How 3 Brands Brought Tech to Life at Coachella

American Express, Google and Amazon jumped into fashion and fun at the festival

American Express used AR to sell exclusive merchandise to card members. Koury Angelo for American Express
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

Iridescence, exclusivity and a party: three different elements that Google, American Express and Amazon used to bring their activations to life at the fashion-meets-music-festival, Coachella. Because even festivals are now tech and marketing events.

Each activation promoted a different kind of tech, as well as outlook on the importance of the different products in the lives of concertgoers: Google touted the Google Home Max and the Pixel; American Express dabbled with augmented reality and merchandise; and Amazon brought the Echo Look to dole out fashion advice and photos.

These companies hope to push a future not only full of color, but shift the way we view technology’s impact on our lives. From voice-assisted programs to mixed reality, these three companies took advantage of the filters and Instagramable moments of Coachella to make consumers feel a bit more connected to the technologies that the industry sees as the future.

“Newer technologies, like incorporating AR/VR or doing something fun with AI, help to break through the clutter and leave guests with a memorable experience that they’re excited to tell their friends about,” said Dan Karches, principal marketing manager, Amazon Devices. “It’s a trend that’s certainly going to continue to leave a mark on what the festival going experience has become.”

In addition to the YouTube lounge, where artists kick their feet up, this year Google and agency VTPro brought a Google Home Max experience to the backstage area. In the activation, artists could enter a “speaker” space and ask the Google Home Max to play some music. Once they did, the pod’s LED lights would light up and create a pattern that changed to the music. (The activation is set to tour around in the future.) Google also worked with photographers Gunner Stahl, Hannah Sider and Crown + Conquer to take photos of artists with the Pixel 2.

The Google Home Max smart speaker lights up as it plays music.

“By highlighting our products for an exclusive audience, we’re able to highlight their power while also educating people on how they work,” said a Google spokesperson.

For the masses on the ground, select gondolas on the iconic Coachella Ferris wheel were set up to be Pixel photo booths, with an opalescent backdrop. Festival attendees who didn’t make it to the Ferris wheel were still able to take photos with a similar backdrop nearby. Google worked with MKG and IMS to put together these two activations.

Pixel photobooths provide Instagramable backdrops.

On the festival grounds, American Express built its first Amex Card Member Club at Coachella, where card members could bring up to three friends in to relax, recharge their phones and enjoy some drinks.

“When someone brings a friend into our space and our Amex experiences, people using the app are also seeing how we redefine experiences,” said Walter Frye, vp of global entertainment partnerships at American Express. “We’re very aware that while the card members are our primary focus, we’re looking to amplify that experience and attract new card members for the brand.”

As part of the American Express experience at Coachella, the company also offered card members access to an Uber priority lane, a free Ferris wheel ride, free embroidery on merchandise, a “spend $10, get $10 offer,” and two exclusive T-shirts available through the Coachella app’s AR camera.

“Merchandise can be an important component for people who like to have moments from the experience,” Frye said.

It’s the second time the credit card giant dabbled in an AR experience, the first being a collaboration with Justin Timberlake for his “Man of the Woods” album. In addition to the festival ground and app activation, American Express also created a dream-like installation at the Parker Palm Springs (for the first weekend only for Platinum Card Members) that included performances from Julia Michaels, morning SoulCycle classes as part of a SoulAnnex pop-up, shops, food, drinks, crystal energy readings, temporary tattoos from Tattly and “beauty expertise” from Milk Makeup.

Instead of having a presence on the grounds, Amazon brought its Echo Look to the annual “ZOEasis party” with Rachel Zoe and The Zoe Report at The Parker Hotel on April 13. The Echo Look, which takes photos and provides fashion advice, is making the rounds at high-profile events, having recently been at New York Fashion Week in February. For the Coachella activation, the Echo Look took shareable social photos and videos of attendees.

“It’s an entirely new category of device, designed with a focus on personal style,” Karches said. “We saw Coachella as a natural opportunity to engage with this fashion-forward crowd who may have not have been aware of Echo Look previously.”

The Echo Look provides fashion tips at Coachella.

According to Amazon, the Echo Look was also used by Zoe to style different outfits on influencers. The Echo Look remains available only by invitation, but Karches shared it’ll “soon” be available to everyone.

“Right now, our focus is specifically on getting Echo Look into the hands of people who we think will enjoy the product and who want to help shape Echo Look as it evolves,” Karches said.

@itstheannmarie Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.