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No-chella: Why Brands Need to Look Beyond Music Festivals for Community-Driven Success

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Coachella just wrapped its 2019 show, complete with an Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber surprise performance and an Easter Sunday sermon by Kanye. While surprise sets are now the norm at festivals, the experience isn’t just about the music or even the FOMO (fear of missing out) anymore, as music and culture festivals have evolved into the place for brands to connect with their hard-to-reach millennial fans in a meaningful way.  Coachella (and other music festivals) might be a microcosm of the community-driven economy – but some brands are missing the bigger picture.

Brands who make the news for their marketing at the festivals get that Millennials relate to this sort of experience, but for many brands, the value hasn’t extended past Coachella. Music festivals are a unique opportunity to guinea pig novel uses of tech – for example, given the high ticket price and general zeitgeist of Coachella, Childish Gambino had a safe bet to reach a large portion of the audience with an Apple-only Airdrop request. Meanwhile, brands not advertising at these festivals are left wondering, are their competitors taking the next step toward community-driven marketing in other retail channels, or are these just marketing gimmicks and one-offs for the headlines?

When FOMO Died

Coachella 2019 was the first to have both weeks streamed live on YouTube in their entirety. This is where Coachella isn’t breaking new ground – they’re simply recognizing an ever-popular trend for concertgoers and experience seekers that has become a trend from Lollapalooza to SXSW. Although Coachella has managed to tier the experience, budget-conscious music lovers or those who simply don’t crave the experience will watch online with their friends, limiting the real value of FOMO. What does this mean? In-person experiences are translatable to valuable online events. The full story of success for the streaming of Coachella on YouTube will be told in the coming weeks and months as the replay count grows, but given its proclivity with other live events, there’s no reason to expect anything other than a success culminating in a repeat next year.

If the festival industry is coming to the laptop and smartphone, brands need to follow. Streaming a live event by definition involves a layer of interactivity, Brands can kickstart a new wave of Coachella success by reaching out mid-concert, with new events, technical breakthroughs, and UGC-focused shopping experiences made possible through a sense of community driven by live-streamed stages and sets.

Year-Round Influencers

At Coachella alone, so much content can be derived without the need for influencers; from “Instagram hot spots” to VIP area geotagging, and this year some brands are saving their marketing budget by re-investing in nanoinfluencers, small-time promoters with fewer than 10,000 followers. But the success of influencers of all sizes isn’t limited to music festivals, and brands that don’t align with this strategy year-round won’t appear authentic to millennials. As Instagram takes over social media advertising for Gen Z and Millenials, these demographics are developing a high sensitivity for paid advertising, and the FOMO of the big budget influencers can start to work against them, as do the brands who treat community engagement as a metric to be purchased.

Festivals like Coachella serve to show brands that by investing in influencer activity and experiential marketing, they stand to connect better with younger audiences. As marketers begin to segment and accurately target in markets beyond the festival community, a new paradigm of customer relations will undoubtedly evolve. 

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