Marketing is about making a noise, so it’s perhaps fitting that a grand old music festival can teach us all a few lessons about how to get heard in the hotly-competitive digital ecosystem.
Recently, music legend Paul McCartney showed he was as in tune with social media as the sounds of the swinging Sixties. His post to announce he will headline next year’s 50th anniversary Somerset showpiece was fun and shareable content apt for a world that demands a little more than a typed statement.
He tweeted three pictures – composer Philip Glass, actor Emma Stone and musician Chuck Berry. The tweet was a cryptic code: together, their surnames are ‘Glass-Stone-Berry’.
It was much more than a fun reveal, though – this genius move secured a wave of user-generated content and press coverage.
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) November 18, 2019
Yet, it isn’t just the Fab Four frontman who can show the marketing world a few tricks. Glastonbury is a fascinating case study on the power and value of experiential marketing.
What Glastonbury teaches us about experiential content marketing
Known as “the greatest show on earth” to many, Glastonbury is the world’s largest greenfield festival. 2017 saw the contemporary arts weekender broadcast to more than 21 million people.
The music event has come a long way from humble roots as a 1970s hippie gathering. In fact, the entire festival industry is booming – it’s worth £2.28 billion across the world and shows no sign of slowing.
So, what’s behind this trend? Why are consumers spending so much on live music in the Spotify and Apple Music era?
The answer lies in the experience – and in growing access to media that brings this experience closer than ever before. If Glastonbury boomed when Channel 4 first exposed a muddy paradise to the world in 1994, then the platforms like Instagram sell a new, glitter-covered version of the festival experience to the masses.
This is a vital lesson for marketers: unique experiences and the fear of missing out (FOMO) can drive big bucks your way. When choosing a strategy, more and more brand giants are choosing to centre their digital campaigns on something experiential.
What is experiential marketing?
The purpose of experiential marketing is to bring brands to life. The idea is that, by actively engaging consumers, we can bridge the gap between logos, products and real people.
An activation is needed to create the effect – this might be an event, a stunt or an immersive experience. The point is to get right to the heart of what motivates and compels your target audience.
This can be at the heart of a marketing campaign and fuel blogs, social posts, billboards, TV ads - any and every piece of content you can imagine. It gives you a spark.
How does Glastonbury use experiential marketing?
Glastonbury uses its own style of experiential marketing to cultivate mystery. The organisers leave slots blank, start rumours and find creative ways to make announcements.
The 2019 saw secret forest gigs and each year, there are rumours of an underground piano bar popping up in new locations. These stunts provide the perfect model for brand experiences. Exclusivity is exciting, after all – and social media allows brands to drop live hints like never before.
Ingenious stunt tactics were used to announce the first 2019 headliner: two simple posters appeared in Oxfam charity shops.
The result? A swarm of user-generated content and a clever stunt that managed to marry the festival’s ethical brand with a rising genre: grime. There was no anti-rap petition; the press coverage struck exactly the right tone.
How are brands using experiential marketing?
Red Bull’s Stratos campaign changed the pace of experiential marketing back in 2012. Pouring one tenth of its global marketing budget into the high-speed project, the company sought to break the world record for the fastest freefall. It came 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier – more than just a campaign, this project was a historical moment.
It was broadcast in more than 50 countries but the live webcast was the real star of the show. Powered by 280 digital partners, this seamless video content attracted 52 million views. Best of all, the Red Bull logo was in every shot.
When sales rose by a huge seven per cent in the following six months, other brands couldn’t help but to sit up and take notice.
Three types of experiential marketing are now being deployed:
1. Guerilla stunts
Guerilla stunts seek to surprise consumers with unorthodox images or experiences. Some of the earliest examples involved letting guerillas loose in New York bars to mention alcohol brand names. More recently, Jeep marked out parking spaces in unconventional locations to showcase the off-road capabilities of its cars.
Today, viral videos are just as important as street stunts. The two often go hand-in-hand, allowing relatively low-cost stunts to achieve stratospheric reach. The trick to pulling off guerilla marketing in the digital age is to make events clever and interactive. A great example is the spy experience created by Coca Cola and the James Bond franchise. Vending machine users found themselves caught in a real life 007 experience that generated a buzz online.
Pop-up stalls are great for high-traffic areas like conferences or music festivals. Guitar Hero rocked several festivals in 2015 and Benefit’s ‘Glastonbrow’ pop-up drive thru even managed to basque in the glory of Glastonbury from the A37 and without an official invite.
The trick is to offer attendees something they want: pampering, services or entertainment. The more memorable, the better.
A new, smarter breed of installation is going digital, however. Motivating your audience to create user-generated content – like photos – amplifies the benefit. For an easy bonus, provide users with exclusive access to supporting content so they have a reason to visit your site.
3. Immersive technologies
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality offer huge opportunities for brands, since they can transport users into unique experience from any location. Volvo has invited people to test drive cars and The North Face has taken participants on virtual hikes through Yosemite and Nepal.
These technologies have become a staple at industry events. The next step is likely to see users connecting with brands from inside their homes, using VR to try on clothing or view products from all angles.
As this bright future rolls out, brands should remember the Glastonbury formula: quality, mystery and exclusivity. The New York Times has sent VR glasses to reward its most loyal subscribers, while the Stranger Things AR World Lens partnered with Snapchat to create a quality experience filled with surprises – but only for select superfans.
Content marketing is about curating the digital experience
So far, experiential marketing has been dominated by larger brands wishing to enhance brand reputation rather than to build its presence. But, 2019 has seen investment from every sector and the principles are easily transported to any business blog.
Brand storytelling is one way to keep your readers entertained. From travel to interior design and human interest stories, there are some topics people love to engage with – so find those that relate to your brand. Use written content, video and podcasts to bring them to life.
Building infographics and quizzes is another smart way to entertain your personas by taking them on a digital journey. Highly shareable and interactive link bait campaigns are guerrilla experiences of the future.
Lessons for marketers
The tides are turning as all marketing makes the transition to digital. This should act as a reminder for marketers in both camps: ignoring digital opportunities is a terrible mistake, but no algorithm in the world can replace the value of great experiences.
In your next ideation session, think about how to create your own Glastonbury moment to build excitement – relative to your business, of course. After all, if a 77-year-old music legend can use social media to captivate a new generation, perhaps we can all step up our game.
Kelly Barnett, content editor at Zazzle Media.