The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival held every April in southern California has grown into one the best known of the “destination festivals” attended by hundreds of thousands young and trendy. Musicians weren’t the only ones performing at the festival. Brands took the opportunity to showcase their products and services through experiential marketing.
Experiential marketing is more than standard event marketing and special events. When done well, it entices customers to participate in brand-sponsored activities at a personal level and immerse themselves in an experience. Product experiences at sports and music events also create almost unanimous positive mentions in the press and on social media.
Some Top Examples of Experiential Marketing at Coachella
These are some examples of effective experiential marketing at the Coachella music festival.
Artist Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) used iOS Airdrop to surprise randomly selected festival-goers with a photo of shoes he created in collaboration with Adidas, relays Marketing Land. Those who accepted the Airdrop received a free pair of the sneakers – as long as they agreed to wear the shoes, attend the show, and keep the shoes on all weekend.
Chevrolet built interactive displays for guests to experience its car models, says Erik Deutsch, principal of ExcelPR Group. One display featured a Camaro in a simulated NASCAR winner’s circle, with bottles of champagne for guests to shake, pop and spray, Deutsch writes for the PRSA. Another Chevy experience featured two massive cooling fans that gave guests sitting behind the wheel the sensation of driving a Corvette Stingray at fast speeds.
Peet’s Cold Brew parked its vintage coach bus in the center of the Coachella Camping hub. Outside the vehicle, the brand offered a shaded lounge with charging stations and misting fans, reports Event Marketer. Inside the bus, 1950s-style salon chairs with oversized hair dryers blowing cold air and free cold samples of the brand’s products offered more relief from the California heat.
BMW partnered with influencers in its “Road to Coachella” campaign. With the help of soul artist Khalid, a Coachella headliner and BMW fan, the brand painted several of its vehicles with images of flames and wolves to match the look of Khalid’s recent album cover, according to Event Marketer. Kahlid and other celebrities and social media influencers, including Paris Hilton, Laura Marano and Ross Butler, relayed their experiences as they drove the BMWs to the festival.
As they approached the event, Kahlid and other influencers rested at the “The Pit Stop” at the BMW of Palm Springs dealership. At the dealership, the brand offered customers free food and merchandise and a chance to meet celebrities during the festival’s opening weekend.
Advice for Effective Experiential Marketing
Avoid the hard sell. Such events don’t succeed if brands attempt a hard sell. “It’s not about pushing our products,” Dave Barthmuss, says group manager for GM’s West Coast communications team, in Deutsch’s PRSA article. “To connect with attendees, we need to create a great experience.”
Understand your brand voice, or personality, and determine if/how it meshes with the particular event. Brands have other possible venues to market products, including dozens of other large music festivals across the country. Each event is unique, and not every brand is a good match.
Be authentic and don’t pander to your audience. Consumers — especially millennials — want to connect with brands on a human level.
Emphasize fun – that’s what people at events are anticipating.
Consider the delivery. The delivery, in addition to the experience, itself is an essential component of experiential marketing. Adidas used Glover’s celebrity to reach its audience at the concert and Airdrop as its delivery method.
Small events can succeed. You don’t need to create large‐scale, complex experiences. If done right, small experiences can create truly sticky content, advises Brian Schultz, co‐founder and chief experience officer at Magnetic. If executed properly, and documented well, your brand experience will drive your consumers and the press to tell your story better and more authentically.
Bottom Line: Experiential marketing seems as popular as the gigantic music festivals that serve as venues for the marketing strategy. PR and marketing experts praise the strategy but urge brands to plan their campaigns carefully.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.