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Brand It Like Bonnaroo


Brand Activation Tips from June’s Hottest Summer Music Festival


From Coachella to SXSW, today’s hottest festivals are increasingly becoming as much about branding and merchandising as they are about the musical lineup. Such is the case at the legendary Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which will lure 80,000 attendees outside Nashville June 7-10, 2018 even though it runs in conjunction with CMA MusicFest. The festival’s reputation as THE place to see emerging and established pioneers in music, comedy and cinema has also made it the go-to destination for companies looking to build brand affinity, especially among millennial audiences. As the father of an up and coming singer-songwriter, and as a Marketing & Design Consultant for Skyline, branding consumes me. So, when planning your next live event, consider these experiential marketing take-aways from festival organizers and exhibitors:

CREATE AN INTERACTIVE CENTER STAGEMost of the on-site activity at Bonnaroo takes place in Centeroo, the main village featuring the performance stages, vendors, tents, food trucks, cinemas and attractions. Brands including footwear, energy drink and electronics manufacturers provide relief from the sweltering heat in the form of air conditioning, beverage coolers, nutrition and wellness demos, lounges with hammocks and device charging stations and more.

Does your booth provide a similar oasis to trade show attendees? Games, photo booths and live presentations can all provide distractions and photo opportunities, however they need to communicate your company’s value proposition to attendees in an organic and intuitive way.

HOST PRIVATE, OFFSITE EVENTSAt both trade shows and music festivals, brands are a big part of the draw: they sponsor private onsite mixers, host social events outside the venue, and offer other private perks to VIP attendees. While your booth should be center stage, remember to spend quality time with your core customers and prospects outside of the exhibit hall. Your marketing efforts should not be contained to the exhibit hall in space or time. Take every opportunity to engage with your market.

INTRODUCE CLASSICS TO A NEW AUDIENCEDespite Bonnaroo’s cross-genre music lineup, it’s likely that many young attendees have never been to nearby Nashville’s Grand Old Opry. So in 2018, event organizers are bringing Opry performers to the festival. Doing so will not only provide a massive, receptive audience to the Opry’s alt-country, bluegrass and Americana acts, it may also give the Opry a chance to rebrand itself with a new generation of music lovers.

If, like the Grand Old Opry, your company has been a long-standing fixture within your industry, consider a breakout exhibit of your latest offerings at a new/different trade show. Like at Bonaroo, attendees at a specialty trade show often use the event as a filter for discovering anything that is emerging, relevant and of high quality. In fact, “to see what is new” is consistently listed by attendees as the top reason for being at the show.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERSWhile having a booth at Bonnaroo lets brands reach tens of thousands of event-goers, celebrity attendees who share brand-sponsored content can push those messages to a much larger audience outside the festival gates. Most trade show exhibitors are obviously unlikely to ever have major recording artist Instagram a photo of their booth. However each industry does have social media luminaries who Tweet or Snapchat from the leading shows expos.

If you’re unsure of who those influencers are or how to get on their radar, free and paid software such as Followerwonk and Buzzsumo allow you to find them. Both programs allow you to export the data for use with your other interactive marketing campaigns and reports. Again, do not contain your efforts to the exhibit hall.

“Bonnaroo” is Creole slang meaning a really good time. By using some of the field marketing techniques of the major music festival brands, your next trade show experience can be great time for both you and your customers.

And, if you are in Nashville during this week in June, my daughter, Darbi Shaun, will be performing throughout the week at various venues. Find out where she will be at

About the Author

Shawn Lacagnina was a sales manager at Skyline Displays of Houston in Houston, Texas.

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