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Taking your brand outdoors: Your Festival and Events Checklist

Forget everything you know about events: you’re outdoors now. If you are planning an outdoor activation, then it’s time to think about your brand and event very differently. It’s time to:

Reset your Mindset

Outdoor events put your brand in front of an audience when they are at play. Consumer psychology changes the moment people step outside for a summer event or festival, and you need to respond accordingly. Get the message right and you become part of their entertainment, their weekend, their world and they will reward you accordingly.

So, where exactly do you start once you have committed to developing an outdoor event campaign?

Find the right event for your brand

Before planning or choosing an event, you need to understand your audience. Don’t just pick events because they are big or look enjoyable. Look at the demographics and challenge your assumptions. All too often clients and agencies alight on events simply because they themselves have enjoyed them in the past. It’s not a very scientific approach!

In short, the event or festival you choose needs to be right for your audience and your product. Get this right and the engagement necessary for making your move outdoors a success is almost guaranteed. Get it wrong, and it’s simply an expense with no benefits.

In the past the data for festivals was poor. Increasingly the bigger festivals have rich insights on their audiences, and you should use these data sets to cross match against your target demographic.

Visit the site

Nature is beautiful, but it doesn’t work to your schedule. So you need to understand everything about your site.

Most people conduct their site visits for outdoor events in winter. The problem? This is not how it will look in summer. So, don’t be put off.

Ask detailed questions about everything. What about ground drainage? How do you access water and power? Where does the ground slope? What are your neighbouring activations doing? Which way is the prevailing wind? Picture what will the site look like when the trees are in leaf and look at the meteorological history of the area on the dates you have in mind. These details are vital to planning your area.

Consider your design brief

With all of this in mind, take the time to understand the psychology of your audience. People expect different things when outdoors, they want to be surprised and entertained. Your content should add value to the overall schedule. It needs context, relevance and thought.

Consider the look and feel of the event and (if your activation is a one-off) try to build a creative and original story that responds to this. If your activation is a touring event, ensure it’s quirky and genuinely rewards visitors.

Communicate clearly

So many considerations, yet they must all come together. Every element of your plan needs to be aware of the other. Everyone needs a 360-degree picture of your project at all times.

Having clear communication channels allows everyone to plan for any eventuality. Requirements and suggestions are seen and discussed ahead of time.

Foresee the foreseeable

Even with planning and communication, you cannot predict everything. So, the key is to plan for any foreseeable risks and not blame yourself or others for the unknown.

Do this, and when the unexpected does happen, you will be able to work together to manage it.

Happy Staff = Great Activation

Look after your team; they are crucial to your event’s success.

Keep them warm, dry and happy. Clean drinking water, sunscreen and regular breaks are just the beginning. Provide quality clothing that is waterproof, warm and BREATHABLE (the last point is crucial – Polythene is waterproof but would you want to wear it all day?). Also, let them experience the wider event.

If your team are camping, make it comfortable. Upgrade their campsite to ensure they have “posher” loos and showers. Speak to the organiser about giving your team access to the crew catering facilities rather than asking them to queue for burgers 5 days in a row.

Simple things like ensuring they eat well and queue-less make the difference to the experience they provide for your audience.

Provide security: day and night

Outdoors there are two major security considerations.

First, crowd management. Standard crowd management protocols and practices can be employed. However, with outdoor events, you also have to expect the unexpected. The “festival mentality” is a factor here. People at outdoor events act differently, and not always as carefully and considerately. It’s your job to keep everyone safe, even if that is from each other.

Second, is overnight. Depending on the nature of the event and the scale of your activation, consider having a dedicated overnight guard to protect your area. Festival sites are simply more accessible than indoor venues and are notoriously prone to pilfering and vandalism at night both from intoxicated attendees and determined local ne’er do wells. Every organiser will tell you their perimeter is secure, however, as someone who spent many teenage summers “accessing” events for free, I can tell you they are mistaken.

Keep people safe

When it comes to event safety you have all the usual risks of any event; only heightened. You have a duty to safeguard your team and your audience.

The principles of Health and Safety remain mostly the same and, of course, the CDM regulations apply equally. However, you will have additional considerations specific to delivering outdoor activations such as wind loading, adverse climate impact (mud and sun cause all sorts of problems!). For this, we always recommend appointing an external consultant to assist you on your first outdoor activation.

Be brave

All this might seem a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. Taking your brand outdoors is exciting and offers some amazing benefits. You just have to realise it poses the same questions as indoors, they just need different answers.

Outdoor events and festivals are different every time, and you just have to be ready for this. The benefit is, well, they are different every time. Which means with the right approach you can create real brand impact with a lot of people fast. It is an opportunity you don’t get anywhere else.