Festival roots go back a long way. Festivals and celebrations are embedded in history as a way of letting off steam and inverting the traditional social structure. The notion of coming together for community bonding after the isolation of winter inspired early summer festivals and speaks to the powerful emotional connection that festivals instil.
In recent years, marketers have recognized the strength of this feeling and used it to influence consumer behaviour. The festival has become more sophisticated and mainstream, complete with everything from corporate sponsorships and ‘glamping’ to champagne bars.
As the number of music festivals soared by over 70% between 2003 and 2007, various big brands began exploring “experiential marketing” to tap into the festive crowd. Festivals, which are traditionally seen as anti-corporate, have become anything but in the 21st century. As the number of festivals continues to bloom, brands continue to benefit from the unique music festival experience.
The power of the festival goes beyond a positive association with music. The experience of separation—detaching and disconnecting from everyday life—is a key factor in what makes the festival experience so unique. It’s all about suspending normal rules for a few days and escaping “the real world”, all while enjoying a sense of togetherness, common purpose and community.
Brands—including Vitamin Water, RedBull and TOPSHOP at this year’s WayHome Festival—consciously position themselves within festival culture to capitalize on the revelry. The idea is that you can attach a brand to a particular experience, like music festivals, where that emotional experience is quite intense. The hope is that people then associate the brand with that experience.
Many argue that today’s festivals are elitist, too corporate and take advantage of the festival community. In short—between $900 VIP tickets and $7000 camping arrangements—festivals have nearly lost their hippy roots.
Is there an escape? The Telegraph’s Alex Proud argues no—but already alternatives like crowd-funded festivals are popping up. Whether or not festivals will ever return to their roots is unknown, but it’s unlikely that festival culture will disappear anytime soon. After all, history shows it’s in our nature.