Charlie Li, strategy director at  experiential marketing agency TRO, is passionate about brands creating meaningful experiences. Here she outlines how brands can best connect with fans and communities at festivals.

The festival economy is booming. According to a YouGov poll last year, 47% of Brits has attended a festival in the previous 12 months. However, the very premise of festivals has changed; they’re not just purely music-driven events anymore, they’re now vibrant cultural experiences. This shift presents exciting opportunities for brands to connect with diverse communities.

For brands, simply showing up at a festival isn’t enough. It’s not just about reach, it’s about deep engagement and proving your value to fan communities. We know that 98% of festivalgoers recall the brands they interact with (The Event Marketing Institute) – which demonstrates that brand presence is everything.

There aren’t many established best practices for creating meaningful festival experiences, which can make going to festivals feel like a game of catch-up.

With a packed summer of festivals fast approaching, I wanted to share some of my top tips to help brands stand out in the crowd:

  1. Set clear goals

Knowing what you want to achieve is key, in fact, it’s non-negotiable. Do you want to build brand awareness, generate leads or promote a new product? Your goal will provide you with direction and intention.

  1. Find your tribe and align with passions

Look beyond your usual suspects and demographics, even your own category. Do some research into how people interact with your brand – are there any emerging behaviours or trends? Are you missing a key consumer? Remember, festivals unite people by shared passions, not just age.

  1. Reimagine what you have

Time to look inwards. Can you leverage existing assets, products, partnerships or brand qualities in new ways?

  1. Address cultural shifts

Don’t just chase trends, as they fade just as quickly as they form. You need to understand the deeper cultural shifts and nuances – think about why communities do what they do. This will help you stay relevant beyond the ‘one off’ experience.

  1. Choose the right opportunity

Create your own evaluation criteria based on goals, budget, and brand community alignment. Set up objective criteria to evaluate your success.

  1. Go beyond the generic

Go beyond generic giveaway and photo ops. Create an experience that truly resonates with the festival spirit.

  1. Create bespoke measurement and reporting

Don’t just use basic footfall metrics. Look beyond immediate, experiential metrics to access long term brand impact.

As the industry prepares for the 2024 festival season, it’s important to remember to show up as a festivalgoer, not a marketing department, if you want to truly stand out in the crowd.