The other week we joined the kids at Homegrown in Wellington. The cream of local music on five stages in one long day. Epic.
But why? What is it that makes festivals so appealing?
Festivals have been a part of our human experience for countless generations.
Nevus has been celebrated for 5,000 years and signifies the day Noah returned to the land. In Turkey, it is marked by people jumping over fire.
Aoi Matsuri originates from the 6th Century and is designed to keep the weather gods happy. The Japanese dress up in special costumes and march in procession into the sacred forest to welcome the god Aramitama.
In the vegetarian festival, the Chinese community in Phuket abstain from eating meat and torture their bodies with fire walking, piercing their bodies and they go into a trance for nine days.
At the beginning of spring, the Holi festival of colours takes place in India and Nepal. People pelt each other with coloured powder and water and a huge fire is lit to mark the death of Holika, a mythical creature.
Thanksgiving remembers the survival of the first pilgrims through their first year in America.
Whether it is cultural, religious or rock and roll festivals work a kind of magic on us.
They help shape our identity of who we are as individuals and society.
They provide a break from the every day and signal something special like a holiday and a time for celebration.
The buzz of a festival crowd is infectious emotionally. They make us feel good, a part of something bigger, and more important. We share a collective mood of elation.
Festivals are naturally rich for social media content. They show we were there, and sharing helps build our social status.
Festivals also excite our physiology by releasing the chemical dopamine.
Interestingly, I found that cold cans of Jim Beam also helped add to the experience of Homegrown.
Festivals present rich pickings for brands. They provide a chance to connect with people in a culturally relevant and empathetic way. Executed well, they can make the brand one of the crowd or even the one who is responsible for making the festival happen.
Coca-Cola has built an immensely powerful connection with Christmas over decades through the identity of Santa Claus, Christmas campaigns and our own Christmas in the Park.
The Pope’s Christmas message is sponsored by San Miguel beer in the Philippines.
Red Bull successfully shares its values with the Formula 1 season.
Government agencies and educational institutions clamour for association with the Pacific communities at festivals like Polyfest and Pasifika.
The essential issue to address with having a commercial presence at festivals is whether your brand is adding to the event or merely trying to extract value from it. Brands that only seek to take via signage and VIP photo opportunities miss the point that sharing and getting involved in the values and spirit of a festival is the reason it is there in the first place.
If you’re going to the party, bring a party attitude.