Coachella: “We love it for the content”

The annual US music festival Coachella has become something of a global phenomenon.

With lineups that have included Beyonce, Pharrell Williams, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, The Cure, Madonna and Daft Punk drawing hundreds of thousands of people to the desert outside Los Angeles for two weekends each April, it’s no wonder an increasing number of brands see Coachella as an unparalleled opportunity to connect with consumers.

Besides the usual food and beverage pop-ups, retail businesses like Sephora have long had a presence at the music festival. The French cosmetics chain offered free makeovers last year as the festival’s official beauty partner. And while Sephora chose to have a smaller presence in 2019 – prompting some to ask whether the Coachella bubble has burst – it was still one of many retailers to post up at the California festival this month.

Increasingly, this includes a number of Australian brands, such as Showpo. After seeing a regular sales bump from Coachella over the years, the online retailer capitalised on the opportunity this year with the launch of a special collection and pop-up in Los Angeles.

A vital part of the business

Two more Aussie brands with a presence at Coachella this year were Spell & The Gypsy Collective and Beginning Boutique.

Like Showpo, they are both Australian online fashion brands geared towards twenty-something customers. And like Showpo, they both launched special collections for the event. Spell designed two items exclusively for the online fashion site, Revolve, and Beginning Boutique debuted its newest festival collection on its site in time for Coachella.

This fits in with their target customer, who not only is part of the core demographic attending music festivals, but also part of the social media generation, for whom wearing and sharing new looks on Instagram is a key part of their consumer experience. So it makes sense that brands like Showpo, Spell and Beginning Boutique are catering to this with festival-specific designs.

“Festival retailing is a vital part of our business. That’s where our customer is and wants to be. She aspires to go to big festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury,” Rachael Melmeth of Beginning Boutique tells Inside Retail.

“We’re right there behind her, ensuring we’re across all the dates, designing and scheduling regular festival clothing releases during the year, ensuring she’s got something to wear.”

It’s all about the content

But what is driving these brands to not just offer curated collections, but actually fly several members of their team, and often a handful of influencers, overseas to attend Coachella?

According to Mel Carrero, marketing manager for Spell & The Gypsy Collective, it’s all about the content.

“Really, we just love it for content, and any time we ever do a pop-up at a festival we see it purely as a way to connect with customers and meet new ones, rather than it being something that drives sales,” Carrero tells Inside Retail.

Spell has been sending team members to Coachella for the past three years to cover the festival and create content, which it tends to roll out over the following months.

Last year, the brand hosted an intimate luncheon for a group of influencers in Los Angeles the week before the festival, but it chose not to do so again this year because it is so difficult to compete with activations from major brands.

YSL Beauty, for instance, built a pop-up petrol station on the road to Coachella, where visitors encountered Instagram-worthy scenes, such as a sky-high lipstick sign, classic convertible cars and a field of heart-shaped balloons.

“As an independent Australian brand, it may be hard to stand out against some major players,” Carrero admits.

“We were really grateful earlier this year to be part of Revolve’s #revolvearoundtheworld in Australia in February as their only brand partner during their trip and we were happy that we invested the money in that kind of activation as opposed to competing during Coachella.”

A killer outfit

Beginning Boutique’s Melmeth agrees that major brands monopolise most of the headlines and attention during the event, but that’s just one more reason she believes it’s important to invest in creating quality content at Coachella.

“Activations are temporary, but a killer outfit on Instagram to an interested audience has a longer lasting effect,” she says.

“We do a lot of trend research and carefully plan each clothing launch, to ensure we’re nailing our designs in this way. We are often contacted by customer’s months after events wanting a particular product they saw on an influencer, friend or another customer for their own event.”

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