What Festivals Can Teach Us

More than just a good time, festivals demonstrate five valuable marketing tips.

Julia Carcamo is president and chief brand strategist at J Carcamo & Associates, specializing in brand and marketing strategy. She is also the co-founder of espNOLA, a Hispanic marketing and engagement agency. Learn more at jcarcamoassociates.com and espnola.com.


Every year in New Orleans people wait with anticipation for the announcement of the Jazz Fest cubes, the Voodoo Fest lineup and even the announcement of the “fill-in-the-blank-here” festival queen.

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While we love our festivals, they have so much more to teach us than just the name of a great new band. Just like great marketing, they are organized, planned and then adjusted based on hits and misses.

The following are my top five festival-based marketing tips:


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1: Have A Theme

Festivals need a hook, particularly in this area when we’re 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.

The Lesson: Start by articulating your specific product and the unique benefits only you can deliver that are relevant to your target audience. Keep in mind that this is a big thought process — one that should be undertaken over an appropriate period rather than an hour-long meeting. Remember, be truthful and honest; customers can see right through smoke and mirrors.

2: Get the Word Out

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

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The Lesson: Advertising has played a critical role in enabling marketers to get the attention of buyers as far back as Ancient Egypt and still plays an important role. When used properly, it builds awareness as well as inviting comparisons among your competitive set. And, sometimes, it can be a boost to employee morale. 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 media, paid media or a skywriter.

3: Offer “Free Admission”

Festivals that provide free admission tend to be better attended.

The Lesson: Make it easy. How hard 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. 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 word.

4: Deliver an Experience They’ll Want to Share

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).

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

5: Have Fun

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, in the case of your company’s marketing, the social media, the TV production and seeing your ads come to life.


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