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Burning Man’s sage marketing advice (part 2)

Last week, we demonstrated why brand strategy has a lot to learn from the first five founding principles of the annual Burning Man festival. This week, we cover off on its second five pieces of marketing advice.


6. Communal effort

“Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.”

The successful practice and implementation of a brand’s mission, vision, and values depends on the consumer community, the brand’s own employees, and the integration of the two. As we mentioned before, rather than build a consumer base, brands should seek to build a community. It is through continuous, positive brand interactions that brands win fans and brand communities are built. Rather than see purchase as a transaction, brands are wise to think of purchase as a single point in a cycle of interest, interaction, transaction, feedback, and delight – and back again.

It is the people on your internal team who foster these touch points, therefore keeping those people engaged and fulfilled is just as important as keeping consumers in that state. Many companies practice inside-out marketing, focusing on their employees’ needs to ensure a positive external brand experience. In both cases, engaging with and listening to consumers and employees leads to a brand community that everyone feels good about.

7. Civic responsibility

“We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.”

In the festival world, civic responsibility translates to assuming responsibility for public welfare. In the world of brand strategy, civic responsibility is a component of a brand’s purpose. Cause-driven marketing is not a fad – it is a paradigm shift. As Bill Theofilou, senior managing director for Accenture Strategy, Advanced Customer Strategy and Competitiveness Center of Excellence, puts it, “Today, consumers are no longer investing their time, money and attention in brands that just sell quality products at fair prices. New Accenture Strategy research finds that they are making carefully considered choices to buy from companies that stand for a purpose they personally identify with that reflects their values and beliefs.”

It’s imperative that companies understand the brand’s higher purpose and take steps to show that purpose, often in support of a cause or in support of the community. Brands are wise to understand that consumers expect them to give back – and will thank them for it.


8. Leaving no trace

“Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.”

As we move further into the 21st century, brands have to contend with consumer demand that they do good by the planet. And, like cause-driven marketing, sustainability is not a passing consumer priority or optional piece of marketing advice. In addition, across the globe, governments will continue to impose rules and regulations related to environmental conservation.

One company that is taking its environmental responsibility seriously is Greenpeace’s leading environmentally-friendly tech company, Apple. In its September 2018 Keynote, the company’s largest annual product event, precious minutes were devoted to Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. She shared – among other impressive stats – that Apple’s operations are now running on 100% renewable energy worldwide.

9. Participation

“Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.” 

Don’t talk – do. Don’t say – show. Don’t promise – prove.

As an organization, a company needs to take action rather than just talk about its goals and aspirations. Whatever a brand’s purpose or promise is, it’s only validated through the action and policies it practices. Inside that organization, employee participation and inclusion is critical. People need to be invested and invigorated so they can show up each day and give their best.

One element that has shown to drive participation in one’s job goes back to a company’s purpose. An Imperative survey of LinkedIn members found that 73% of purpose-oriented members are satisfied in their jobs, compared with 64% who are not purpose-oriented. And the same survey pointed out that 58% of companies with a clearly articulated and understood purpose, experienced growth of +10%. Lesson in marketing advice? Purpose pays off (again).


10. Immediacy

“Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.”

In the age of the digital, never more have we valued the power of experience. Larry Harvey, Burning Man co-founder, saw immediate experience as a pathway to improving our lives and the lives of others. For brands, embracing immediacy through brand experience reinforces the power of the now in making a lasting impact on consumers.

The data show that brand activation – an immediate brand/consumer interaction – is one of the most powerful tactics a brand can use to reach an audience. According to Event Track 2015, “A significant 98% of the respondents said that assuming the product or service promoted was one they were interested in, participating at the event or experience made them more inclined to purchase.” In many ways, the immediate experience is one of the most important elements of marketing strategy.

In conclusion

When it comes to marketing advice, Burning Man would not have been the first thing to come to our minds. But the unexpected relatability of the festival’s ethos is a welcome surprise. It also teaches an important lesson and takes us back to our initial assessment: principles are powerful. But living them is even more so.


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