Brand Activations at #SXSW2014: Participation, not just promotion

Beyond the conference presentations, the streets of Austin were a tapestry of cool, quirky and interesting brand and entertainment activations, designed to take delegates closer to the tools and trends being discusses in sessions; all in a brand context.

The brands that succeeded in this context asked audiences not just to passive view their wares or services, but actively participate. Some of the coolest examples included:

Oreo’s SXSW brand activation, the #TrendingVending Lounge used Twitter trends as the basis for custom cookie designs. Users would select their favourite trending topic, and a flavour/design combination would be custom made before their eyes. Social buzz around the innovative stunt was frenetic, but the event also generated some cool discussion around the possibilities for trend-driven technologies to deliver automated, personalised products or services. Where could we next see 3D food printing on demand?

Samsung Mobile US continued its efforts to be the mobile brand of choice for the digerati, with a cool activation called #PowerOn. Samsung build an on-demand phone battery replacement system where Samsung mobile batteries were hand delivered by a branded army of helpers virtually anywhere in the downtown Austin area to delegates who’d out-tweeted the power from their phone. This simple activation played directly to an iPhone weakness (short battery life, internal battery), which resulted in more than a few “I wish I had a Samsung” statements from delegates as they sat by power-up stations or power-points waiting for their iPhones to come back to life. Alongside the Samsung Blogger Lounge, Galaxy Bar and Samsung Concert Series featuring Jay-Z and Kanye West, Samsung brought its A-game to connect and conquer the interactive, film and music streams of the festival.

SXSW’s biggest brand activations obviously cost a fair bit of cash, but key learnings any brand can take from these examples are the power of innovation and participation. Trying something new (innovation) that involves your audience and gets them talking (participation), was #SXSW2014’s secret sauce that helped to make these brand messages contagious.

Great work Oreo and Samsung – Can’t wait to see how you top this next year! 😉

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