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Three Tactics Marketers Can Learn from Coachella

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Brea Carter
Brea Carter

Marketing Manager

Freeman & FreemanXP EMEA

The music festival is a hot spot for brand activity

Image courtesy of Coachella // This article originally appeared on

It’s that time of the year again. Our news and social feeds are filled with images of the iconic Ferris wheel, carefully photographed pictures of oversized art installations, and shots of stages crowded with revellers amid a backdrop of the Californian desert. Coachella is firmly on the top of many peoples’ bucket lists, and it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe each year.

And while music is at its heart, the ever-expanding event is now known for more than its show-stopping line-up. It’s a melting pot of fashion, art, food and beverage, and brand experiences — fashion and beauty retailers through to beverage and automotive companies now activate in and around the event each year. So with weekend one down and weekend two about to kick off, let’s take a look at what we can take away from this year’s instalment so far.  

Taking tech to new, immersive heights

More and more, technology is being celebrated for its ability to enhance an event, but it’s important that it ties in with the overall experience and serves a true purpose. Coachella has demonstrated this well at its new stage, The Antarctic, which is powered by technology company HP. Here, festival-goers can head into the somewhat unassuming, dome-shaped space — which is importantly air-conditioned — to escape from the heat and experience an immersive, 360-degree show that combines music, video, photography, and computer-generated imagery (CGI). The tent houses 500 or so chairs, which people can sit back and relax in as they take in the mixture of bright colours, designs, and sounds around them during the 15-minute show. Here we see that the experience has been designed with the Coachella Valley’s hot climes in mind, and its music and design elements are firmly aligned with the festival’s offering.  

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Pairing sponsorship activations with event initiatives

Over the years, the organisers of Coachella have introduced various sustainable initiatives that give back to the surrounding Coachella Valley community — such as opting for wooden festival signage and launching the Recycling Store, a place where attendees are rewarded for dropping products such as plastic bottles off to be recycled. This year, a number of sponsor brands have also opted for an environmentally conscious approach. New sponsor BMW i is providing its eco-friendly electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars to shuttle VIPs around, H&M has created a green energy-powered tent that represents a typical Palm Springs home, and the Heineken House returns with its sustainable dance floor, which stores the energy created by human movement and re-uses it. This is an important consideration for any brand, and the fact that it ties in with one of the wider event’s key messages highlights the link between the sponsor and organiser.   

Leveraging the main event to build your brand

We know that large-scale B-to-B and B-to-C events tend to draw large quantities of people with common interests to the same location, and this presents a great opportunity for brands who, for whatever reason, are unable to take part in the main event (or they might actively choose to take an alternative approach). Brands are using this to their advantage at Coachella by opting to host their own events at plush hotels, estates, and even secret desert locations nearby. So far we’ve seen pre- and post-event parties, brunch sessions, clothing pop-ups, and more from brands including Under Armour, Juicy Couture, Revolve, and Moschino, and the likes of Belvedere and McDonald’s are planning activity around weekend two. This method offers marketers the chance to connect with those attending Coachella in their own branded environments, which can in turn build brand advocacy.  

Given its global reach and the expansive coverage it receives in the press and across social media platforms, Coachella has become a hot spot for brands and there is much that marketers can learn from the activity that takes place both within and outside of the event. These can be applied not only to music festivals, but to a broad range of event formats, audiences, and sectors.

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