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What I learned at Lollapalooza.

I just returned from three days at Lollapalooza with my daughters. Great time with the girls.  Outstanding festival – really well planned and run.  (Chicago is a fantastic city!)

While I've spent years creating events for youth marketing programs, often from the outside looking in, this gave me chance to experience youth marketing from the mosh pit out.

By and large, the marketing was fairly flat-footed.   The usual branded swag became white noise.  The best efforts came from a handful of marketers whose presence added something to the fan's experience.

The best by far came from my old friends at Toyota.  Their tent wasn't an escape from music – it celebrated music and creative expression.  There you could hop in a Corolla retrofitted to be a four-door photo booth; spin to win some cool prizes; listen to little-known, up-and-coming bands (the roots of Lolla, right?) who performed in the tent and were streamed over the interweb; as well as create art and posters.

Estancia Wines showed that it understood a simple fact about three-day concerts:  people need to sit in the shade.  The Estancia tent was set up like an outdoor ultra-lounge, featuring leather chairs and couches, cafe tables and stools, and, of course, a wine bar.

AOL did a decent job promoting its Lifestream service by setting up a helpful charging station.  Very simple and insightful.

The most well-intended but ineffective effort came from AT&T, which handed out ear buds to promote that it was offering free wi-fi inside the festival.  The only problem was that its wi-fi coverage didn't extend throughout Grant Park. Epic Fail.  (They've learned what veterans of Lolla and Coachella have long known – 3G networks become paralyzed by tens of thousands of people simultaneously blogging, posting, tweeting, texting, poking and uploading.)

My daughter Lauren has a great idea for any marketer gearing up for next year:  Sponsor a tent where fans can decorate and personalize their own "find me" stick, and perhaps upload the image to their friends.  I noticed in the crowd how some people brought poles and sticks decorated with stuffed cats, balloons, jesters, etc – anything they could hoist up to help their friends find them in the sea of fans.

Let me not mislead you into believing that I actually spent three days thinking about this stuff.  It was all about the music.  And here's the music I really loved:

The Strokes
Arcade Fire
The National
Frank Turner
Against Me
The Walkmen
Matt & Kim
Gogol Bordello (tied with Matt & Kim for the most entertaining band)
Social Distortion
and, of course, Green Day

Me and Green Man are tight.