Last month, Richard Branson — CEO, mogul, and billionaire — announced that he will be launching a new venture: a two-day music festival to be held in the United States.

It’s a brilliant move.

Virgin Fest will be more than just a money-making machine (250,000 people are expected to attend). It will double as a marketing tactic for Branson’s brand, which is the real thing of value here — building love and loyalty for your company’s character and identity.

I predict that’s where this move is going to really pay off.

Virgin Fest will engage potential customers and users through a channel and experience they already love.

A core challenge for marketers today is staying relevant in this swiftly changing economic climate. They have to constantly rethink their outreach strategies and content creation style to accommodate the channels and mechanisms through which people consume content and spend their time.

And that’s why Branson’s move is so smart.

Music festivals are a primary place users are spending their time and energy. And they’ve exploded in popularity over the last dozen years.

There are for a few reasons for this:

  1. They’re a more exciting mode of engaging in communal, quasi-spiritual activity, which young people still want, just not necessarily from organized religion.
  2. They double as cultural events which, if attended, double as something of an accomplishment or badge of honor.
  3. They encourage individuality and creative expression.
  4. They’re just really fun.

Branson, evidently, understands all that. He sees why young people love music festivals and has properly identified these events as a key means of connecting with them.

In other words, by launching Virgin Fest, Branson is optimizing his brand’s content to reach users where he’s most likely to connect with them.

People are investing more than we think in communal experiences.

For the last few years, marketing gospel has been focused on connecting with users online through Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, since that’s where customers are spending their time.

But the truth is, the online experience, in many ways, has become oversaturated. And people still crave something that online engagement doesn’t really provide: connection.

In fact, users don’t just desire connection — they invest in it. Heavily.

Example A: music festivals.

By creating his own, Branson is showcasing that he understands something that’s integral to successful marketing:

To build a brand, you must build community.

This is something other marketers have seemingly been late to internalize.

When people associate a brand with a community they love being a part of, that engenders loyalty. That’s one of the key reasons Salesforce puts on their massive Dreamforce conference every year in San Francisco. And it’s why creating your own music festival, which will give people something to talk about, look forward to, and found traditions upon, is such a genius idea.

You just have to pull it off.

And whether Branson does, of course, remains to be seen.

Ultimately, the key will be not over-commercializing Virgin Fest with third-party advertisers. That’s one reason attendance has declined for many large festivals over the last few years. People go to festivals for community, religion, fun, and, of course, great art — not to be sold to.

But so long as Branson doesn’t corrupt the experience of attending his festival with gratuitous, in-your-face corporate advertising, I’m confident the venture will be a massive success.

And for his brand, in particular, it should prove a boon.

 

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