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March 17, 2011
Top 5 brands that rawked SXSWi
With a whopping 36% increase in attendees over last year (and 30% increase the year before), the 2011 SXSW Interactive conference was by far the biggest and hottest technology event in the country. Last year was the first year in the history of SXSW that the interactive portion topped the attendance for both music and film portions of the festival.
Big consumer brands outdid themselves this year trying to reach the 19,364 tech-savvy, smartphone-toting, tweeting, Foursquaring, influential, ironic-T-shirt-wearing geeks and geekettes.
Here's my list of the top 5 brands who succeeded in creating good buzz at the 2011 SXSWi:
It captured the majority of the buzz at the conference; no one was close. Not even official sponsor companies. Apple created a 5,000 square foot pop-up store in three days to coincide with the launch of the highly anticipated iPad 2. Lines began to form ten hours in advance of launch in front of a blacked-out storefront in downtown Austin. Once inside, the store looked like any other Apple store with blond wood furnishings and enthusiastic employees. Rumors were that this Apple store had the most iPad 2 inventory of any store in the country except for the Fifth Avenue location in NYC. Official and unofficial news outlets flocked to interview the Apple devotees standing in line. Even yours truly got sucked into the hype and got the last 64MB 3G model.
Photo credit: Augie Ray
One of the primary sponsors of the entire festival, Chevy knew just what Interactive attendees needed: recharging stations and rides. Folks could get juice for their tablets and smartphones from the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge inside the Convention Center. Festival goers could flag down one of 27 Chevy Cruzes to catch a ride to one of the 10 campuses that made up the Interactive festival. Chevy also had brand new Volts, Cruzes and Camaro Convertibles on-hand for anyone who wanted to test drive one... after a breathalyzer test, of course.
Photo credit: Chevy
It spent a cool million on SXSW, which included a huge "playground" on a vacant lot, called the Pepsi MAX Lot. Amenities for tired, hungry SXSWi'ers included games like foursquare, cornhole and ping-pong, live bands, free wifi, couches, BBQ and lots of drinks. Other Pepsi experiences included the Sobe Lizard Lounge Mixing Station and interviews and panels at the Pepsico Plugged-In Stage in the Convention Center, which were live-streamed over the web.
Photo credit: Adrants
The news network took over a 3,000 sq. ft. restaurant, Max's Wine Dive, one block from the Convention Center and turned it into a SXSW broadcast news center. All vestiges of the restaurant were completely gone. Max's sign was replaced with a huge "CNN Grill SXSW" neon, rotating sign. The interior of the restaurant was redesigned with monitors lining the entire space and outlets at every table. CNN brought in famed NYC restauranteur Danny Meyer to create a special menu for people lucky enough to make it inside. The venue was used mostly for CNN staffers, press, and invited guests. Occasionally, the @CNNSXSW twitter id would invite in the "next 25 people to follow and reply." A stage was created out in front of the restaurant for live-streamed interviews. It's hard to imagine how much CNN paid for this space but it had to be a sizable sum to make up for the lost revenue that Max's would have gained for the 10 days of SXSW.
Photo credit: Papermag
GE installed a solar-powered carousel and charging stations in a lot at the corner of 3rd and Congress Avenue. The company painted a 1926 carousel completely white and replaced the original motor with one that ran solely off of energy from 72 GE “thin film” solar panels, which use a cadmium telluride semiconductor to capture sunlight. While attendees charged up their laptops and phones on one of the 12 charging stations, they could take a ride on the carousel that whose motor was completely quiet.
Photo credit: Eco Tuck B.V.
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Glad to see that companies are thinking "outside the box." Not really sure Apple impressed me enough by setting up a pop-up store to be in your number one spot, as that should be an easy feat for a company of their resources. But I think Chevy and GE were smart to know that most attendees would want a convenient place to recharge their gadgets while showcasing their cars and solar energy respectively. Pepsi's choice of a place for people to recharge themselves also seems like a great idea with an event of that size. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Sorry to be the naysayer (I certainly had my own failed SXSW promo, so I'm not an expert) but how did any of these brands other than Chevy and Apple rawk SXSW? Apple sold a lot and Chevy got people to try their cars, but what did the others actually accomplish aside from spending a lot of money? Did the people in the Pepsi MAX Lot actually go home and buy more Pepsi? Did their tweets and check-ins actually get their friends & followers to buy more Pepsi? I have my doubts.
Chevy got people to try their cars out? No wonder they made it in this list. In line with what Evan Hamilton said, I wonder what made the others he has pointed out "rawk" the SXSW. It could be because of how they've delivered their services during the event, but I guess there's more to that.
Great recap. I heard that line for the apple store's release of the ipad 2 was just rediculoud. I had a buddy waiting in line for well over 2 hours just to get his hands on one. Pretty amazing that the iPad 2 has been able to cause such a stir!