4 Festival Branding Stages You Don’t Want to Miss


If you’re reading this post you either have a festival or you’re thinking of starting one, so make sure you listen up! More and more festivals are popping up all across North America each and every year. Everyone is looking at the business and thinking that they can jump in and make a quick buck – If this is you – DON’T DO IT!

Festivals, like any business, are a building process and you need to be prepared to invest your time and money for a minimum of 3 years. You need to invest in your team, your image, your location and your voice. Building a festival is kind of like grooming an artist – you need to make sure the songs are amazing, the voice is chilling, and the artist is ready to hit the big stage. Then when your artist hits that stage, you need everyone to leave wanting more; same as a festival. You want your attendees to be craving your event all year round. Still interested? Great! Now that you’ve decided to fully play the festival game, what is going to set you apart? What is going to get people hooked on you? That’s the key question. In every major city across North America you can find a music festival to suit your needs with in a 4 hour drive, so if you want to enter this competitive market, or you’re already in it, you better have a big voice that leaves the crowds wanting more. The first way to do that is to carve out your brand.

4 Imperative, simple stages of branding that most new-comers miss:

Basic breakdown: your brand is the feeling people get when they engage with your product/service/event.  Ever wonder why a festival can get to year six and its acts aren’t as good as they were in the first couple years but people are still knocking down the doors for tickets? That people, is branding. In my opinion and experience, there are four stages to really carve out your brand and leave people wanting more:

Stage one is your initial branding and advertising. This includes your logo, your ad design, web design, your slogan, and your radio and video ads. Consistency and clarity is key people! Don’t jam your ads or the front page of your site with so much to read that it leaves people spinning – Keep it simple! Be clear in your message and if there is more to say, simply add a place where people can go to find out more.

Stage two is your social media brand – This is where you get to show of your brand personality through vessels such as your email newsletter, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, your web copy etc. This is where you first start to build the communication platform of your brand. People start to see how you roll as a festival, what you support, and how you engage. It gives people a sense of what to expect during the festival and allows them to engage with the brand on a deeper level. Don’t make the mistake of letting five different people post on behalf of the festival, if you do this, your brand will be inconsistent. You need to have one voice for your brand – not a choir of people singing in all different ranges.

Stage three is creating your live brand – the feeling people get when they are on your site and the feeling they walk away with. This all comes down to your staff, your visuals, your talent, your production and the big one… your logistics!! If someone attends your festival and they sit in line for 4 hours only to get directed by a cranky staff member (who clearly wants to be somewhere else) and then they need to park their car and walk their camping gear into the site for 2 miles – their first impression may not be a good one! But if everything runs smoothly and they have a friendly face greeting them and letting them know that traffic might be a bit backed up (maybe offering a bottle of water) and once they arrive and park their car, there is a bus with storage to bring them and their stuff to the camping area – chances are, they are a lot happier! It’s the little things that go a long way.

Stage four – Managing the aftermath of your event. Ever attended a festival or event where all you do is hear everything about them and then you leave the event feeling like a high only to get radio silence for the next six months? Don’t let this be your event! Stay engaged. Find something that your festival supports and show it off! Or maybe it’s a simple thank you email a week or two after the event or a ‘Share your pics to win’ contest for next year. However you decide to attack stage four is up to you. Just make sure you do it.

Clearly there is a lot more to branding festivals then what is stated above, and a lot more you can do within these stages. If you’re a little lost on where to go with these stages, consult a professional! Regardless, make sure when you’re coming up with a plan that you take each stage and break it down bit by bit so that your team members fully understand the goals for each stage. This will take time but it is the most important thing a festival can do. Invest in a good graphic designer who really cares about consistency and the voice that you’ve created. Hire a marketer who is creative and innovative and let them take risks. Make sure you take the time to do volunteer walk through prior to your event so that everyone is entrenched into the vision and the voice of the festival. Maybe even throw a wrap party for staff and volunteers to keep them talking, engaged, and excited. But most importantly make sure that each and every member of your crew is truly invested in the vision and feels not just like part of the team, but of the family. Again, if you’re an existing festival and you know that you’re missing the mark but don’t know what to do or how to fix it, hire a professional and re-jig your plan – this will be one of the best investments you can make. Everyone needs to regroup and refocus sometimes, there is no shame in that – it’s actually a good thing!

I’ll end with a quote:

Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business” – Steve Jobs

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