Lessons Learned From Another Year at SXSW Interactive

April 10, 2014 // By: // No Comments

Consumer Electronics      Social & Digital Media



A few weeks ago I returned from SXSW Interactive where for the third year in a row, I managed an on-site activation on behalf of my client, 3M. Every year, I enjoy checking out what brands are there and how they used their activation to meet their marketing objectives.

It’s always interesting to see what resonates most strongly with SXSW attendees and drives the most buzz to help inform my future strategy. Here are my lessons learned from 2014:

Cool technology gets attention: Brands who are able to integrate cutting edge technology in a way that aligns to their business resonates with the SXSW crowd. This year, Oreo offered attendees the opportunity to 3D print their own Oreo cookie based on what’s trending on Twitter. Subway challenged attendees to see who could think harder about their new product – the Flatizza – by strapping brain monitors onto two attendees at a time. Talk about a great way to get people to remember your new product.

Train Your Staff: It’s important that your staff have all the facts about every aspect of what you are doing at SXSW and why you are there (since you never know when a reporter might be stopping by). I walked into a few activations and asked staff what was going on and while they were able to tell me what was going on at their particular station, they didn’t really know what else their brand had going on or why they were there.

Reward Your Customers: For five days, SXSW becomes its own microcosm and provides a great opportunity to engage and remind your customers why they should stick with you. Samsung and Mastercard both employed this strategy. Samsung offered free battery swaps for Galaxy users who were running out of juice, while Mastercard gave away a range of prizes to Mastercard holders at the Mashable House.

Solve a Problem: People at SXSW are always in need of something – coffee after a long night out, a place to plug in a device to charge up, or just a place to sit and rest after traipsing all over Austin. Offering free anything is always a sure-fire way to gain foot traffic, but make sure the free stuff you are giving away aligns with your brand or marketing objectives. For example, Go-To-Meeting offered free grilled cheese lunch, but only to those who downloaded their app – a great way to drive trial.

Pop Culture Photo Opp: Penzoil was a new sponsor at SXSW and they got a fair amount of buzz for bringing the game Mario Kart to life. Meanwhile, Mashable allowed SXSW attendees to have their own Miley Cyrus moment by taking a photo on top of a giant wrecking ball. If you can find a way to tap into a trend in pop culture and create a social-sharing photo opportunity, it is sure to be buzzworthy.

Missing Sponsor: One thing that’s a hot commodity at SXSW is water. We literally had someone come into our lounge frantically in search of a bottle of water because they couldn’t find one anywhere. Any water brand or reusable water brand company would be smart to activate at SXSW in 2015.

What did you learn at SXSW Interactive this year?

About the Author

Melissa Todisco

Melissa Todisco has been with Hunter PR since 2003. She has a extensive consumer product experience, working primarily on home, lifestyle and consumer health brands, with a particular focus on targeting women and moms.
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