The Lowdown on Flow Festival

Last weekend, I went to the Flow Festival 2016 here in Helsinki. The festival venue at Kalasatama area was packed to its maximum capacity for three days.

I found that I did not enjoy the festival nearly as much as during the previous years – in spite of the fact that I spent the time there with my very good friends and I saw many excellent artists – such as Kamasi Washington, Morrissey, M83 and Sia perform live.

Besides the congestion of a huge flock of hipsters, there was another big factor that made me nauseous about the whole event – that is, the very visible and prominent sponsor plots scattered around the festival area.

Because of the crowd, one naturally had to arrive early in order not to miss any of their favourite artists. Upon entering the festival area, you could spot Toyota’s brand new car being promoted much like in a car show, with the addition of selfie-sticks. While proceeding towards the stage, you would proceed through various commercial playgrounds of brands such as Zalando and Lapin Kulta towards the stage, just to look at 20-30 minutes of more ads on the screens besides the stages before any artists even begin to perform.

This year, the festival had 21 sponsors and partners, and in my opinion, that makes way too many, even for an event of this scale.

Attending the event made me wonder what transformed the easy-going and laid-back festival spirit of the previous festival events disappear.

It is quite evident, that this time, the festival organizers simply overdid it as for the sponsor and partnership deals.

Marketing anything to millennials is tricky to begin with, so no wonder things like this happen when a popular festival event organization and a whole bunch of local and global brands are involved. Some brands, such as the local hip media Basso, and Resident Advisor, naturally contributed to the festival event, but as for many others, contributions at the festival area seemed quite irrelevant.

Christine Göös wrote recently in the Kiosked blog that “almost 70% of successful, millennial-targeted campaigns are connected to real life events”.

You can read the full article on millennial marketing online by Christina Göös here: http://blog.kiosked.com/en/the-secret-to-marketing-to-millennials.

Hip events are increasingly being funded via sponsorship deals, and as if that were not enough, local hip events targeted at millennials are now being increasingly created on-demand by big global brands and corporations. Millennials wish to differentiate from their peers and participate in unique events, and they are eager and willing to share the brand content online in the form of photos and videos.

As the majority of millennials – as much as 60% according to some sources – state that they would rather spend money on experiences instead of material goods, this kind of marketing targeted at us makes a lot of sense.

The pitfall here is that the aura of authenticity and originality of the unique experience is lost in case a hip event such as Flow Festival becomes overly commercial.

Author: Iiris Konttinen

I am a digital service design and digital marketing professional based in Helsinki, Finland.