See You at the Shipyard: Experiential marketing is the new price and product

Friday, August 24, 2018

I am not a music festival guy.

But I have been to Sturgill Simpson, Judah and the Lion and Jack White and concerts in St. Louis this past year. I've been to stadiums and dive bars in Tokyo and Beijing. And I enjoy the occasional Tunes at the gazebo and the Southeast Missouri Orchestra at the River Campus' Bedell. I am typically all about vinyl and first to buy tickets to "Hamilton" in St. Louis.

Yes, I am that guy.

And although I may not be going to Bonnaroo next year, I totally get the "why" of a music festival, having experienced a few of the best this past year. First at SXSW in Austin in March 2017, and Lollapalooza in Chicago this past month. Full disclosure: Lolla was booked as a reconnaissance trip for Cape's own nationally recognized music festival -- the Shipyard -- September 22, 2018.

Spirited by the Scout -- the daily email that celebrates all that is good in Southeast Missouri -- and championed by our creative director and manager of rustmedia, Jeff Rawson, the Shipyard is a big deal. The one-day festival will host eight nationally touring bands on a 32-foot stage in downtown Cape Girardeau with original music, food and good cheer.

"We began planning the Shipyard with a simple goal in mind -- create an opportunity for proximity," Rawson says. "We aim to bring people together around common interests in good music and outdoor events while introducing a healthy mix of styles and national touring acts to the area. That's ultimately what music festivals are about, communal experiences you share with neighbors and strangers alike. This year, we're giving you an opportunity to do just that with 2,000 of your new best friends."

The 2018 lineup for the Shipyard also puts Cape Girardeau on the map for bands touring the United States for 2019 (yes, we are already talking about next year).

"Through the Scout and its strategic partnership with the Pageant of St. Louis -- the seventh top-ranked club in the world for tickets sold by a venue its size, selling more than 185,000 tickets last year -- Cape is well on its way to becoming a true destination for original music in the Midwest, a convenient stop between St. Louis, Nashville and Memphis," shares Pat Hagin, co-owner of the Pageant in St. Louis.

The Shipyard -- a music festival built with heart

A festival doesn't just happen. Ours has been in the works for more 
than a year. It was a big decision to "go for it" after taking a deep dive, learning from and partnering with the best. This included teaming with the industry's leading supplier of portable stages in the United States -- Klance Unlimited, whose recent builds include the PGA and LouFest in St. Louis.

"We are going to do this right by Cape," says Ken Krueger, executive at Klance Unlimited. "We are building a true festival stage experience with audio, lights and branding. Size alone sets it apart. We are excited about bringing the festival experience to Southeast Missouri."

The Shipyard also checks anther box by establishing an experiential marketing opportunity targeting young families, University students and music lovers in Cape Girardeau and the surrounding area. Greater Cape has always struggled with how best to engage the college and millennial crowds so important to its growth. While the daily Scout email writes to this audience by focusing on the good news, the Shipyard is a natural next-step event designed for face-to-face opportunities and community-building, tied to this daily conversation.

"The Shipyard is us walking the walk we talk so much about in the Scout every morning," Rawson says. "Each email we send shines a light on the good and inspiring things happening in our region and around the world. We encourage our readers to understand their neighbors more, jump out of their comfort zones or connect with local volunteer groups that make Southeast Missouri an incredible place to live. Creating the Shipyard is truly us following our own advice."

The business of a music festival

There are buzz words around why a business gets involved in events. Immersive experience, brand activation, data mining and their associated financial models offer answers. Although finding the right path to engage a millennial crowd -- current and future consumers -- is elusive, music festivals offer a rare opportunity for businesses to do it right. The numbers certainly speak to the opportunity.

According to Billboard magazine, at least 32 million U.S. music lovers attend music events and festivals each year; nearly half of that total is from the millennial demographic. Grow the music scene with a festival of national reputation, and its financial impact in the community is solid.

Sponsorship spending on music tours, festivals and venues was projected to total $1.54 billion last year, a 4.8 percent increase from 2016, according to research from Chicago-based IEG. Companies involved in creating experiences at music festivals understand it is no longer about sell, sell, sell; businesses are seeking unique ways to inspire people to buy well.

Festivals are all about creating meaningful, valued brand interactions with people in the precise moment that matters to them, and in turn connecting them to the product, service or brand that meets their need. It is a feel-good place where businesses engage instead of interrupt.

Smart businesses know attracting the millennial consumer is not about chasing them, but rather about showing up where they're already going to try to enhance the experiences they're after. In turn, they build loyalty through association.

We at rustmedia and the Scout saw this done well in Austin, Las Vegas and Chicago; all inspired us to recreate our version in Southeast Missouri. Now, we are thrilled this passion to do things uniquely better is shared by the City, local organizations and businesses.

The Shipyard is about building a brand experience businesses and organizations don't have to create themselves, while at the same time benefiting from the brand experience's residuals and brand equity that leads to growing a community. In turn, shared postings on Social channels and data help differentiate their brands targeting this unique audience.

Here are ways the Shipyard sponsors for 2018 plan to do this with their participation, creating unique, engaging physical builds and immersive experiences:

Isle Casino 
Cape Girardeau

Fun, risk-free gaming choices in a Shipyard theme allows the Casino to interact and educate young, non-seasoned consumers. Its games in a Shipyard setting will complement the high-energy festival, growing its brand through association and participation.

Rhodes 101

All about data collection, the Rhodes creative team plans to set up a trailer and interactive kiosk with consumer involvement using technology to capture the attention of a younger crowd new to Rhodes with its products and services.

United Airlines -- 
Cape Regional Airport -- Air Show

A win-win-win partnership that shares information on its new service flight to Chicago by United with a giveaway contest and engagement opportunity on festival grounds, also promoting the upcoming Air Show that includes access to the wildly popular Blue Angels performance.

Saint Francis 
Health Center

All about serving the community, Saint Francis plans to enhance its selfless brand by offering free access to a hydration station, bottles and filtered water, while giving back to the community with a charity foundation component.

Plaza Tires, Drury Hotels, Drury Southwest and 
Visit Cape

All are finalizing experiential concepts for the day, with creative plans to engage festival goers.

Each seek to tap the value of brand experience and utilize the way it builds loyalty among millennials, knowing Social changes everything.

With technology, businesses are also tapping into data pieces. And for experiential marketers, it's fantastic to have more and more data.

But the Shipyard experience will also be about an emotional connection -- building a community. I'll be scanning the crowd to see whether or not we have created something that will reflect well for our community and our partners. It's low-tech, but a tried-and-true way to see what's working. Count on the smiles.

Sign up for the Scout daily emails and updates at and get your tickets at

Then, see you at the Shipyard.