The ‘goosebumps’ of festival marketing with Untitled Group’s Casey Katz Serrao

Via Marketing Mag

“We always talk about the ‘Goosebump Test’: giving people goosebumps when they consume our content,” says Casey Katz Serrao, marketing director at Untitled Group, the company responsible for some of Australia’s biggest music festivals.

Untitled’s sweeping promotions deliver, from rich out-of-home campaigns to bursts of excitement on socials.

Responsible for overseeing the strategies of campaigns, brand image and brand growth across the company’s collection of festivals, events and tours, Katz Serrao recently took Marketing Mag through Untitled Group’s tactics.

Prominence in the Australian music industry

Untitled Group is Australia’s largest independently owned music and events company. Included in its event portfolio is Beyond The Valley, which this year became the largest camping festival in the country with a sell-out crowd of 35,000.

The company is celebrating 2023 as its most successful year to date, having sold over 500,000 tickets across events that comprised 430 artists, with a number of festivals showing record attendance. Individual concerts also had great success, led by the shows of Christina Aguilera and Zach Bryan.

Untitled Group is also delivering the Australian Open’s Finals Festival, and next looks to Pitch Music & Arts in March, which the company describes as “a distinct blend of sonic soundscapes and curated art selections”.

Assertive designs for festivals and concerts

Across the board Untitled’s marketing is self-assured. This clarity stems from airtight brand distinctions, complete with strict brand guidelines and style guides for festivals.

“It’s all about our festival’s brand identity, the persona, and ensuring that it resonates with the consumers that we’re targeting,” says Katz Serrao, as all aspects of video strategy, targeting and even design are selected with a focus on individuality.

“They all have a unique flare and a unique piece of marketing to keep them special.”

On the other hand, she says Untitled typically aims to utilise known personas for specific concerts, as “the artist headline shows are driven by the artist’s brand and their brand identity”.

The December 2023 triumph of Dom Dolla’s two hometown shows in Melbourne shows Untitled Group understands how to move its product, as both sold out in just five minutes – 25,000 tickets in total for the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

Embracing the clearest of demographics

The consumer is always at the front of mind for Katz Serrao. She claims Untitled’s point of difference is a focus on a “true connection with the consumer”, delivering exactly what patrons are looking for with experience design and artist scheduling.

“We’re always tying back to that: making sure we create that true and authentic connection with the consumer, starting from the very beginning of the marketing campaign, all the way through to the event, and touching on those moments of euphoria,” she says.

“We do a lot of post-event feedback surveys to find out from the consumer how we can improve for the next event or even to find out what artists they would want to see on the lineup.”

Ideal for Untitled Group and Katz Serrao is a life-changing attendee experience, which she said fans report back frequently.

So confident is the company in its ability to target and engage refined demographics that certain events are scheduled to occur simultaneously: both Beyond The Valley and Sun Cycle occur in Victoria over the new year period.

Considered campaigns that bag awards

All marketing considerations culminate in content that excites and awes, content that inspires debate and further organic engagement amongst fans.

Katz Serrao is proud of a recent “out-of-the-box campaign” that was recognised with a major marketing award. Teaser posters for Untitled Group’s 2023 Beyond the Valley Festival fused effective out-of-home advertising with an interactive component: a phone number for consumers to call.

A campaign slogan on the poster – “There’s no place I’d rather be” – hinted at one of the festival’s headliners, so the hotline received more than 4000 calls, and 833 people left 356 minutes’ worth of voicemails singing lyrics to a Rüfüs Du Sol song.

More recently, to release the Pitch 2024 dates and tease an artist from its then-unannounced lineup, Untitled infused elements of prior Pitch marketing into a launch video with parts of a Rube Goldberg machine: a chain reaction of references.

“The video had all these different items that were each nods to previous years’ work – for example, a carabiner featured in the previous year’s creative was showcased in this video,” Katz Serrao says.

Across socials the video reached 600,000 users for 861,000 plays.

TikTok and the power of user-generated content

A key strategy of Katz Serrao’s team is to embrace the channel that its typically younger consumers use most.

“We’re definitely leaning more and more into TikTok. We are curating content specifically for the platform and it is a large feature in our marketing strategy and plans. We create both organic and paid campaigns, from which we’re seeing great results because our consumers are there and our content and brand is connecting and resonating with them,” she says.

The short-form videos that Untitled Group produces condense the euphoria of live music into effective clips only seconds long, often combined with blunt overlay captions or other features befitting the platform.  

User-generated content (UGC) amplifies Untitled’s TikTok presence, and Katz Serrao thinks the platform has not only surpassed other social media for the company’s target audience, but also once unchallengeable services, saying: “TikTok is the new Google for young consumers.”

But she warns that “UGC can be your best friend or your work enemy”.

“Post-Beyond The Valley last year, TikTok feeds were full of positive event content, and people posted on their TikTok saying it was their best New Year’s ever. But on the other hand, one negative video can go viral and that can topple the whole narrative.”