For several years I have planned to attend South by Southwest (SXSW), however, one thing would lead to another and I would end up having to pass. I decided that this year I really wanted to experience the festival, start to finish. My main reason for going was to see what others had to say about the future of production, broadcast, implimentation, and interactive content/technology. I was excited to be exposed to lots of new ideas and variations on old favorites.
The DIY spirit is still there around the edges, but the festival itself is a glossy, packaged, content-overload, behemoth of a week. I stayed for 9 days and would fall into bed each night, my head spinning with ideas. Not every panel was worthwhile (and some were actually mind-numbingly awful) but there were a few true highlights I can share from my time in Austin.
I have planned/executed event marketing campaigns for clients at SXSW in the past (including this one for Napster [while at Modernista!] in 2006), soI had a good idea of the type of brand experience activation work I might encounter. I’ve read about what brands have done in the past and have seen what has been hailed vs. panned. With that context I was excited to see what companies would do at this year’s event.
Without a doubt, the best activation I came across was from third-year running SXSW automotive sponsor, Chevy. They tapped into 2 of the most important needs that any SXSW attendee has: Power and Transportation. With all of the tweeting, texting, emailing, calling, web browsing, and searching we put our smartphones through during the course of 1 day at SXSW, you’re lucky to get a 6 hour charge. Couple that with the fact that there were many who lugged their laptops around with them and you have a situation where power is at a premium and outlets weren’t always readily accessible. Enter the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge. Not only was there an abundance of power outlets but also just about any cord you could possibly need. The Chevy Volt Recharge Loungewas also a comfortable and convenient space to wait while you allowed your devices to charge. These brief moments of “down time” allowed attendees to connect with one another and discuss what they had learned. The area was branded with Chevy logos and content, but that branding felt natural and not the least bit “pushy.” Perhaps most importantly, this activation played off of the core product benefit of the Chevy Volt: electricity. Once you were charged up and ready to head to your next event, you could go outside and “Catch a Chevy.” Free, comfortable transportation provided by every model in the Chevy portfolio (especially toward the end of the week when temperatures dropped near freezing)? I would say that was another win for General Motors’ Chevy division.
Event marketing and brand activation are top of mind, perhaps, because Adcom Communications, part of The Adcom Group of Companies, recently planned and executed a brand activation campaign for Key Bank that was actually record-breaking.