How to make live event marketing activations deliver for everyone

live-events-in-2023-Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Adam Goodman, founder of creative brand experience and production agency, ACA Live, explores what the priorities should be for anyone planning to take their brand on the live event road next year…

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Adam Goodman, CEO ad Founder, ACA Live.

A global pandemic followed by a return to normality before a full swing back the other way with a recession is enough to make an industry such as ours dizzy. 

The events world was rocked by lockdown but was rewarded by our unbridled joy at being released back into public, with 2022’s festival season in particular proving a roaring success.

However, despite the latest IPA Bellwether report showing events as the only category to experience growth in Q3 of 2022, marketers will be asking themselves whether banking on people spending money on live entertainment in 2023 will be a sensible bet.

The good news is that there is no expectation that the events industry will be seriously impacted by the cost of living crisis. 

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Party time: Not even recession can stop Britain having a grand day or night out.

Consumers will be working to tighter budgets next year, but they will still be looking to have fun – arguably even more so given the doom and gloom that is dominating the headlines.

What it may mean, however, is that the hardcore lovers of live events will choose one or two to focus on instead of spending every weekend of the summer dancing in a field.

So brands simply have to make their activation count. 

Festivals and other music events are the perfect opportunity to engage with consumers on a deeper level, connecting with them at a time when they are relaxed, open minded and having fun. 

Live events present brands with a unique opportunity to reach people in an original way; creating a memorable moment to add to their experience should be something to which every marketer gives serious consideration.

Go big or go home

Festival-goers are different to any attendee of almost any other event. They have been brought together by a shared love of one thing – usually music – and an intention to have fun, to immerse themselves in the moment, to discover something new and to create some lifelong memories.

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All about the music: Festival goers love to experience live music and have fun.

While this attitude is a golden opportunity for brands hoping to make an emotional connection, it also gives tacit approval to do something out of the ordinary. 

The audience is there to escape the day to day grind, so tap into that and deliver the unexpected. Your activation should be about creating emotional responses and, if done well, will facilitate recall – something that is vital if you want to make your investment work for you. 

We know that people will spend time with a brand if the experience is compelling enough, so give them the excuse they are looking for.

But it’s still crucial to tailor your activation to the audience. The energy of a one-day festival goer, for example, will be vastly different to that of a weekend camper who will invariably be adopting a slower pace of life with so much time on-site. 

Meanwhile working in partnership with the organisers will give you access to a broader social media mix, and give visibility to any event-led feedback, which is so helpful to marketers.

Play it cool

It’s very tempting to see every visitor to your space as a customer ripe for conversion, but try and resist the temptation to make this an overt sales pitch. 

Once upon a time brand reps would be gathering data on a sign up sheet or wandering around handing out branded freebies. Times have changed and marketing is more subtle and multifaceted than that now.

Marketers have to be more creative in how they’re remembered. Instead aim to entertain selflessly, without looking like you are in any way benefiting from that interaction.

Likewise, don’t bombard festival goers with marketing messages before or after the event but instead opt to share personalised content from the day. 

live-event-Image by veltsu0 from Pixabay
Applause: Brands can interact with a big audience without spoiling their fun.

This is seen as a win to the customer so is immediately presented as a value exchange in return for gathering email addresses.

However, more often than not, creating a memorable experience and engaging in the moment is enough to resonate with a consumer and dramatically increase the odds of them revisiting your brand at a later date.

Anticipate success, not failure

If you’ve put some budget behind an activation the worst thing you can do is run out of stock. While there is always an unknown quantity in terms of footfall, it is better to anticipate success and come fully prepared. 

With a post-pandemic spirit to proceedings this year, for many it was a case of running out of products rather than having too much to shift. 

Some brands had to shut up shop early, while others were able to tap into reserve provisions they had in the wings for a festival the following weekend.

While it is never ideal to have a lot of stock to lug back home, it’s far more fruitful to be optimistic and work on the assumption that interest in your activation will exceed expectations than to err on the side of caution and waste an opportunity.

Anyone can turn up to a festival and knock up a stand, but those who understand the mindset of the consumer, the nuance of the occasion and the role of brands in that space will be the ones for whom the return on investment will be most powerful.