Festivals are back and more popular than ever after people missed out on their favorite events for years due to the global pandemic. With Coachella and Glastonbury selling out within minutes, the appeal of an immersive experience in a unique atmosphere with live music, good company, and (hopefully) sunny weather remains unwavering.
That said, the post-pandemic world is a very different place, which means festival organizers need to navigate promoting their event in the new normal — all while facing increased competition from rival events. Read on to discover the branding strategies of well-known festivals like Coachella, how they have changed, and what we can learn from them.
What Is Festival Branding, and Why Is It Important?
A brand is much more than just a logo, it’s everything — the very spirit of the festival, where every detail counts. Festival organizers need to ensure that every element of the festival experience — from the lineup to the location, price, food options, entertainment, and overall experience — reflects their brand identity and values. This will enable them to build and uphold a good reputation so that guests keep returning year after year.
With a wide range of choices for every demographic, festivals need to clearly position themselves and convey their brand identity and the experience they offer in an authentic way that their audience relates to. Visitors these days truly are spoilt for choice.
Do they want to go camping, glamping, or stay in a 5-star hotel? Would they prefer a field, the beach, or even a tropical island? Abroad or at home? Are they interested in headbanging to heavy metal, singing along to chart music, experiencing art and street food, or do they want the whole package? Ultimately, people choose to go to festivals for the experience they will have there, which is a lot more than just the music.
Before the event, festivals can use branding to differentiate themselves from competitors, connect with their target audience, and build excitement for the event. Marketing materials should speak to the audience — so it’s crucial that the website, logo, social media posts, posters, and merchandise reflect the festival’s brand identity and appeal to the target audience. This is important, because, if people don’t understand what your festival is about and what makes it special, they won’t bother to buy tickets.
Branding Strategies of Major Festivals
A strong brand is important for every business in any industry, but especially for festivals.
Let’s consider the fact that people buy Glastonbury tickets before the lineup has even been fully announced. The level of brand loyalty is so high that people trust the organizers to put on a fabulous event, totally convinced they will have an amazing time there, rain or shine, no matter what.
How many people would buy a laptop without knowing the features or splurge on a new handbag without seeing it first? Yet Glastonbury and Coachella tickets sell out within minutes. That’s how strong their brand is. Let’s take a deep dive into the branding strategies of the major festivals Coachella and Glastonbury — how they have evolved and what makes them so successful.
Coachella is arguably the most famous music festival in the U.S. Taking place in California, the festival is famous for its star-studded lineups including the likes of Beyonce and Radiohead, as well as the carefree vibe and sunny weather.
After a three-year break following unsuccessful attempts to reschedule during the pandemic, Coachella made a massive comeback in April 2022. Passes for Coachella 2022 sold out within 75 minutes of going on sale. But what makes Coachella so popular?
The Coachella brand has always been “cool”. Celebrity sightings are a regular thing at Coachella, which ensures a big media presence as well as excitement from fans keen to spot their favorite stars. This is partly a deliberate play by the festival organizers — who invite celebs like Kendall Jenner, Paris Hilton, Cindy Crawford, Gigi Hadid, and more to join in. Many celebrities are LA residents, so it’s easy for them to get on the guest list and spend the weekend at Coachella.
Furthermore, the Coachella brand stands for authenticity and sends a clear message that says “be yourself”. This can be seen in their social media presence, as they encourage people to stand out and be authentic.
Coachella further builds its brand with merch that reflects its brand values, which also tie in with the values of its audience. Coachella has always done this, but in recent years, there has been a bigger focus on supporting good causes and a move towards purpose-based marketing — such as supporting the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements, as can be seen in the “Love black people like you love black music” hoodie.
Since the pandemic, Coachella has doubled down on its use of digital technology to offer fans new experiences. Coachella was one of the first brands to adopt NFTs (non-fungible tokens) — granting free access to pass holders who download the “In Bloom” NFT, a psychedelic flower seed that blossoms every Friday morning of the festival.
The NFT collection also gave the holders access to other benefits, such as faster entry lanes, limited-edition merchandise, and food and beverage vouchers, to elevate their festival experiences. The initiative worked, with the hashtag #coachellaNFT trending on Twitter.
