than just a one off campaign.

Time and again, we see brands hiring talent or celebrities to launch a specific product or campaign. Why do brands continually hire talent for one-time only engagements? This is a missed opportunity. There is a greater possibility for authentic content by building a long term partnership – be it with an artist or a festival overall. A long term partnership is more meaningful than a one-off because it cements true advocacy from the partner and genuine buy-in from the audience.

Think of the opportunities when working with a band on the festival circuit. The weeks leading up to the event offer a chance to engage with their fans, leverage their social media channels and help propel the band forward with your own audiences. To truly get the most out of the partnership, think about creating exclusive experiences on site. Maybe help the band launch a new song – available only to your fan base to begin with – just a few days before the festival.

The point is, you want to think bigger. Turn your campaign from a hit single into a full concept album.

While there are some music fans who will go back to the same festival year after year simply for the experience, many others go for the lineup of bands packing the bill. Music festivals build lineups of artists which ultimately builds lineups of advocates.

There’s so much brands can learn from this. It’s one of the most authentic forms of influencer marketing. The long-term, authentic relationship is what makes it work, and the passion and enthusiasm in its audience. When fans know what to expect from the live show of a particular band, or a music festival, they’re going to keep on coming back. Just look at the dedicated fans of bands like Rush, Pearl Jam or The Grateful Dead, who keep coming back, year in and year out.

Brand advocates build loyalty, and as the saying goes, “It’s better to have 100 people that love you than a million people that just sort of like you.”

Woodstock may be a memory now, but the legacy of its core idea lives on in countless other festivals today. If your brand can capture the same kind of love and devotion by finding a core idea, and by cultivating lasting relationships with consumers through a central value, your fans will be screaming for an encore.

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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