A lesson on relevance from the most popular festival

coachella_expressionists.jpegTo be fair, there’s not much of 1999 culture that we talk about anymore: Lou Bega, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, capri pants, Y2K… all easy to categorize as no longer relevant. But Coachella — the biggest summer millennial hot zone for brands, which wrapped up this past weekend — started all the way back in 1999 and has gained in popularity year over year. Brands were falling over themselves to hitch their reputation to this oasis festival in the California desert. But what has made Coachella a success story instead of falling off the face of the earth like Lilith Fair? Here are 4 things your brand can learn from Coachella.

What Did Coachella Do Right?

They got better year over year.

Coachella has managed to grow each year while staying true to the spirit of the original festival.

It has expanded from a 2-day event to 2 full weekends each year, offering more opportunities for festival goers. They have consistently attracted top talent, while changing with the times. People don’t want the same things they wanted in 1999. Coachella’s headliners have been an all-star list of the top names in pop culture every year.

They stayed put.

This seems silly, but the festival simply didn’t move. Everyone knows to get their butts to Empire Polo Club if they want to be part of the fun next year.

They are creating incredible experiences.

Coachella is not just about the music anymore, the festival is a meta-celebration of being at the festival. Attendees know that there will be photo-worthy moments built right into the landscape and everyone watching on Instagram has major FOMO. Today’s festival includes art installations, private dinners with star chefs, and crowd fashion has become the star of the show. It’s not about looking up at a runway, it’s about participating in the spectacle and being seen (in person or on social media). Many think of the festival as a place to be discovered.

Even the arrival of your tickets is an experience in and of itself.

They are making brands meaningfully contribute to those experiences.

The sponsor list for Coachella is pretty dreamy. Major brands like Absolut, American Express, H&M, Red Bull, and T-Mobile all add big money and clout to the festival. Absolut created The Prism bar for this year’s festival which allows you to try the full spectrum (or prism) of Absolut’s flavored vodkas and dance under colorful lights. H&M lets you exchange your old, lame clothes for a discount on new duds to keep up with the festival’s focus on fashion. If you bring Heineken as your beer of choice during the festival, they’ll keep it cold for you in “Heineken Cold Storage” — a valuable service when camping in the heart of the desert… they also sponsored a raging dance party for good measure.

Some brands are sending influential content creators to the festival to capture the experience and tie their brands into the fun. Snapfluencer Andrew Kuttler dispatched the festival on behalf of TAKE5— the brand was then able to repurpose this content onto their own channels.

This balance between innovation and consistency is not an easy one to strike and most events don’t achieve this level of success. But recognizing what successful brands are doing well can help you make the right choices for your own brand or event. Coachella produces all the photo-worthy moments you can ask for and many brands chose to send content creators to Coachella to document the experience and tie their brand to the festivities without making a sponsor-level investment.