Liz Richardson, managing partner at behavioural communications agency HeyHuman tackles those questioning the rationale of activating at Glastonbury festival

It’s the most wonderful time of year for festival lovers. After a two year absence, Glastonbury made a triumphant return last month, kicking off an eclectic summer where the likes of Latitude, Lovebox, Fusion, and Camp Bestival will endeavour to cater for all the shower-hungry, sun burnt, and music loving masses.

And with every festival, comes brand activations. With Festiticket having estimated that festivals are now worth £2.3bn globally, it’s clear why brands are piling in to have a piece of the action.

When done right, a successful festival activation can be an invaluable way to generate awareness and build meaningful, direct conversations with a brand’s target consumers. But, when done badly, a poorly thought-out activation can waste money, and prove about as effective as holding a picnic during a hurricane.

As managing partner at behavioural communications agency HeyHuman, my day-to-day is spent figuring out how to deliver experiences that connect with people and drive all-important path to purchase. Here are my three top tips for delivering a festival experience that will really deliver a return on investment for your brand.

  1. Choose your festival carefully

Brands can often be too hasty and too unimaginative when it comes to choosing the festival they want to activate at. Often, they are attracted by the lure of high-footfall events like Glastonbury, however, these locations can be a false promise.

Yes you may reach more people at the ‘big name’ festivals, and yes this may help massage your ‘reach’ stats when you present the case study to your clients, but how many people are actually paying attention? Moreover, how many meaningful interactions are you actually building with consumers?

Unless your brand has the presence, or the budget, to be able stand out in these crowded spaces, it may be better to steer clear of them.

In my mind, a brand should seek to own a space, not get lost in the noise. It’s about understanding who exactly you want to target and pin-pointing where you are likely to find those individuals. Smaller, and in some cases, more niche events, can be a better option, but they’re often overlooked due to a lack of ‘reach.’

This is a big shame because if you weigh it all up, you’ll see that there’s an opportunity to be highly targeted in your activity and generate more meaningful interactions with consumers who will genuinely care about your product.

Earlier this year, Swedish oat drink company Oatly activated a straight-talking ‘ditch milk’ campaign at the London Coffee festival. The brand owned the (relatively niche) event by investing £250k in a targeted OOH spend.

It shows how targeted experiential at smaller events can deliver the highest rewards. It also shows how important it is to lock an experiential event close to the point of purchase.

  1. If you can’t measure it, it’s not worth it

There’s no point in launching an experiential campaign unless you have a robust strategy in place to measure its effectiveness.

At a time of tightening budgets and Brexit uncertainty, brands are more cautious with their ad spend, and for good reason. Brands often ask us for proof points about measuring the effectiveness of experiential – they want increased strategic focus to ensure they’re activating in the right places and engaging the right audiences.

Measurement is a recurring thorn in the side of experiential marketers, because there isn’t a single standardised way of monitoring the success of a campaign. This means that brands will have to find solutions which will work best for them.

At HeyHuman we have a dedicated neuromarketing division to measure the impact of our campaigns, because it allows us to have a complete understanding of how our target audiences think and behave. Without doing this deep dive, there is a danger that you’ll miss the insights that will transform your campaigns into driving purchase intent.

This is just one way of measuring the success of an activation, and there may be others which will work better depending on what insight you’re looking to gleam from your measurement strategy.

  1. Make sure you’re leveraging the activation for all it’s worth

An activation should never just live and die on the day that it’s being delivered.

We’re increasingly expected to deliver a return on investment for brands by creating experiences that will reach a broader audience through social channels, and we’re getting to the stage where if it’s not shareable, then it’s not effective.

But it needs to happen in an organic way – brands shouldn’t force social sharing down consumers’ throats. People need to want to share the content, and this means creating an experience that is highly relevant and one that authentically generates an afterlife.

Any brand considering a festival activation needs to think beyond the activation itself. They need to be selective in their choice of partners, ensure they have a robust measurement strategy in place, and think about how the experience is going to be amplified across social channels.

That way, they can ensure that the activation lives on, long after the festival debris has been cleared away.