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Spring has sprung and festival fever is everywhere. Whether it’s the influencer-worthy Coachella, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, or your favorite school fair, we love our fairs and festivals.

I don’t know about you, but locally we are finishing up a school year full of festivals. It seems there has been one every weekend since October – each offering unique dishes, great music and more than likely a king or queen to be crowned.

Whatever your festival preference is, there is a marketing lesson – or two – to be learned.

Living in New Orleans, I’ve had the luck to attend a few festivals. Each year, people wait with anticipation for the announcement of the Jazz Fest cubes, the Voodoo Fest line up, the announcement of the Fill-In-The-Blank Festival Queen, and more. Festivals have many things in common. They are organized, planned and then adjusted based on hits and misses. 

If you’re looking for a fun way to glean some marketing know-how, I highly recommend you turn your attention to some of the area’s weekend happenings.

First, You Must Have A Theme

Festivals need a hook, particularly in this area when the community is often faced with two or three options every weekend. One size does not fit all. Like brands, they must have focus or risk losing the weekend. 

And, like brands, deciding the strategically important features and benefits help to formulate communications that hit your targets along their way through your purchase funnel. 

As always, start with your strategy. I won’t go into why it’s important. I feel like you may be tired of the preaching and are firmly in the strategy bandwagon. If, however, you don’t see the value, we’ll agree to disagree.

Then, you must articulate your specific product and the unique benefits – those that only you can deliver

It goes without saying these should be relevant to your target audience. 

It’s a big thought process – one undertaken over an appropriate period rather than an hour-long meeting. 

Be truthful and honest with yourself and your product because customers can see right through smoke and mirrors, even when fooled for a moment.

Now, Get the Word Out

Many of the area festivals can overlap and often directly compete against each other. The only way to ensure that someone will consider your event as a thing to do is to get the word out. 

It’s the same thing with your product. I’ve heard one too many managers cut advertising to see if the business would go down. Yep, you heard right. They were testing for a negative result! My mind is still reeling.

Advertising has played a critical role in enabling marketers to get the attention of buyers as far back as Ancient Egypt and still – STILL – plays an important role. 

When used, it builds awareness and possibly invites comparisons among your competitive set. Do I pick A or B?

Sometimes, it can be a boost to employee morale. 

And when used properly, it can make all the difference to your business because you have initiated great conversations around your brand.

In a dream world your budgets would be limitless, but the reality is that they are not. In order to utilize your budgets in the best way, you must understand who is most likely to buy and where they are listening and watching – whether that is through PR, social, paid media or a skywriter.

Let’s Talk About Free Admission  

Festivals that provide free admission, are clearing initial barriers away for customers. They also know the revenue they can generate is on the inside. They try to make it easy for attendees to do business with them. 

How easy do you make it for people to do business with you? 

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and walk through the experience you are delivering. What is the parking like? When you approach the door, is it well-lit? Clean? Are the employees greeting customers with a smile or do they barely look up? All of these things become the cost of doing business with you. 

If you’re not regularly taking this walk or having someone unbiased do it, you need to add this to your to do list or your calendar.

Open your eyes to the experience you are creating and understand the challenges or “cost of admission” to your customers. Then, fix them.  

If your customers need to contact you, give them easy access and an easy way to find your phone number. If you don’t provide parking, provide suggestions on your website. 

Simple gestures can go a long way and can motivate customers to spread the good work.

We recently partnered with GoMoment to provide a virtual concierge at a conference we are producing. Through their AI-powered virtual concierge, Ivy, we can easily answer common questions without directing someone to an FAQ page or putting them on hold.

Finally, Make Your Brand an Experience Customers Will Want to Share

As I mentioned, my team and I are elbow deep…make that eyebrow deep this week…in the production of a conference. This conference is dear to our hearts, but it’s not the biggest. So, getting attendance and sponsors is crucial. One of our first discussions was how we could create a memorable experience that has them talking – positively – well after they leave. 

One of the biggest threats to retail is experience. Consumers are choosing to spend less on stuff and more on experiences. Creating something that makes your customer feel something worth talking about can make a difference in your bottom line. 

Whether you’re attending a music festival, a food festival or just a celebration festival, you are guaranteed to create mini-experiences that you will want to tell your friends about (or share on social media). 

Put yourself in those shoes and now in your business. What is the experience worth talking about?

Remember that marketing campaign you so carefully crafted? It needs to match the experience. To paraphrase a great man of advertising, “Nothing kills a bad product like great marketing.” If you don’t believe it, I have two words in keeping with our festival theme: Fyre Festival.

I have a business associate that always approaches projects by looking at how he is stimulating all the senses. Because I know he doesn’t listen to my podcast, I’ll tell you that approach has been one of those things I always look to. I think his unique ability to do this makes him great at what he does…but don’t tell him that!

The biggest marketing lesson from festivals that I can share with you is to have fun. Enjoy the music, the food and the sun…or the social media, the television production and seeing your ads come to life.

 That’s this week’s Drivetime Marketing. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you.

Join us next week for even more marketing on your drive. 

If you like what you’re hearing, please take a moment to give us a great rating on your favorite podcast outlet so other marketers can find us. 

Send us any comments, questions or ideas at drivetimemarketingpodcast.com of find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.

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