4 Marketing Takeaways From Sloss Fest 2015

Sloss Music & Arts Festival 2015 was definitely one for the history books. Held in Birmingham, Alabama at the historic Sloss Furnaces, this two-day music festival featured 32 bands and artists like The Avett Brothers, Magic City natives St Paul & The Broken Bones, and Tyler, the Creator.

Listed as one of USA Today’s 10 Emerging Music Festivals You Should Actually Attend, Sloss Fest is one of many things helping put Birmingham back on the map. This post features the most successful marketing tactics used to organize an unforgettable inaugural weekend for the thousands in attendance.

1. Sloss Fest branding

When developing a brand for any type of product, service or event, you have to go BIG, and those at Red Mountain Entertainment took big literally. The agency of choice to develop the logo and design concept for the festival was Big Communications of Birmingham. Having interned in the agency’s media department last summer, I’ve witnessed firsthand the creative minds of those at Big.

When Associate Creative Director Matt Harris and Junior Art Director Charlotte Wyatt set out to develop a memorable brand, they were inspired by the 130-year old iron furnaces on location in downtown Birmingham. By collaborating with the festival organizers at Red Mountain, they were able to capture the personality of the city’s well-known landmark by featuring the iconic furnaces, iron workers, gauges and a distressed font.

Big Art Board

Sloss Fest branding art board (via BigCom.com)

Big’s branding could be found on the Sloss Fest website, festival merchandise, banners and signs at the event, and on social media. To read more about Big’s branding project for Soss Fest, check out their blog post here.

2. festival mobile app

If you know a millennial (which of course, you do), you know we’re connected to our smartphones almost 24/7. While this has its benefits and disadvantages, brands are doing what they can to connect with consumers across digital platforms. According to Nielsen, 77% of U.S. mobile phone owners have smartphones as of March 2015. Sloss Fest used Birmingham tech startup Platypi to develop an app for festival-goers to download on their Apple and Android devices.

One of the coolest features of the app was the schedule builder, which allowed you to pick the artists you wanted to see and add them to a personalized schedule that could be sorted by stages and times. I also enjoyed the festival map feature that showed users where stages, merch tents, restrooms, and food vendors were located. While the festival provided paper maps and schedules, I liked being able to pull out my iPhone to see which stage I needed to head to next by viewing my personalized schedule.

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Screenshots of the Sloss Fest app

3. #slossfest Social media

Another characteristic of the connected generation is that we LOVE our social media. Platforms utilized for the music festival were Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Spotify. Leading up to the festival, Sloss Fest shared lineup details, artist information, sneak peaks and giveaways. Even if you weren’t at the festival, you could follow Sloss Fest and receive live updates of performances through pictures and videos. By tagging #SlossFest in your own posts, you could be one of more than 10k Instagram pictures of the event.

While some may not classify Spotify as social media, the music streaming service is making it easier than ever to create playlists and share them with your friends. With over 75 million users in 58 markets worldwide, Spotify is impacting the way people listen to music and how brands are interacting with their customers. For a music-centered event like Sloss Fest, sharing music through Spotify is key to social media success.

With close to 700 combined followers on their 4 playlists (Sloss Fest 2015, Sloss Fest #WCW, Saturday at Sloss Fest, Sunday at Sloss Fest), the festival was able to share music with those who would be attending to familiarize them with the lineup. Because I hadn’t heard songs from every artist, I was able to follow the playlists, listen to the music, and build my personalized schedule from the artists I liked best. Big Communications even created their own playlist for the event, sharing their favorite songs from each artist.

4. the experience

When you think of any music festival, you think of good times with your friends, positive energy, and making memories you’ll never forget. You also think of some of the negatives — the heat, dirt and mud, and standing on your feet for hours. Having attended my first music festival, Austin City Limits Music Festival, in 2014, I definitely had high expectations and promise you that Sloss Fest delivered, creating a positive experience for everyone in attendance.

In the peak of the Alabama summer, everyone expected that heat would be an issue. My friend and I even went out and bought mini fans the night before to try and keep ourselves cool. There were air-conditioned tents for those with VIP and “Iron” passes with private bars and featured art from local artists to beat the heat between performances.

Festivals are a great opportunity to showcase other brands in a unique and engaging way. Organizers at Sloss made sure to strategically place MailChimp-sponsored water stations on the grounds and even added more to accommodate the long lines. Piggly Wiggly‘s Beer Garden and Outpost, Royal Cup Sweet Tea Truck, and Yelp Misting Tents also gave festival-goers a look into their businesses by adding a fun twist to their products or services.

the final bow

All in all, Sloss Fest 2015 was a very well thought-out and organized event. For only its first year, the group at Red Mountain Entertainment has definitely set the bar high for the future. Not only did Sloss Fest showcase the great city of Birmingham, it acted as the perfect example for those marketers looking to put on an remarkable event that generates buzz and engages consumers.

By using tools like branding, technology, and social media, marketers can appeal to the masses and create a unique experience that people will talk about for years to come. Sloss Fest will be back again next year, and I imagine it will be even bigger and better than before.

CLICK HERE to view Sloss Fest’s official weekend recap video 

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View some of my favorite shots from Sloss Fest 2015



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