So I’ve just returned from vacationing at a Wanderlust festival in Aspen-Snowmass, CO – it’s a yoga/music multi-day event that’s filled with all kinds of outdoorsy activities, yoga classes, lectures, organic food and concerts. Wanderlust has become an international series of festivals and with that success comes the integration of partnerships. Gaiam, Garnier, Prana, So Delicious Dairy Free and Camelbak were some of the nationally-known partners, but I have to tell you, Kashi set the bar high and truly grabbed my attention. Even when I’m on vacation, I can’t help but get excited about brands championing on in ways that are fun, cool and most importantly, authentic. Authenticity is the name of the game when a brand is striving to directly interact with its target and that really shows on the experience-level at festivals and conferences; Kashi shined with a presence throughout the event and created an authentic, shareable experience in a sea of vendors for Wanderlust patrons. The yoga lifestyle and Kashi’s mission to create natural, healthy food go well together, so the partnership is an easy one. But Kashi’s execution through experience, along with its stance on food, create the authenticity needed to get buy-in from your target audience.
In the “Kula Market” (think lots of vendors set up in white open tents to sell yoga clothes, crystals and such) at Wanderlust, Kashi stood out from the bountiful rows of tents with its own circular wooden structure, where brand ambassadors would invite you in to take shelter from the sun or the rain, give you new products to try and take with you, encourage you to run around the edge of the structure to strum the tiny windchimes hung like a decorative border of music and also engage you with three activities beyond this haven. There was a Kashi mandala-making station where you could create art with Kashi cereal and grains. There was a chill-out station with chaise lounges, shade and snacks. The third station known as the cube, allowed you to play jungle-gym style on an apparatus manned by brand ambassadors and encouraged you to share pictures of your experience. Given that several of the yoga classes at this conference are geared toward acro-yoga, which is yoga with a heavy-dose of Cirque De Soleil, the cube was a big hit (even if you did have to sign a waiver to play on it). This Kashi-loving section of the “Kula Market” was certainly one to behold and impressive on its own, but that wasn’t all Kashi had up its brand experience sleeves.
At Wanderlust, yoga classes were held all day in different sections of Snowmass village starting sometimes at 6 am and generally ending by 6 pm over the course of several days. Classes were approximately 90 minutes and could be intense exercises of stretching, rhythmic breathing, dancing, cardio, etc. Kashi so smartly strategically-placed brand ambassadors with milk and cereal bowls or granola bars at class entrances/exits to nourish participants. I observed those around me happily take the cereal bowls and snacks, with great appreciation to help quench the hunger pangs that had struck up during a rigorous class, and I wondered if they would remember this feeling of satisfaction the next time they go shopping for cereal and snacks. The brand experience was so seamless and seemed like a natural extension of the good-for-you experience you had just been through or were about to have. What better way to connect with your target audience (health-conscious, food-conscious people that have the income to afford pricier granola bars) than to feed them before/after one of their favorite activities and create a good memory. A few days later back home, I know I caught myself staring at the different Kashi bars in my local Kroger hoping to find those delicious Chocolate Chia Seed Granola bars that I’d had after a class (no luck, but I did buy 2 boxes of other Kashi bars that I hadn’t intended).
It was evident to me that Kashi had gone above and beyond a symbolic partnership of a brand throwing money at an event, which is what you so often see at festivals and conferences: a brand simply lending it’s name to a venue or putting its logo on an event item without any true connection to the people attending it, even though it’s those people the brand WANTS to connect with on a new level. Throwing money at a partnership is not enough to get your target’s attention in this day and age. But building an authentic connection with your target audience through purposeful partnerships and experiences will make that investment worth it. And Kashi did just that, did it well and I have no doubt will reap the rewards.
Photo Credits: Allison Emery and Halie @Ohh_indigo