How Coachella has Become The Olympics for Influencers

Coachella Music Festival in Southern California has become the premiere event for more than just festival goers. Spanning two weekends, over 100,000 people a day descend onto the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California for what has become much more than just a gathering of music fans. The event, and surrounding parties, have become a hotspot for businesses to leverage modern day marketing techniques, particularly influencer marketing. The use of influencers as part of a robust strategy has been gaining in popularity since 2013. In 2018, marketers spent over $5 billion on influencer marketing campaigns according to influencerDB. Coachella, in particular, has become a major event for many brands and it often serves as the kick off after the Super Bowl for many to launch their spring marketing campaigns.

Brands are leveraging influencers both macro, those with over 100,000 followers and micro, those with anywhere more than 1,000 followers, at live events to showcase brands in creative and engaging ways. An analysis of this year’s event showed that the top ten brands gained over $10 million in 'earned media value (EMV). It’s clear that the plan to deploy influencers to promote a brand at the festival is a working strategy, but in recent years it has been taken to new heights at Coachella with parties, gifting suites, and even ancillary festivals happening during both weekends of the festival.

Many brands have gotten in on the action because social media posts involving the festival do better than most. According to Popular Chips, posts that involved Coachella received 12.65% more views and 18.16% more likes. The reasoning behind this is that the festival creates an enhanced visual experience for those viewing, which is key to crafting a winning campaign. A live event provides a dynamic landscape for content to be captured. “Creating fun, visual experiences is an effective strategy for brands looking to take their influencer marketing to a new level. Brands have always sought to invest in events that allow them to develop deeper relationships with their fans and customers. Live branded experiences present an opportunity where creators can develop engaging stories for both themselves and the brands they represent.” Adweek says. Not only is the backdrop appealing but the whole event creates a compelling story to be told. From the performances, to the food, to the fashion, to everything in between there dozens of unique moments that can be shared over the weekend.

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The HP Antarctic Projection Dome at Coachella 2018 from GQ

This year, the influencer events began before the gates even officially opened for the festival. HP, the official technology sponsor of Coachella, got special permission to host an event the night before the opening. They invited a unique group of press and influencers to take a sneak peak at their activation for the year. The Antarctic, an 11,000 square foot dome that features 360 visuals, has become a staple of the Coachella landscape. It offers attendees not only a stunning cinematic experience but every year they partner with a musician playing coachella to add another element. This year they partnered with Rufus Du Sol who played Friday night both weekends. By hosting an exclusive event that gave key people a first look at the dome, HP increased its social influence before the festival even started. In the past, this would have been a press only event, but now influencers have become a media outlet of their own.

“At Coachella, you have north of 100,000 people into everything from tech to music to art to fashion,” Daryl Butler, HP’s head of US Consumer Marketing tells GQ. “And then the advent of social media has allowed what happens in a narrower experience to be broadcast around the world.”

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Chart courtesy of influencerDB

The top brands that made big waves online during Coachella were mostly in the fashion and beauty space. The festival itself earned the highest EMV with over $6 million. Revolve, an international fashion brand, was second with almost $700,000. The company styled over 450 influencers in their latest Spring styles by gifting them sometimes up to $1,000 in store credits.

“We work with our buying team and our merchandising team to figure out what’s going be [immediately] available, and this year, as well as last year, we did a capsule collection; it’s really aligning the best brands and making sure we have exclusive product on the site and we really just give the influencers free rein,” explained Chief Brand Officer Raissa Gerona to Fashionista.

Revolve is unique because not only do they dress influencers at the festival they go one step further and host their own two day festival during the first weekend. They also corral 90 influencers from 14 different countries in the same house for the weekend, creating even more sponsored moments. Revolve Festival brings together artists, celebrities, and influencers at the V hotel in Palm Springs. The event is ultra exclusive and produces some of the most Instagram worthy content because it is tailor made to produce social media impressions. Influencers served as walking billboards not only at Coachella but also #revovlefestival as well.

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The best part about these types of campaigns, is that they're working. In addition to the social impressions, sales are proving that the strategy is a winning one. The timing of the festival is also ideal since this is the time when many begin to start shopping for Spring. Pair it up with a strategy involving the right influencers and an exclusive event everyone wants to share, and you have yourself a successful campaign.

“This was our best week ever: Monday [before Coachella] beat our Cyber Monday,” CEO Michael Mente told Fashionista. “Holiday season, for a lot of people, is very discount/sale oriented and, for us, this is just, like, the best stuff — and everything’s full price.”

While many brands leverage macro influencers, those will followings of 100,000 or more, some are starting to find success with smaller pages that have a higher engagement rate. Those with smaller followings tend to have an audience that trusts them more since their posts come off as more authentic. A few brands in particular chose to utilize this micro influencers for Coachella campaigns. Stare Cosmetics collaborated with Loryn Powell, a lifestyle comedian with a little over 68,000 followers. One of her videos of her prepping for the festival amassed over 1.3 million views, having a like follower ratio of 38%.  

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From start to finish, if you are an influencer in 2019 then Coachella Music Festival is the place for you to be for two weekends in April. Brands are investing more into their influencer campaigns and they are seeing it payoff. While Arianna Grande was playing on the main stage, influencers like Liza Soberano were dominating Instagram with 798,000 likes on her first Coachella post. Whether they are snapping a selfie at an exclusive of site party or posing in front of the ferris wheel, every moment at the event represents a chance for a brand to collaborate with an influencer to generate social impressions. Not only are they furthering the brands digital footprint, but they are doing it in massive ways, with posts surrounding Coachella performing better than those not at the festival.