Do’s and Don’ts of Festival Marketing for Brands

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book YouthNation: Building Remarkable Brands in a Youth-Driven Culture, the first book by Matt Britton out April 20th and available now for pre-order. Learn more at

With festivals becoming more and more a part of mainstream culture, it’s no surprise brand executives are scrambling to think of creative ways to capture and impact the festival audience. The problem is buying a booth or slapping on a sponsor logo isn’t enough to attract, and can often be a turnoff for YouthNation.

While being at a festival is a step in the right direction, it’s easier for brands to miss the mark than it is to hit it, which typically means thousands (or millions) of dollars gone to waste and future experiential marketing opportunities overlooked. Successful festival marketing is all about standing out, delivering a memorable experience, and adding value.  What follows is a short list of callouts and thought-starters to help plan your next concert/festival activation.

 Don’t be #basic

Remember, your competition isn’t just the other festival sponsors, but the music itself! At a festival, there’s always something happening somewhere. You’re asking attendees to miss part of the festival experience to be with you—even if just for a minute. Moral of the story: Don’t be ordinary or predictable.  Don’t be lazy. Every brand is going to have a tchotchke to give out. Think innovatively and intricately about the experience you are entering and the people you will encounter there and design your approach accordingly, or better yet, in dialogue with your target market.

A good rule of thumb is to recognize right off the bat that the first three things you think of in the festival-planning brainstorm session have already been done! In fact, the other sponsors are probably doing them right now. Great! Let them be basic.  Your job is to dig deeper, collaborate more creatively, and figure out how to deliver what nobody else is even thinking about, and be remembered for your innovation and creativity.

 Add value

When you’re at a festival, it comes down to fundamentals. Every festivalgoer needs three things: power, water, and shade. If you can provide something attendees need, you’ll have a line 24/7 and win valuable mindshare. If you can satisfy basic needs in a fun, exciting, and memorable way, you’ve just become their new favorite thing. This concept goes back to fundamental concepts called “need-state marketing.” Figure out what your audience needs, then deliver just that, and deliver it really, really well.

Depending on the type of festival, people will have varying needs, but think ahead to how you and your brand can fill the gap and over-deliver something people don’t expect or forgot to pack, and you’ll be the talk of the town. It’s also important to note that this should be done authentically. Duracell often sets up phone-charging stations, and CamelBak provides water-bottle refill stations. If your brand or product isn’t directly applicable to the audience’s day-to-day user experience, find something related that could be. If you can connect your activation to a need in YouthNation’s festival routine, you become a partner and a friend, not a brand and a sponsor.

The power of word-of-mouth

Your brand presence at the festival shouldn’t end at the edge of your activation footprint.  Rather, think of pass-alongs and giveaways that enable festivalgoers to represent your brand in and among the crowd, back at their camp, and throughout their daily interactions. Simple examples of this are branded balloons, beach balls, and LED light-sticks.  At a festival last spring Spotify blew up hundreds of three-foot green balloons (with air, not helium), and right before the drop of the headlining EDM act Steve Aoki, tossed them over the audience with everyone watching in amazement as they floated in slow-motion, overhead. Other brands give out branded flags, umbrellas, blankets, etc., so groups of friends can share the brand experience.

So ask yourself, how can your set-up drive conversations among friends or even strangers? What can you give out that people will wear or use the whole day/weekend, turning them into festival brand ambassadors and walking advocates? What kind of social content can you create that lives on past the festival, becoming an artifact or souvenir of peoples’ shared experience there? In a world where word-of-mouth is king, a captive audience of several thousand young, highly connected, extremely positive and open-minded individuals is a potential launching pad for greatness.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from YouthNation: Building Remarkable Brands in a Youth-Driven Culture by Matt Britton. Copyright (c) 2015 by Matt Britton. All rights reserved. This book is available wherever books are sold.


Building Your Personal Brand in YouthNation


Transgender in the Workplace: The Lauren Almonte Story