You don’t have to throw the flashiest or most innovative festival to grow every year. In fact, high-growth event directors report that brand identity is the biggest factor in their strategic decisions.
But a brand is much more than a logo or a catchy tagline — it’s a promise to deliver your attendees the same great experience, every time. Your brand should differentiate your festival, connect deeply with your audience, and feel authentic.
“Delivering a brand and a promise is an art and a science,” says Dave Graham, co-founder of music, food, and wine festival BottleRock. “It’s finding that anchor in your business, and aligning your business to that anchor.”
So how do you go about building a strong brand promise for your festival? Here are BottleRock’s top five tips:
1. Understand your audience
Who is your target audience? What are they interested in? The answers to these questions should drive all activities and programming. If you’re trying to attract a broad audience that spans generations, make sure your programming has crossover appeal.
2. Remember your roots
What guides your brand identity? It might be something simple, like your venue or the local culture. “When someone thinks Napa Valley, they think food and wine,” said Graham. “Why not deliver on that promise rather than trying to create something entirely new? That’s been our goal — to deliver on that brand promise — and we continue to raise the bar.”
3. Strive for differentiation
There are opportunities to set your brand apart at every step in the process — from the activities, to the decor, to the mix of participating vendors. BottleRock’s point of differentiation centers around what they call “Napatism” — infusing the culture of Napa Valley into every element of their event.
As Graham says, “If you come to Napa for a day, best-case scenario you can visit three or four wineries. At BottleRock you can visit 30 wineries in a day, with decor and furniture that you would encounter at the actual wineries. For an elevated experience, you can roll Platinum; you’ve got Michelin chefs cooking you food, master sommeliers pouring you exclusive wines, access to the stages, and meet-and-greets with the performing artists.”
4. Create a brand playbook
A brand playbook sets clear guidelines for how your brand should look, feel, and sound across all of your communications — from your festival’s ticketing page to your giveaway bags. From one year to the next, a brand playbook is critical in defining and enforcing your brand promise.
5. Stay true to your brand
Don’t be afraid to say no to programs that stray from your brand identity. Graham warns, “Shiny, dangly objects can be tempting…focus on what’s core to your brand. As all of these opportunities come to us, sponsorship or otherwise, we ask ourselves: ‘Is it in line with the brand promise?’ You need sponsorship money, but at what cost?”
In the long run, staying true to your brand will give you the bigger payoff.
For more ways to grow your festival, check out “How to Scale Your Festival: Insights From Some of the Fastest-Growing Events in the Industry.”