With an extensive line-up of popular artists, brands, and a-list attendees, Coachella has been dubbed the “Super Bowl of branding.” It boasts headliners such as Billie Eillish, Harry Styles, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, etc. and has evolved from a simple 2-day festival to an annual 3-day, multi-weekend experience. With roughly 750,000 attendees in 2022 and an estimated $342 million in revenue, it is arguably one of the most profitable and well advertised events of the year.
Obviously the Coachella marketing and PR teams know exactly what they’re doing and how to reach their target audience. This begs the question then, what are they doing right and how can I learn from them?
In an effort to answer just that question, we dug into some of the strategies that Coachella has implemented that have helped blow up the event and draw in the crowds. The good news is none of these strategies are going to tank your marketing budget and implementing them shouldn’t be too difficult but could yield great results.
1. Customer-driven marketing
Customer-driven marketing focuses on addressing the needs of your customers, building customer relationships and loyalty, gaining feedback, and helping the customer be part of the experience. Coachella is considered to be a trend setting event and synonymous with words like ‘cool’, ‘trendy’, ‘innovative’, etc. They curate their line-up to align their brand with other trendsetters in various industries while making their fans feel included and part of the party. They’ve done a great job at identifying what their fans want, making the whole event a unique experience, and making it accessible through various marketing strategies.
How does this apply to your event? The key takeaway here is that it’s important to identify your customer’s ‘pain points’ and how your event alleviates that pain (don’t worry this doesn’t have to be super complex). For example, if your event is a concert you may be meeting your customer’s need for social interaction or good entertainment or just a fun night out.
Not only that, encouraging user-focused content can be a great way to include your fans in the experience. This could look like offering incentives for sharing your brand/event (hint - social media discounts), fun hashtags, or interactive marketing campaigns that foster interaction. One way Coachella has achieved this goal is by influencer marketing - specifically on TikTok where they’ve pulled in popular influencers and social media stars to help with their marketing efforts.
2. Create manageable (or calculated) growth
Every event/brand wants to experience explosive growth but the key is creating manageable growth. This is a particularly important skill that Coachella has mastered over the past few decades. From its inception in 1999 as a 2-day festival to the multi-weekend sold out 3-day festival it is now, Coachella has done a great job of incrementally expanding their event. Rather than jumping right into the huge event it is now, they created calculated and manageable growth spanning more than 20 years.
The lesson here is that growth should be strategic and calculated. Having a lofty goal in mind of what you’d like your event to be in the future is a great way to fuel your motivation to achieve that goal, but don’t rush the process. Start with an event that (like we mentioned earlier) alleviates your fans’ pain points and solves a problem while leaving room for expansion.
One thing that has been incredibly lucrative for Coachella and aided their rise to success has been the balance between exclusivity and inclusivity. There are a finite number of spots available which creates some urgency and an element of exclusivity to the event. However, it is open to anyone who can afford a ticket which means it’s an inclusive event and you don’t have to be famous to attend. As their fan base grew, so did their available dates and times as well as add-on features and options.
3. Be Unique
What does your event offer that no other event does? What’s one thing that sets you apart from the competition?
This lesson may seem obvious or cliche but it still rings true and has been a characterizing feature of Coachella. Instead of a simple concert, Coachella has become an experience. Not only that, it’s a unique and ever-changing experience. Each year boasts a different line-up of popular artists and even branch off events hosted by popular brands, attendees could go every year and have a completely different experience each time.
Don’t be afraid to make it obvious to your fans what you’re offering them that no one else is or how your event is unique. The goal is to provide them with an experience they’ll never forget (and ideally tell all their friends about).
One really fun thing that Coachella offers that draws in traffic is the photo opportunities. With dozens of photo walls and Instagrammable backgrounds, it is a social media hub. In fact, #coachella has over 5.4 million posts on Instagram and a lot of those posts are user-generated, not just big brand, posts.
That’s not to say that you have to put up a flower wall with a neon sign in every corner of your venue to be unique. However, getting your event recognized and shared on social media can be extremely rewarding and having an aesthetically pleasing venue or spots that allow for great photo ops can help with that.
4. Build Up and Maintain the Hype
Most events are all about marketing and ‘selling’ the event to your fans. Building up the anticipation before the day of your event and maintaining it can be extremely useful - though be wary of ‘over-hyping’ your event. The key here is to create realistic expectations, lean towards ‘under promise, over deliver’ instead of over promising.
Because Coachella is ‘the music festival of the year’ there’s already so much hype built into it. This means that in some ways there’s less work required on their part to build up the hype and instead they can focus on maintaining that hype and keeping attendees and potential attendees interested and engaged. One way they achieve this is crafting a unique experience every step of the way (for over $450 per ticket we would expect nothing less). For example, sending a unique and intriguing welcome package with wristbands and usually a little something extra goes a long way in increasing excitement and building anticipation.
What are some practical ways your event can utilize these same strategies?
To start with, a well run social media campaign can go a long way with creating buzz and awareness around your event. This lesson also ties into the previous one about ‘being unique’ in that your fans should feel part of something special and different. Show them photos/videos of past events or teasers of what’s to come. Keep them engaged by starting conversations. Keep some elements of the event a surprise - and allude to this surprise when you send out email reminders.
5. Leverage FOMO
We’ve talked about using FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) to your advantage before - cue ‘Event Producer’s Guide to Social Media’ series, and it still remains a powerful marketing tool for any event. This can be a great motivator particularly for younger generations (looking at you millennials) who see fun things their friends or family are up to and feel like they’re missing out on all the fun. That’s not to say this strategy doesn’t also work with older generations though, because it absolutely does. No one likes to miss out on a good time.
With the rise of social media platforms, this has become increasingly easy to accomplish. Showing your audience a teaser of the event or highlights from past events could go a long way in creating a sense of FOMO as well as building up the event. User-generated content is one of the best ways to achieve FOMO as well. Nothing is more motivating than seeing how much fun all of your friends are having.
Achieving this isn’t as hard as it may seem - the key is creating a space that’s hard to resist. From implementing fun hashtags to get the conversation going, to social media marketing campaigns that promote interaction or contests to encourage the sharing of photos and videos by your fans.
There’s a reason (or several) that Coachella has grown from 25,000 attendees and $1.85 million in gross revenue to a regularly sold out festival with 750,000 attendees and over $115 million in gross revenue. They’re creating a unique experience people are willing to pay literally hundreds of dollars to be part of. Now that you know Coachella's formula for success, what’s stopping you from doing the same?
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