The sun was shining last weekend in Austin for SXSW Interactive- whether it was actually hot or cold out depended on the day but as the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait a minute. SXSW is an excellent way for brands to showcase their latest and greatest while incorporating some fun elements (we see you, baby goats at Viceland) and free schwag. After attending countless SXs, we thought it might be helpful to share some of our key take-aways and tips for success as more brands begin to enter the fray.

Don’t get lost in the clutter

SX has becoming a melting pot for brands to showcase the latest and greatest- there are a ton of activations to experience and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. There are some key factors to consider while creating your buildout to alleviate this common pain point and help you stand out.

  1. Differentiate yourself by creating authentic moments that enhance your brand. You can do this by being clear about your objective.THis is a chance for you to tell your brand’s story in an organic way, don’t fall into the hype of doing too much. It’s better to have one memorable moment than 5 “eh” ones  While building out your activation around your objective (sales, email capture, etc), develop clear branding and have a logical and immediate call to action. Develop clear signage with key takeaways so participants know what’s going on when you can’t greet them immediately.
  2. That being said- hire great talent. They WILL be the face of your brand. If they are excited about your product, it resonates so much more with visitors.
  3. We all want to reward guests for stopping by, but don’t get caught up in the schwag game. At an event where everyone is handing out schwag, make sure you develop memorable  takeaways that relate to your products

Have a little something for everybody

Not everyone who attends SXSW is a badge holder, and if your activation is limited exclusively to people with a badge, you’re missing out on a core demographic.

  1. Negotiate your activation smartly. When you’re working with a large property like SXSW, they have specific requirements to activate. Look out for your goals and your core consumer by making sure you get what you pay for and allowing access to everyone.
  2. Kitschy activations are fun, on this we can all agree, but make sure you’re extending your reach by creating shareable social moments and valuable content.
  3. SXSW has become a playground of places to pitch and get your hands on products- the problem is it’s also become a schwag branding war. People will walk with items that are useful or unique. Don’t overthink the schwag component and instead focus on creating memorable moments in your activation itself.

Be true to your brand

Now more than ever, buzzwords are everywhere- specifically those attached to movements. Attaching yourself to a meaningful movement is very important, but make sure it doesn’t come across as unauthentic or not thought out.  Make sure you ttach yourself to movements that tie back to your core values. If it doesn’t make sense or feel genuine, it won’t resonate and may actually hurt more than it helps.

  1. This year the women’s movement was heavily promoted, but we saw several activations where there was no tie-in or clear goal as to how you’re helping the movement. Find a balance between what your company does and what you’re preaching.

Now, about the word “experience”

Let’s be real here, despite our usage of the word experience several times in this blog post- it’s more than a hair overused. Everyone wants in on the experiential game, so you need to thoughtfully consider what that means to your brand before activating.

  1. Giving away free snacks is not an experience. Thanks for the turkey burger/fish taco/protein smoothie/etc, but that does not mean it’s an experience. . Keep up the free snacks- keep out the word experience.
  2. SXSW has become a playground of places to pitch and get your hands on new products- the problem is it’s also become a schwag branding war. People will walk with items that are useful or unique. Don’t overthink the schwag component and instead focus on creating memorable moments in your activation itself.
  3. With a clear message comes a clear name. Use your brand’s name in your experience and be straightforward in your lingo. The Fast Company Bar & Grill is a great example- you know exactly who the activation belongs to and exactly what to expect when you walk inside. Clarity is much more valuable than cleverness when competing with dozens of other activations.

It’s time to get prepared for SXSW 2019. Let us assist you in making sure your band stands out! – hello@onetwocollective.com