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Courting the Cool Kids: Coachella Marketing Roundup

Celebrities, musicians, and influencer Millennials flock to the desert in April to celebrate Coachella—and brands are eager to charm them. Here are some ways the cool kids are being courted this year…

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival kicked off this weekend, and it was three days filled with celebrities (Kylie! Kendall! Leo! Taylor!), surprise performances (Kanye! Ke$ha! Rihanna!), and, of course, plenty of brands looking to court the cool kid crowd.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal outlined the rising brand involvement in the festival, calling it an event “filled with a marketer’s dream: throngs of influential, open-minded and ready-to-spend Millennials with plenty of time to kill.” Festival schedules allow for a significant amount of down time, just waiting to be filled with visits to sponsored tents and Instagram shots of branded experiences. On top of that allure, the Millennials who attend the fest tend to be social media sharers. The hashtag #coachella currently has 1,782,384 public photos on Instagram, not including the variations of the tag that include the year and other details—and keep in mind this is an event that takes place over just two weekends each year. Many brands are eager to have a presence at an event filled with young influencers who might just spread the word about their brand. At the same time, being associated with the festival gives brands a link to current cool kid culture, and potentially an image boost.  

For Coachella 2016, H&M and Heineken continued their long-running sponsorship, and Pandora, luxury watch brand Tag Heuer, Uber, Cupcake Vineyards, and more played a role wining, dining, treating, and driving attendees. Here are some of the stand out activations of the event this year:  

Alice + Olivia See Now/Buy Now Show

Designers and retailers like Burberry, Michael Kors, Proenza Schouler, Banana Republic have experimented with “instantly shoppable fashion shows” to adjust to consumers’ new fashion expectations—and Alice + Olivia brought the trend to Coachella—well, not literally. But just a few days before the start of the festival, the fashion brand and Neiman Marcus hosted a shoppable runway show for a Grateful Dead-inspired capsule collection perfect for Coachella-goers. The clothing showcase had a clear bohemian/gypsy feel, keeping in trend with the now-infamous “festival fashion” aesthetic. The show was live streamed on both Alice + Olivia and Neiman Marcus’ sites, and the twelve pieces were immediately available for purchase. According to Fashionista, Whitney Port, who was in the front row at the show, planned her festival wardrobe around the collection. Neiman Marcus’ SVP declares “We, as an industry, cannot continue to show customers clothes that they have to wait six months to put into their closet.”

Coachella Cardboard

As part of Coachella’s Welcome Box this year, attendees received a special edition Google Cardboard headset. A Coachella VR app can be viewed using the headset or Samsung Gear VR, filled with 360 photos of last year’s event, and performances of the musicians lined up for this year. The app also provides a virtual reality tour of the grounds, so festival-goers can learn all about the important locations they’ll want to visit before they arrive. Of course, while those who bought tickets were the ones to receive the headset, anyone could access the app, and immerse themselves in the event. More and more brands are finding ways to dip into virtual reality to create innovative on-trend marketing, so it only makes sense that VR would be a part of the trend-obsessed fest.

Sonic x Jacques le Merde

There is no doubt that Instagram is a favorite app of Coachella-goers, and Sonic went after these coveted Millennials with Instagram-worthy milkshakes. The food chain teamed up with Instagram-famous chef “Jacques La Merde” to reinvent their milkshakes for the Coachella festival. Inspired by the square-centric image platform, the chef “created a line of creamery shakes to fit squarely within Instagram: served in a square cup, with a square straw and with square versions of ingredients.” Sonic called the treats the first product ever specially designed for Instagram. The shakes were available to order on the platform at Coachella, and were delivered directly to festival-goers for almost free—they just had to take a picture for Instagram.