Marketing trick #253: hold an event, call it a festival
Imagine my excitement when I discovered that a food and film festival was coming to the very suburb I live in.
Not merely a food festival. Or a film festival. But a food and film festival.
What’s more it wasn’t simply coming to my suburb. It was coming to a specific area in my suburb. According to the large glossy ad on the bus shelter it was coming to a place known to us locals as The Spot.
Now the Spot is a fine spot. There’s a very nice cinema and a bunch of lovely Thai places that we get our takeout from. There’s pizza, tapas and I think there’s a fancy restaurant I’ve never been to.
There’s lots to like about The Spot. But does it really deserve its own festival?
Because suddenly it seems like every corner of Australia is standing knee deep in festivals: there are writers’ festivals, comedy festivals, indie film making festivals, and festivals of ideas (whatever they are).
To be fair, some of them are worth attending. The Sydney Writer’s Festival is a proper festival with prominent authors and overseas guests and most importantly they’ve let me flog my books on a few occasions.
The Melbourne Comedy Festival has an international reputation. Tamworth turns on a very good country music festival. Adelaide cornered the Arts Festival market early on. And I bet a good time is had by all at the Margaret River Wine Region Festival.
But where do we draw the line with all this festivity? How do we know when something is really just an event in festive clothing?
Traditionally festivals are religious or seasonal. Often they’re both.
Christmas is a religious festival that marks the birth of Jesus Christ.
Chinese New Year is a festival that marks the beginning of the lunar month. And the Chinese really know how to turn on a festival: there are firecrackers, a giant dancing lion, gifts all round and the settling of all debts.
St Patrick’s Day honours the patron saint of Ireland. The Irish celebrate by re-reading Finnegan’s Wake and sipping green tea.
A little known festival I particularly like the sound of is the Setsubun Bean throwing festival in Japan. It’s a wonderfully straightforward festival in which all you have to do is grab a handful of beans, throw them into dark corners and shout: “Fortune in, devils out”.
In principle, then, festivals are good things. But you can have too much of a good thing.
On the other hand, my family is planning our own film, wine and food festival this very Sunday evening. There’ll be takeaway pizza, a rented DVD and a bottle of vin de table. Entry is free, dress code is super casual and film and food critics are asked to keep their opinions to themselves.
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