Are festivals still worth brand investment? It depends: are you selling wellies?

Ariana Grande, the most followed female on Instagram kicked of her festival season last week with a headlining performance at Coachella, California. The last two weekends have seen more than 250,000 partygoers at the iconic annual festival.

It’s hard to know what guests were more interested in – the performances on stage or the never-ending streams of social posts from celebrities, influencers and guests alike, documenting everything from their festival prep and outfits to beauty diaries and food choices. Actually we’re lying. It’s not hard to know.

Considering the event footfall, the social following of the talent and influencers in attendance and the rest of the world watching, it’s little wonder that brands leap at the opportunity to tap into that audience – albeit with the full spectrum of limitations and budget! It’s not just size – every aspect of Coachella is perfectly curated to vibe with a giant swathe of affluent youth culture. And if you don’t insta at Coachella, did you even go?

YSL

More creative brands grabbed attention before anyone got to the site: YSL made the most of a popular route to the festival with a pop-up mock gas station. Their ultra-glossy beauty station launched the latest ranges from the brand, surrounded by Instagram props and plenty of sampling. Their inventive play claimed maximum relevance with a younger audience (who typically spend), maintaining a luxury output and gaining social traction without over-saturation.

Hunter 

This side of the pond, Hunter’s success-by-association with the festival scene is legendary. The brand wasted no time in amplifying the media attention they received when Kate Moss was snapped in their now-iconic wellies at Glastonbury 2005; gifting future headliners with boots for the following season. Years later, Hunter are synonymous with any mention of festivals, contributing to the brand’s evolution into a top UK lifestyle brand.

The hidden lesson here however is that we can’t all be Hunter: the majority of results won’t be this rewarding for the simple reason that consumers are now savvy of social exploits and can see through pointless brand associations. Now that ADs and sponsored material must be declared there’s less allure – but most critically if the partnership isn’t organic or relevant to the event then it just won’t work.

Fyre Festival 

The cautionary tale of Fyre festival shows us that the appetite to be associated with an ‘influencer’ led event is so great that you can sell a dream that doesn’t even exist – but you won’t get away with it. As a new generation rises there is an increasing desire for genuine content, examples of the real world instead of a glossy façade.

So the question we’ve been debating here at the instinct office is, ‘are festivals even worth it?’

The good news is that the answer is still yes, as long as you promote an authentic partnership. Your offering must always be relevant to the event and its audience: not just jumping on the tired old bandwagon.