The Dutch company B2S was founded in 2001 and in specialised in Hard Electronic Music. It’s one of the largest event organisations in the world. Every year, more than 300,000 visitors come to B2S events such as Decibel outdoor festival and Pussy lounge. We spoke with Marketing & Campaign Leader Elizabeth Dijkhuizen about measuring visitor expectations, the difference with pop festivals and the marketing campaign that she is most proud of.
How did you end up at B2S and what are your activities at the company?
'More than three years ago I came in at B2S as an intern. I have occasionally worked at the Pussy lounge events, but this office job is very different. After my internship with the marketing team, I quickly moved on to my current role. As a Marketing & Campaign Leader, I am responsible for creating the marketing campaigns.'
'During my internship, there was a need to better analyse our target group and market. It is no longer a secret that competition in this industry is fierce. Having a good line-up and an impressive stage is no longer enough to convince people to come to your festival. The whole story has to be right, from the concept all the way to the release of aftersales. Researching this is one of my favourite tasks of my current position.'
What does your average day look like? What are your activities?
'During the first part of the day, when I am still fresh, I write texts, such as press releases. At about eleven o'clock I have a conversation with an artist and his manager with whom we collaborate. They host a stage at one of our festivals and I discuss the design of a marketing plan based on this artist. The artists are valuable ambassadors, so if artists like to spend time on us, we like to spend time on them as well.'
'After lunch I work out a current expectation survey into a report. I have made this survey to gauge the expectations of visitors. I immediately work out the expectation survey to see if we can still adjust our current campaigns. For example, if people think the line-up is exceptionally good, we will highlight it even more in our current campaign. After the event, I will launch another survey. This is how we compare the expectations and the final experience of our visitors.’Aftermovie from Decibel Outdoor 2018, one of the biggest events from organiser B2S
How does a marketing campaign for a festival like Decibel work?
'A large event like Decibel has a lot of priority. The campaign actually starts with market research, where we define target groups for the festival. Based on, among other things, the results of that research, our brand manager puts a comprehensive concept together. Decibel is not just a festival; it’s a story. It is an experience and we want to highlight that in the marketing campaign. After the brand manager has given her presentation about the general concept, the marketing engine is ready to start.'
And how do you proceed when you have identified the target groups for your festival?
'These target groups form the basis of my marketing campaigns. In addition, I am finishing up a market analysis in which I examine the largest competitors. What I want to prevent is that we start copying, because that happens in this industry. With this analysis I try to find the renewal.'
Campaign of the last edition of Hard Bass
'Based on this research, I make recommendations and decide on important dates. Dates like the release day, ticket sales and moments that have been agreed on with the artist, like anthem releases. Then the creative part starts. We need content and marketing campaigns that we devise with the entire marketing team. I add this to the marketing plan after a kick-off meeting. Our online marketer makes a social media planning and then we can get started!'
You also analyse target groups. How does that work?
'There are different ways to do that. Of course we extract demographic data from our ticket data and surveys, but we also want to know how our target group thinks. A panel of 100 people helps us with this. The group can never be fully representative of our entire target group, but we do use their input to gain insight into the thinking process of our target demographic. We also actively monitor responses on online platforms. If you deal with the business aspect of events on a daily basis, you look at those events differently. I would dare to say that fans of the harder styles of music are the most dedicated target groups around. It remains important to stay close to your fans and to understand them as well as possible. The promotion is a daily activity, especially in the case of Decibel.'
B2S also organises indoor events, like Pussy Lounge Wintercircus in Eindhoven
Which channels do you use to reach the target group?
'We really believe in online outlets and this is really the focus within our campaigns. We have different channels to reach our target groups. In addition, we are in a niche market. This means that setting up something like bus stop advertisements would not be effective. The main focus is on online outlets. That’s how we can reach potential visitors in a much more targeted way.'
What are the campaigns that you have created that you are particularly proud of as a marketer?
'We ran a great campaign with Hard Bass. The concept was clear from the start; the latest edition of an iconic concept. Our brand manager had worked out an amazing storyline that, in my opinion, came together perfectly with the marketing campaign. Hard Bass has a huge legacy that was collected and stored in a storage module throughout the campaign. At the end of the show, where the last elements of that legacy were placed in the module, the module was shot into space. The story was perfect from start to finish and the reactions were phenomenal.'
The gigantic module at Hard Bass
Why did the successful Hard Bass stop?
'Kill your darlings! We work in a creative industry and when you can no longer invent new creative, campaigns, you can better stop when it’s still successful.'
Do you notice any marketing differences between hardstyle festivals and the larger pop/rock festivals?
'I can’t say that with certainty, because I am less familiar with that. Specific events, like the pop festivals Pinkpop and Lowlands, have greater brand awareness within the Netherlands and focuses on a somewhat larger target group. Decibel and Lowlands for example, take place in the same weekend and we notice that both festivals don't get in each other's way.'
B2S is part of ID&T, just like Q-dance. Do you help each other, or do you work completely separately?
'We have a nice term for our partnership: competitive colleagues! We work independently so the marketing plans of B2S are not actively discussed with the marketing manager of Q-Dance. We do keep each other informed on important data such as events or line-up releases, start dates for ticket sales and releases of aftermovies. If we intertwine a Defqon.1 campaign with a Decibel campaign, it makes no sense for both parties.'Aftermovie of the last van Hard Bass
We see the popularity of hardstyle is growing in the rest of Europe, do you see opportunities for B2S to expand in Europe?
'At the moment our focus is on the Dutch market, because we still see enough opportunities there. We will, of course, keep a close eye on trends and will certainly be able to respond when a good opportunity presents itself abroad.'
What do you think about the future of hardstyle and hardcore as a scene?
'In recent years we noticed that both hardstyle and hardcore have started to shatter considerably. Raw hardstyle, for example, has become a stand-alone main genre that includes several sub-genres. Uptempo hardcore has also experienced an enormous growth spurt. It is impossible to predict what will happen in the near future, but that makes it fun. It remains a creative industry where genres come together and there is plenty of experimentation. We are currently keeping a close eye on crossovers. Just look at the Defqon.1 anthem, where three different genres within the harder styles come together or the huge popularity of Pussy lounge where there are "no rules" in the field of genres (Freestyle).'