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Twitter & Instagram Brand and User Narratives at Music Festivals

Experiential Marketing & Music Festivals on Social Platforms:  A Latent Dialogic Analysis Comparing Brand and User Narratives (Twitter & Instagram)


Music festivals are rising in popularity around the world. According to a recent Nielsen study, the number of Americans who attended festivals in 2018 rose 17% from the previous year.

Many festival-goers turn to social media to share their experiences and connect with others virtually and in-person. Posting experiences allows consumer to explore Social Media’s core principles of usage: presence, relationships, reputation, identity, groups, sharing and conversations.

A positive music festival experience should consist of meeting people one wouldn’t otherwise interact with, discovering new musical acts and creating lifelong memories, or reliving old musical memories that evoke strong emotions that people hold onto forever. Organizers hope sharing these experiences (branded by their festivals) will attract even more attendance. However, do festivals fulfill the experiences people see online? This question poses an opportunity to study the relationship between music festivals hosts’ messaging strategy on social media and the real-life narrative experienced and shared by festival-goers.

Either way, uncovering how music festivals are marketed to attendees via social media is under-researched. This list contains research explaining questions based on this Experiential Marketing trend, including: What experiences and emotions are festival hosts promising attendees? And do these emotions and experiences align with the narratives shared by real-life festival-goers on their social media channels?

#1 Experiential Activation, Attendee Exposure and Brand Awareness

This book cites several examples of brands using on-site experiential activations (some with digital extensions) at music festivals to promote brand awareness and consideration. Of particular impact are activations that fulfill a need for festival-goers. For example, insurance provider Esurance offered NFC-technology equipped wristbands to Outside Lands festival-goers that allowed them to take, save and share photos when physically near any of eight Esurance "tap towers". This activation was of use to festival-goers whose phones or cameras ran out of battery and the "tap towers" also provided meeting points for non-users of the wristbands. These multiple points of contact with festival-goers resulted in increased awareness for the Esurance brand.

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#2 Understanding Music Festivals as Brands

This article analyzes the concept of music festivals as brands themselves, specifically as they are defined through their featured artists, local communities and brand partners. The authors behind this article evaluated these factors among a variety of festivals in the Netherlands. Interestingly, the authors found that higher brand diversity (specifically meaning the number of musical genres present at the festival) generally results in decreased ticket sales. In other words, more consumers are looking to attend festivals that cater to specific types of musical genres and audiences versus more generally-marketed festivals. While not directly referencing brand experiential marketing activities at music festivals, this article raises questions of whether too broad a field of digital and experiential activations (e.g. activations across a variety of industries versus a niche few) may actually result in lower festival attendance.

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#3 The relative importance of the brand of music festivals

This paper discusses the relative impact of tangible and intangible factors on the success of music festivals. The results show that brand equity aspects such as image, festival atmosphere associations, and (anticipated) emotions are most important for loyalty. Other factors such as value and relationship equity were also studied.

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#4 Festival-Goers Share About Emotional Experience at Glastonbury Festival

This article suggests that social media has changed the way people experience music festivals. When festivals can provide a unique mobile experience for festival-goers - like Glastonbury Festival's dedicated mobile app - the overall festival experience can be much more valuable. The article's research highlights Twitter use at Glastonbury, citing that most people shared about the "visceral and emotional experience of the festival" and also "practicalities" like the festival-goer's GPS location or spotty cellular service.

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#5 Redefining Concepts of Consumer Experience

This book provides a high-level snapshot of the current state of consumer experience and experiential marketing through several different lenses, including the growth of the field over the years, offline and online experiences as well as consumption and brand experiences. The book defines the concept of consumer experience and creates frameworks and categorizations for various pieces of the experience process. Of particular note to social media use at music festivals is the book's concept of the online experience "flow", defined on page 32: "A cognitive state experienced during internet navigation where the consumer is immersed in the activity and tunes out any thoughts not relevant to navigation".

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#6 Creating Authenticity in a Commercial Setting

This paper takes a look at the commercialization of modern music festivals compared to those festivals of the past that were born out of "counter-cultural discourse". It analyzes how festivals balance this commercialization with the goal of creating an authentic experience for festival-goers. It applies concepts of socio-spatial engagement to its analysis and determines that festival goers contribute to the creation of a festival "aura". This is defined as a place of sense and atmosphere that permeates the festival-goer's experience. The paper finds that this "aura" is co-created by festival-goers as well as "other overlapping elements of the festival place". The "other elements'" include commercially-produced spaces that, despite their corporate origin, are "apart" and different from everyday life in that they're designed to engage with different target segments in a unique way.

