Brand Glastonbury: the survival of the muddiest

“The philosophy behind much advertising is based on the old observation that every man is really two men – the man he is and the man he wants to be.” William Feather

I’m off to wade in the ever-welcoming Somerset mud. Yes, it’s work not pleasure, especially considering the Glastonbury Festival regularly descends into a replica of Passchendaele’s swampy goo.

I’ve always struggled to understand the risks that passionate music fans take when buying their tickets, knowing the chances are high that the heavens will deliver rain. Why? I guess partly it’s hope. If you want to see hell, you can get a great view from the Pyramid Stage.

Over the past two decades, the PR to sell the behemoth of festivals has changed utterly. Consumers drive the conversation and therefore the experience. Is it based on truth or collective determination? The conversation has certainly grown the market. Currently the festival conversation is not owned by the conventional media.

Although the BBC commits huge resources to feed the vibe back to the sensible majority who prefer to be armchair viewers, those pleased to watch the festival struggle to manoeuvre around the swamp from a safe distance. In truth, the media prefers to see a wet festival, craves images of semi-stoned, half naked music lovers body boarding on the slime and spew. The hardy festival goers make stoical merry inside the monsoon and boy do we laugh.

Brands can learn something from the way the seeming disaster of a rainy festival can never destroy the Glastonbury brand, however. You’d think that countless rain-drenched festivals would obliterate the Glastonbury brand trust. Absolutely not, however; Glastonbury is what it is and there is a collective will to overpower any negativity. Call it herd instinct if you will, but there is a definitive humility emanating from the festival.

Yes, it has a legacy and heritage which will never be surpassed. The conspiracy to smother the truth is a thing of wonder. The truth – whisper it quietly – is that Glasto is actually big, chaotic, crazy, commercial and unwieldy. It has mushroomed into a gigantic clusterfuck.

Moisture or no moisture, it’s impossible. Only the hardy mosh pit faithful get close to the stage vibe. The rest shuffle round wondering why the hell they spent a fortune on tickets, camping kit to put them through a physical wringer. But will they admit the truth? Do they complain, do they stamp and shout for the duty manager? Of course not.

Glasto is a super deity, a brand that occupies a place in the heart, not the head. If brands want that special relationship, they need to remember the investment the humble Michael Eavis oversees. Consistency in leadership and a complete experiential overload are but two elements. Brands need a 25 year grand plan and something to love, not a two year bang and blast. If you can keep it up for 25 years there’s hope that not even your equivalent of a monsoon over Somerset could sink your brand.