Top 5 Brand Activations at Coachella 2017

At Genuine, we take tremendous pride in the creative and innovative work we produce for our clients. And, when it comes to experiential marketing, our agency goes above and beyond to deliver unimaginable digital activations that drive the “ah-ha” factor, loads of engagement and a ton of brand awareness. Naturally, when I booked my trip to Coachella, yes, I was excited to party and have fun, but I also was really looking forward to seeing how today’s brands were marketing themselves to the cool kids in the desert.After taking some time to reflect, here’s a list of my top five activations ranked from least to most favorite.

1. Sephora

The What:

  • Get in-the-desert haircuts and/or hairstyling
  • Find your new go-to makeup look using Sephora’s latest products
  • Get your face artfully painted (think graffiti or splash paint vs lion or kitten)

The Why: Sephora + Coachella go together like milk + cookies. It just makes sense, and the fashion-forward crowd loved it.

Did it work: I’d say so. Admittedly, I’m not really the target audience for this brand, but I had to fight my way in and out of a packed tent just to grab some photos. Lots of people walking around with face paint at the Fest, and there was a decent line for hair styling all day. Braids anyone?

2. American Express

The What:

  • Record your very own kick-ass music video. Utilizing a camera attached to a robotic arm, attendees were recorded busting out their best dance moves while jamming to some of their fave songs. *Note: you can catch my masterpiece below.
  • AMEX members were treated to VIP upgrades and free meals throughout the festival.

The Why: AMEX provided an unforgettable experience for current cardholders while attracting some new ones, too.

Did it work: Surprisingly, their tent wasn’t as slammed as I expected, but I did visit this tent earlier in the day. That said, the activation was really innovative and cool.

3. H&M

The What:

  • To debut their limited-edition “H&M Loves Coachella” line for men and women, H&M created a pop-up shop with virtual fitting rooms that placed attendees in these cool new wearables. If you liked the look, attendees could purchase and walk away with your new digs.
  • Take photos on an enormous armchair
  • Recycle your old clothes for the new ones you just purchased
  • Fill up your water bottle for free!

The Why: What better way to cater to this crowd than with their very own limited-edition clothing line? There was a ton of buzz at the event regarding the fast-selling apparel, and purchasers who scored merch had bragging rights for life.

Did it work: Absolutely yes! In addition to the clothing line and virtual fitting rooms, the H&M water refill station (1 of 5 at the event), ensured their tent was constantly packed.

4. Marriott Hotels, Marriott Rewards

The What:

  • Take photos in front of various backdrops and imagine all the fun places you can visit while staying at a Marriott. Think hot deserts, gorgeous beaches and snowy mountain vistas.  
  • Play their Tinder-like quiz game to find your dream destination. Swipe as many times as I did (which was a lot), and win points toward your next Marriott vacation.  
  • For Marriott Gold/Elite members, get special VIP access to meal vouchers, a makeup touchup station and even a personal wipe-down service for your sunnies.

The Why: Marriott was on hand to secure Rewards email signups, engage current Rewards members and promote their premier hotels in some pretty rad locales.

Did it work: Yes! The photo sets were engaging and the incentives were too good to pass up. What guy or girl crazy enough to travel to the desert for a weekend would want to miss out on a free hotel stay during their next adventure?

5. HP/Intel

The What:

  • Design your own custom bandana  — a fashionable AND handy accessory in that dusty heat — using a HP touchscreen computer, printed on site.
  • Demo HP’s VR display
  • Choreograph a light show projected on the ceiling of the dome using HP touchscreen computers
  • Take a near 360 degree “Kinetic Portrait” which created a super cool and very shareable effect.

The Why: Give festival goers a first-hand experience with the best tech HP offers.

Did it work: Hell yeah! This was my absolute favorite. There was a constant hour-long line for the bandanas all weekend long and the kinetic portraits looked perfect on Instagram. HP’s presence at the Festival was second to none and truly stole the show. All of the activities HP provided for attendees were creative, engaging and extremely popular. Throughout the entire weekend there was a constant line snaking out from HP’s activation tent, which is a true testament to its success.

Bonus Activation Located at Other End of Festival: HP, along with Intel, also presented a new experience at Coachella, “The Antarctic.” Situated in a large dome at the edge of the festival, attendees could recline on bean bag chairs in a massive dome and enjoy a psychedelic experience. Coachella has since published a 360° video on their Youtube channel for those who missed it. Note: I highly recommend watching using Google Cardboard or other VR goggles.

Overall, the brands on-site at the Festival did a great job captivating the Coachella audience this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what next year’s sponsors bring to the festival.


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