Media: Double Standards - 'It takes more than slapping a logo on a stage'

From swapping festival-goers' warm beers for cold ones to washing their clothes, brands are coming up with inventive ways to engage young music fans.

OLIVER HARWOOD-MATTHEWS, MANAGING PARTNER, NEWCAST

- What, generally, is the value that brands get from associating with music festivals?

The same value that brands can get from any communication. Brands trying to develop a deeper relationship and engender loyalty recognise that the best way to do that is to provide tangible value to their consumers. Festivals provide the chance to create that value by enhancing the experience, and being able to do that via physical interaction with their brand. It's the perfect environment: you're there to have a good time, revelling in the music and surrounded by your mates. If you get it right, people will love you and their goodwill towards you will stick; if you miss the mark, then it can really be damaging.

- What's the most innovative association with a festival you have seen in recent times?

The Carling Cold Beer Amnesty has to be one of the best examples of adding value to the experience.

Festival-goers were able to swap a warm beer for a cold beer - physically taking the rival's product out of their hands takes some beating. I also love the idea of the portable laundromat that Wrangler jeans set up at the Lowlands festival in the Netherlands. People dropped off their mud-encrusted laundry to be washed and were sent a text message to let them know when it was ready.

- What is new in terms of brand activity at festivals?

There's a festival now for everyone, which means a much wider variety of brands are getting involved. Brands are increasingly involved at either end of the spectrum - either having a token presence or creating a full-on experience that forms part of their broader strategy. Something else that's interesting this year is the number of festivals abroad that UK festival-goers are travelling to, and the brands that follow them.

- How true is it that brands are fatigued by trying festival activity and looking elsewhere?

There's no question that festivals have become increasingly commercial over the past couple of years and that a backlash has surfaced. Live music is by far the fastest-growing sector of music and advertisers have been falling over themselves to get involved, often without much thought. For brands that do put the thought into it, however, the potential rewards are greater than ever.

- Has new, digital media shaped brand activity at festivals at all?

For festivals, nothing compares to "being there", so while websites do matter, when people are actually "on-site", it's the mobile that matters. The possibilities are endless as technology develops: GPS mobile devices could help event-goers find one another; or webcams could show where lines were shortest at concession stands. All are experience-enhancing opportunities that can be driven by brands. No doubt Glasto 2011 will be awash with air-tags, those vying to be "mayor" of the main stage and whatever else surfaces between now and then.

- What's your best-ever festival experience?

I've forgotten. Sadly, my recent best experience is probably eating a plate of Paxton & Whitfield cheese at Chiswick House Festival last month.

MARK RIVERS, CONTENT PLANNER, DRUM PHD

- What, generally, is the value that brands get from associating with music festivals?

It really does depend on how a brand approaches the association. If the brand understands the idiosyncrasies of a festival audience and the event, they can make themselves an integral part of a unique, uncopyable live experience that will never be forgotten by the festival visitors. However, to gain any of this value, brands need to understand why people are there, and then make sure all their activity is geared around enhancing the festival experience for music fans. If a brand simply slaps a logo on a stage, and expects a cool, savvy audience to love them, they'll be sorely disappointed.

- What's the most innovative association with a festival you have seen in recent times?

O2 Wireless was a game-changer - the brand launched a successful festival and created a number of experiences that benefited both its customers and the event's wider audience, while also providing the basis to launch The O2, the O2 Academy venues and roll out its Priority campaign. Carling's Cold Beer Amnesty also deserves an honourable mention for solving the perennial warm-beer-at-a-festival problem.

- What is new in terms of brand activity at festivals?

Predictably, apps have made a big splash on the festival scene this year. Some have been good and some poor.

The iTunes festival iPhone app added genuine value to the event, allowing users to watch live and previous performances. Not only a good app, but also a demonstration of a brand understanding the challenges of artist rights and provision of quality content - something many brands fail at. The Sony Bloggie Bar at this year's Lollapalooza in the US looks great as well - borrow a video camera for free, film the festival and your mates, upload and share - a brilliant and simple demonstration of a brand understanding how to improve a festival experience.

- How true is it that brands are fatigued by trying festival activity and looking elsewhere?

To a certain extent, it's true, particularly given how cluttered the area can be for brands. However, there is obviously still a huge appetite to communicate with music fans, whether it be through festivals or the wider music space. The successful (and clever) brands are the ones that are working collaboratively with promoters, artists, agents and labels to achieve commercial benefit for all parties, while always looking to create better experiences for music fans.

- Has new, digital media shaped brand activity at festivals at all?

Digital media is a massive part of the way people plan, enjoy and reminisce about festivals, and with some thought, can be an integral part of a brand's activity. However, a lot of brands have rushed to use digital media and put the platform before having a good idea. As with all other marketing, if a piece of digital activity offers no value, it's not worth doing.

- What's your best-ever festival experience?

The third time I went to Glastonbury. The first two times were amazing but, the third time, it didn't rain.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).