What Can Brands Learn About ‘Experience’ From Glastonbury

Glastonbury brand event

By Rik Moore, Managing Partner Strategy, The Kite Factory

One of the reason’s that Glastonbury is so beloved is that there is no other festival like it.

Glastonbury is like delving into another world for a long weekend: a world that’s less about who’s performing and more about the experience. As the campfire embers smoulder down after the first full festival at Worthy Farm in two years, there are two key lessons that brands can learn from Glastonbury in how they can deliver their own experience — one is about brand identity and the other is about brand etiquette.

Firstly, from a brand identity perspective, Glastonbury is a shining example of the kind of ‘Enduring Icon’ referenced at the top rung of the Cannes Lions & WARCs Creative Effectiveness Ladder.

For 52 years now, the Eavis family have run the festival. Despite its growth and mammoth modern-day scale, Glastonbury has remained true to its founding beliefs. In their own words the festival seeks to “encourage and stimulate youth culture from around the world in all its forms” and supports “humanitarian causes which enhance the fabric of our society”.

As impressive as that consistent commitment is, equally impressive is the festival’s ability to evolve with the times, to avoid stagnating and losing relevancy. You see it in the evolution of the acts invited to play and the issues the festival platforms.

Turning that on our industry, awash in a sea of short-termism, this long-term consistency, achieved without losing relevancy, is something we can all learn from.

The second lesson is brand etiquette.

By brand etiquette, I mean a brand having an appropriate fit and relevance to an occasion and behaving in a way befitting of that platform or event.

Because Glastonbury is so synonymous with these clear-cut values and the heritage their consistency has built, its audience has a very clear concept of what they expect. As a result, for a brand to successfully activate in and around the site, they must show they can operate within those values, whilst helping and/or enhancing the experience. This is true of any festival, but especially so at Glastonbury, given its uniqueness. It is the ultimate proving ground of brand etiquette.

There have been many great simple but effective examples in recent years:

  • EE have been in partnership with the festival for 7 years. They have provided rechargeable battery packs for phones and ensuring there is good connectivity on site via the installation of temporary masts. They are tangibly adding value, so their presence is welcome, whilst proving and educating the audience about their services.
  • This year, Co-op again created an on-site pop-up festival supermarket to provide food and camping essentials. Whilst any retailer could theoretically do this, Co-op and their own brand values align closest with Glastonbury out of all their supermarket competitors.
  • With Sir Paul headlining Saturday night, it was interesting to see Linda McCartney Foods activating well onsite, with a food truck near the Pyramid Stage. The truck sold a variety of menu options, which helps to showcase the variety of the Linda McCartney’s range. It’s so simple but effective because it serves a consumer need in providing quality food on site, taps into the greater interest in meat-free food, fits the heritage of the brand so it is credible in the space, aligns with the values of the festival and benefits with its association with one of the biggest stars on show.
  • Glastonbury has long been associated with three charities – Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid. There activations educate an engaged audience in a compelling way. For example, WaterAid use their presence to help provide the audience with vital water, sanitation and hygiene services on site, be that providing free water refills or the Loo Crew looking after the 2,500 toilets on site. This mirrors the fantastic work they do in communities around the globe, enabling them to start conversations with festival-goers about what they can do to help.

In each of these cases, the brand has a credible reason to be there and is an active ally helping enhance the festival-goers experience, understanding the brand etiquette of the moment.

As such, Glastonbury becomes the ultimate proving ground for brands to make a connection with consumers. If they can successfully do it on Worthy Farm, then they can do it anywhere.

Even if Glastonbury isn’t appropriate for you, wherever your brand is presented with an opportunity to engage in person with customers, these examples highlight how you can present yourself as helpful and credible to make a connection.