Let's start by saying what Burning Man is. Burning Man is a city that appears and disappears in the Nevada desert. An event for free spirits to rethink new age ideals inside a stateless entity where art, music, and partying reign supreme on the desert plains.
For decades, it has represented an escape from the current reality. A festival of art and music but also sex and drugs, ideologies, and luxury. Burning Man is a social experiment of creating a community out of a shared struggle. You can't drive around in a car, you can't use money, no phone signal: you gather in the hostile desert climate to build Black Rock City, an ephemeral city that lives self-sufficiently through barter.
The breathtaking art installations and the eclectic crowd of over 70,000 people are something marketers should be envious of for authenticity and originality of content. Burning Man "creates its own content" by focusing on human experience and the values that resonate strongly in contemporary culture.
Burning Man's massive community has a hidden hierarchical order: some people have a stronger reputation than others.
How? They earn it. They have been frequenting the festival for a long time and know the space and its mechanisms well. They are known, respected, and trusted in the community. Nobody buys their way up the ladder. The festival-goers exchange gifts, barter. Each person works pay-it-forward, with the aim of giving value and expect nothing in return.
Every gesture is a surprise, unexpected, and certainly in the counterculture to the "real world" driven by trade and arrivism. This culture based on trust and genuine connection is something that brands should already know and have long embraced.
At Burning Man, people don't just take pictures.
They generate some of the coolest visual content, year after year. The breathtaking art-meets-architecture installations-meets-sex. There are meanings, archetypes and symbols behind every visual. Every Instagram post tells a complete story: no particular context needed. The details are in the details.
For marketing experts developing a visual content strategy, understanding how to manage user-generated content (UGC) is above all this. But the best performing UGC is not just about lights, angles, background or call to action. The best performing UGC evokes emotions: a force that can capture an entire story, without words.
The business world is always under pressure to sell and sell more. This perspective is the antithesis of the Burning Man experience, where there is no money exchange.
So what are people spending and offering? Value. Value ︎ Money
People having fun creates beauty. Every festivalgoer has a unique Burning Man experience. There's no such thing as a "typical" story. There's just the individual. At Burning Man, nobody buys anything. Festivalgoers spend a week trading goods. Their success is directly proportional to what they offer. So what does it look like when there's no money exchanged? You offer value and give people a reason to feel inspired. The content, photos, and description will come naturally.
People go to Burning Man to reconnect with their human nature. It is a week of disconnection, relaxation, exploration, and extreme fun. In the “real world”, these people are solving lawsuits, running businesses, working hard for living, they are consumers. At Burning Man? They can be who they are or want to be: no strings attached.
Contemporary communication shouldn't be different. It's all about people and the way people interact with their instincts. Encouraging the human experience will grow returns in the form of social shares and new customers.