Fitting into the Essence Festival landscape can be extremely challenging. With so many brands present and investing millions it can feel like there's no space for you at one of the largest gatherings of black women. But, it's not the money that wins in this venue; it’s authenticity that truly matters. To empower black women, brands took a backseat at Essence Fest 2019 and gave festival goers the mic. Without assuming autonomous authority but by listening to the needs of black women, these three activations outshone the rest.
Walmart honored their audience with their “Reign On” photo booth. Their larger than life LED background and throne gave women an opportunity to celebrate themselves as the queens they were meant to be. The throne was socially optimized for celebrating black womanhood by playing on the idea of the black queen. Most buzzworthy were crowns (see above) that were given to every queen gracing the throne. Anyone who wore one at the festival was immediately asked where they got it from. Walmart showed that swag that's useful, not overly branded, and creates hype is key for a large festival like Essence Fest.
WW (Weight Watchers Reimagined) & Daybreaker
WW (Weight Watchers Reimagined) turned up the crowd with their star studded Daybreaker collaboration. Their partnership with the popular early morning dance party company aligned their brand of health with the perfect activation. The trendiness of Daybreaker brought a cool factor to the event, not to mention the fact that dancers got to jam out with Loni Love, Tamela Mann, and Big Freedia.
Know Your Girls
The Know Your Girls campaign from the Ad Council in collaboration with Susan G. Komen is part of the foundation’s new bold goal to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50% in the U.S. by 2026. With black women almost 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than their white peers, the campaign educates and inspires black women to take charge of their breast health and connects them with resources and information at KnowYourGirls.org.
Staying in touch with the needs of black women and the spaces they inhabit, the campaign took a trip to New Orleans for Essence Fest, the nation’s largest gathering of black women. Margaret Files, Director of PR and Social Media at the Ad Council, gave us the inside scoop on Know Your Girls’ Essence Fest activation.
The idea of community was integrated into every aspect of the campaign’s booth. Campaign spokeswoman Vanessa Bell Calloway and a number of influential digital content creators joined the booth for “Girl Talk,” a series of candid conversations and interviews about breast health. These talks ensured that the activation wasn’t just handing out swag, but also inviting women to do meet and greets with celebrities, ask questions, and share their own stories.
Many parts of the booth gave black women the opportunity to tell their own stories. An interactive GIF booth encouraged guests to pose for a GIF then share it on their own social media channels with messages of empowerment for their own friends and community. A postcard writing station invited attendees to send a message to their loved ones and remind them to make sure they were taking care of their breast health. Margaret noted that the postcards were powerful, “...because it turned the narrative from ‘Here’s why you should know about your breasts’ to a friend saying, ‘I care about you and I want you to protect your breast health.’” By listening to what spaces are important to black women and what black women want, the Essence Fest booth was able to create a space that allowed black women to create their own narratives surrounding breast health.