Glastonbury is the most popular festival in the UK, welcoming around 200,000 people each year.
So what makes Glastonbury so popular? As well as impressive acts, Glastonbury is famous for its amazing atmosphere — in all weather conditions. In some respects, Glastonbury is like many different festivals coming together on one weekend in the British countryside. Each area of the festival, like Silver Hayes, Cineramageddon, Arcadia, The Common, has its own distinct character, fans, and branding — even the style and colors of the lineup sheet are different.
In recent years, Glastonbury has increased its focus on digital experiences. Using the Glastonbury App, fans can create a personalized lineup and share it with friends and fellow festival-goers.
Glastonbury has also made sustainability a key priority, encouraging attendees to become a “worthy warrior” in collaboration with Greenpeace. The festival also hosts a flag-making workshop to highlight the work of Oxfam, Greenpeace, and WaterAid in fighting climate change.
While many people are excited to get back to some sense of normality after many lockdowns and enjoy the festival atmosphere, others are not used to big crowds and may feel nervous about being surrounded by so many people.
The organizers of Glastonbury have shown empathy and offered support to attendees, posting on their blog and on social media with tips on how to handle the crowds.
As Glastonbury could be the biggest crowd you’ve been in since 2019, it’s important to take it slow. Read our tips on dealing with busy crowds and ways to help you enjoy your time at the Festival.— Glastonbury Festival (@glastonbury) June 6, 2022
➡️ https://t.co/SGmykGhJSV pic.twitter.com/4nZ7Ktt4eN
5 Tips for Branding a Big Event in a Post-Covid World
At Latana, we know a thing or two about branding. So, here are our top tips on how festivals and big events can build a strong brand in a post-covid world.
1. Identify Your Brand Values
With so many events competing for people’s attention and attendance, festivals need to be clear on what makes them unique. What are your key values? What is your brand’s “personality”?
Your brand’s unique voice should shine through in all elements of branding — on social media, your website, merch, and, of course, during the event.
2. Make the World a Better Place
In recent years, consumers expect brands to act ethically. In the context of a festival, that means working to reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact, raising awareness for sustainability and other worthwhile causes — and offering ample opportunities for guests to recycle and dispose of their waste properly.
Society takes a dim view of festivals that leave a huge mess behind and fail to recycle the plastic bottles and other items consumed during the festival. You don’t want your festival to be splashed all over social media for the wrong reasons — which in times of cancel culture could easily happen — so make sustainability and ethical business practices a key priority.
3. Know Your Audience
There is no “average festival-goer”. The types of festival-goers are as varied as the events themselves, so think carefully about who your audience is, as well as who you would like to attract.
Are they into rock music, indie, or do they prefer dance music that’s in the charts? Are they teenagers, older Millennials, or maybe even Gen X? Do they live locally, or will they travel from the other side of the country, or perhaps even from abroad?
For more information about how to understand your customers and their needs, check out our Ultimate Guide to Target Audiences.
4. Be Consistent…
Consistency is key for building a strong, recognizable brand that your target audience relates to. So, from your social media posts to your wristbands and signage at the event, the look and feel need to be consistent.
It’s recommended to put together clear brand guidelines setting out your brand colors, visuals, and brand voice.
5. …But Have Some Surprises in Store
The biggest festivals know people love surprises. Well… good ones, at least! Coachella famously enabled Justin Bieber to make his comeback during Ariana Grande’s performance, and Glastonbury purposely makes parts of its lineup a secret which they reveal in surprise locations, such as charity shops.
“Surprise and delight” is a powerful marketing tactic — so, try to amaze your audience with an experience that goes beyond their expectations.
Creating a unique brand identity with clear core values is the most important first step when it comes to marketing a festival. A strong brand is what makes a festival sell out within minutes — it’s even more important than the lineup!
Brand managers from other industries can learn a lot from festivals, as big events are under a lot of pressure to deliver on their brand promise. Ideally, the festival experience should thrill guests and leave them raving about the experience and coming back year after year.