Beaconing at Bonnaroo & the Lessons Learned

An organization is not likely to find out how their particular customers will react to beacon-triggered messages until they try them.

Numerous research studies have shown that a number of consumers are willing and even desire to receive messages based on location, as long as enough value is provided.

Beacons can technically make the delivery of messages more targeted based on location but they don’t inherently make the message any better.

And that’s where beacon testing comes in.

A beacon deployment over a large area can provide unexpected insights as well as help determine the limitation of beacon messaging.

The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is held each year in Tennessee and draws upwards of 80,000 attendees.

AC Entertainment, co-founder and producer of the festival, found that of the 80,000 attendees, 69,000 downloaded the organizer’s mobile app, which could be a great target base for beaconing, which they decided to test.



The idea was to install 120 beacons to see what they could learn and how attendees might react.

“We decided to keep all of our information passive, with 80% to 90% of the beacons just gathering data,” Jeff Cuellar, vice president of strategic partnerships at AC Entertainment, told me recently.

Cuellar presented some of his findings at the MediaPost IoT: Beacons conference this week.

It turned out that 20% of those with the app engaged with beaconed messaging.

“We were really shocked to have 20% of people engage with us,” said Cuellar.

And that was with absolutely no promotion of the feature.

“We made no mention of it,” said Cuellar. “We didn’t advertise it in any type of way and we didn’t actually tell anybody we were doing it.

“It was more of a passive thing for us to see if our consumers freak out about it, would they think Big Brother is there and monitoring them in ways they don’t want to be monitored and what are we going to do with this information? These were things that were very top of mind for us.”

The messages that were sent dealt with health, safety and directions.

For example, if an attendee walked by one of the free hydration stations, they might receive a message asking if their water bottle was filled up.

On average, people received 13 messages, and feedback showed that it was too many.

Bonnaroo also used the beacon information for heat mapping to see traffic patterns.

They found that during a concert, 20,000 people stayed at the campground for the experience of staying with friends, which changed the thinking of how to interact with fans in the future during the four-day event.

They also surmised that beacons could play a role in helping create an individual’s traffic pattern, which will be used to create a post-event scrapbook, recreating a person’s experience, such as showing which bands they saw, which is now in the planning stages.

The festival organization now is in a position to take what it learned, expand upon it and deploy beacons at the next event to learn even more.

Holding true for beaconing is the age-old mantra of mobile: test and learn.

6 comments about "Beaconing at Bonnaroo & the Lessons Learned".
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  1. Matthew Davis from Reveal Mobile, February 12, 2015 at 10:45 a.m.

    I find the 80-90% idea of passivity interesting. That is, are we going to see a formula develop as a best practice around beacon deployments? 90% data collection / 10% engagement. Chuck - let's make a MediaPost beacon event in conjunction with Bonnaroo, and I will volunteer to help! Haha.

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 12, 2015 at 10:50 a.m.

    Good point Matthew, many are experimenting to determine the right mix of messaging and passive data collection. And also a good idea about the event, I would be for that :)

  3. David Cutler from EatMedia, February 12, 2015 at 11:43 a.m.

    These are great events Chuck. Enthusiastic reality checks! I love when technology helps scale to larger audiences but also provides individual VIP services and surprise enchantment (that people love to share) ... Bonaroo invited select fans to meet artists backstage. With "database of you" tracking, these can be rewards for real engagement and compliance.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 12, 2015 at 11:49 a.m.

    Right, David, the targeting here was intended to enrich the overall experience, not sell something.

  5. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, February 12, 2015 at 4:54 p.m.

    20% of those with the App? Conspicuously absent is a discussion of the app. At best, this is probably 20% of 10% or 2% or less. And what was achieved was interacting with the beacon? (Like trying to turn the thing off so I can watch the concert?). Really appreciate the numbers. But the sense of amazement seems quite out of place.

  6. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 12, 2015 at 5:02 p.m.

    Yes, Doug, 20% of those who downloaded the Bonnaroo app, of which there were 69,000. Not amazement, they were simply surprised that the opt-in number hit 20% without any promotion and they were expecting a significantly lower percentage.

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