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#7 The impact on young people’s psychological and social well being

Who knew music festivals were good for mental health? This article (The impact of music festival attendance on young people's psychological and social well-being) by Packer & Ballantyne explains the psychological benefits of music festival attendance. The research from The University of Queensland Australia examined the well-being outcomes of the music festival experience for 18-29-year-old attendees. Research found that sharing the experience with others provides a sense of belonging and social inclusiveness.

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#8 A Trigger of Music Streaming and Social Media Engagement

Cell phone lights have replaced lighters at music festivals! Norwegian research in this article found an interesting connection between Twitter and festivals. Mobile devices have changed the music festival experience and how people who attend consume the music they hear. Twitter plays a big role in giving researches the festival-goer’s perspective of the live experience between audience and recording artists. And, researchers also found that live streaming platforms have extended the life of these events beyond the festival venue.

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#9 Co-constructing loyalty in an era of digital music fandom

This article discusses the socially constructed view of loyalty and how it facilitates a more sensitive and nuanced application of brand loyalty, with implications for segmentation and targeting activities, such as promotion for music festivals to potential attendees.

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#10 relationship marketing techniques used in the music festivals

The nature of the music festival as an annual, usually, 4-day event means that effective marketing is needed to keep connections with the consumer throughout the year. This article focuses on the methods utilized within the music festival industry from the viewpoint of the festival organizer in an attempt to establish how festival organizations value and monitor relationships.

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#11 The Consumer Decision Journey & Social Media Use at Festivals

This article highlights the four stages of the new consumer decision journey - “consider,” “evaluate,” “buy” and “enjoy, advocate and bond" as it relates to music festivals. The research dives into Bonnaroo (Tennessee, USA), Latitude (UK), and Lollapalooza (Chicago) festivals, how the festivals each amplify and encourage social media activity before and during the festivals and what users typically share about on Twitter. Social media makes the “evaluate” and “advocate” stages of the consumer decision journey more relevant. By encouraging festival-goers to share on social media, the festivals themselves are getting more information about their target audience, are able to retarget festival attendees throughout the year.

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#12 Understanding Gen Y and Island Music Festival Experiences

This journal discusses the importance of providing a memorable destination music festival experience to encourage Gen Y (those born between 1977–1992) to share about their festival experience through electronic word of mouth, or social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the top social channels for Gen Y's engaging in a "consumer to consumer dialogue." The journal continues sharing that "social networking sites may provide an eWOM channel that is deemed more trustworthy than other channels." For island destination music festivals, promoting on social media is crucial, as it "allows people to interact with one another to comment on places, experiences, products, and services."

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#13 Changing the nature of extraordinary experiences

Music festivals create a sense of community. This research explains how festival-goers perceive their live experiences and how presenting these experiences relate to Experiential Marketing. Outsiders may perceive some festivals as an extraordinary experience, however these experiences are perceived differently by festival attendees. Consumers in attendance may experience the festival culture as mundane and part of the everyday structure.

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#14 An experiential model of consumer engagement in social media.

If the experiential model of consumer engagement is new to you, take a deep dive into it. Thanks to this research by Wondwesen Tafesse, we find out how brand experience impacts customer engagement. Brands may want to take note that providing experiential opportunities on Facebook pages may create better customer engagement. This research could possibly help music festival marketers optimize the experiential narratives of their events by taking advantage of the social media platform.

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#15 Social Media Connection Ties to Emotional Attachment to Festival

This article touches on the correlation between the tourism industry and music festivals. The authors share that while music-based tourism constitutes around 17% of the overall tourism industry, "music tourism" is still not perceived as a defined segment within the tourism market. The research continues on to highlight how social media interactions with tourism brands, specifically music festivals, affect how consumers think and feel about the brand overall. When a festival-goer interacts with the brand using social media, there is a direct effect on emotional attachment to the festival, which has a direct effect on word of mouth.

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#16 Producer-consumer classification gap and its effects on music

The authors of this article aim to demonstrate that “classification gaps” have a negative effect on the performance of products and that these effects play a role in different stages of consumers’ decision process. The data collection consisted of three comprehensive parts covering production and consumption in the music festival market in The Netherlands. The results provide evidence that a classification gap between the production and consumption side of the market has negative effects on music festival performance.

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