Three Lessons in Brand Marketing & Activation from SXSW

chevy sxsw brand
Chevy at SXSW. Courtesy

South by Southwest, especially the interactive portion of the festival, is all about brands. They’re there to get your attention, either as sponsors, party hosts, service providers or more. The tough part is competing for eyeballs in a space crowded with other brands out to do the exact same thing. Sure, that’s true in the marketplace all the time, but SXSW is a distilled, concentrated version of the attention problem. We were there, we saw what worked and what didn’t, and we’ve got a couple takeaways you can apply to any brand marketing opportunity for your small business:

1. Have something to say

The most successful companies at SXSW timed their participation with a major product, app or feature announcement. It’s not enough to show up: there’s got to be something to catch everyone’s attention. That’s especially true if your audience knows you already: giving them something new gives them another reason to pay attention to you again!

2. Offer something valuable – and relevant

Anybody can get their logo printed on a t-shirt or a keychain. But what can you offer that other people can’t? Chevy provided rides at SXSW: a great way to give people something they need (a ride!) while getting them to experience their product (the new Chevy lineup). But even if you don’t run a major car company you can still give people something they can use if you think strategically: late-night rides, power chargers when they need it the most, or a even just a great guide to events targeted to your followers. All those keychains eventually find their way to the trash can: can you offer an experience or product that will be truly valuable?

3. Make a splash

Go big. If you’re doing a brand activation, think long and hard about whether putting money into the event will be worth it. If you don’t have the resources to really make an impact, then skip it. It takes a lot of time and money to pull off an event successfully. But you don’t have to be Samsung and get Price to play, either. Think creatively about ways to get attention: social media and online media are huge of course, but a little bit of a stunt may be right for your brand too. If you’ve been sitting on crazy, outlandish ideas for promotion, now’s the time to use them! And remember: it’s all in the execution. Make sure your brand is well-represented, well-integrated, and intrinsic to any event you pull off.

Do you have any other tips for brand activation? How do you deal with cutting through the clutter to get noticed? Let us know in the comments!