For the past decade, there has been an upward trend when it comes to using social media to advertise. Big brands have inundated their databases with users, aiming to assemble the largest cache of data–aka “likes”–, in an attempt to reach a broader audience. According to Forbes, the flaw with this practice is that “brands are too caught up in collecting social media fans, and they are forgetting to actually connect with them.” (Whitler)
This habit has stagnated the social media advertising movement as it has turned individuals into nameless data points, rather than leveraging their personable abilities to communicate a message. While the collection of blind data has resulted in a slight sales increase, it causes plateauing in the long run because consumers want to feel like they have a meaningful relationship with the brand, too much data obscures the objective it is trying to achieve and ultimately makes a consumer feel like just another person.
Despite the slowdown in the efficiency of social media advertising, there have been success stories in the music festival industry that could be copied and used to improve a failing strategy.
Coachella Music Festival is the perfect case study because it has seen a sales increase every year since its inception, has a strong brand and its fans are fiercely loyal. Coachella accomplished this through several avenues, one of which was “word of mouth” advertising. Similar to social media advertising, word of mouth relies on an individual to divulge information in an authentic and credible manner. Coachella in their 2017 season, drew a huge international audience, with sales up 125 percent from last year. The success of Coachella, and festivals like it, have shown the real potential of word of mouth advertising and serves as a template for all industries to follow.
Word of mouth advertising does more than convey a message; it creates a personal connection between the brand and its consumers. As noted by an article published by The Harvard Business Review, companies should turn to this new strategy because “how your customers feel about you and what they are prepared to tell others about you can influence your revenues and profits”. In a market saturated with faceless data, the only way to differentiate yourself is to form a connection with your customers. Brands must realize that in an ever-evolving market, the next wave of consumer connectivity they need to embrace the power of word of mouth and not simply focus their energy on collecting “likes”.
The key to the success of Coachella, and brands like it, is their ability to convey an authentic message. When brands focus on quantity vs quality, they lose their ability to connect with their user base. Coachella was able to translate the experience of attending their festival to the masses in the form of a message by utilizing word of mouth advertising. If brands follow suit, they will be able to achieve the same success by conveying an authentic and personable message that is heard by the right people best positioned to spread their directive.
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