SXSW 2016: Our Favorite Marketing Moments

Now that the circus has left town we can come up for air and objectively reflect on what went down at SXSW this year. While there’s always so much to check out and experience at SXSW here’s what got our team talking the most:

Driving more brand creativity and business purpose into SXSW

Do you remember when brands and agencies first started infiltrating SXSW years ago? There were parties, fancy sponsorships and all manner of swag. There was certainly a bit of a “silly money” factor to it. But we’ve now reached a point, especially this year, of brands making their participation so much more purposeful, and truly creative. We loved the Mr. Robot activation in particular, which quite literally recreated the Coney Island “fsociety” location where part of the series takes place. Talk about bringing a brand to life.

Casper also went for the ultimate, relevant brand experience with its nap mobile. Who didn’t need to catch up on some Zs during the fest?

AMC went so far as to construct an upside down church as a stirring icon for its new Preacher series.

In addition United made its Social Hub a center point for connecting directly with the brand, replete with the latest in luxury airline seat technology.

In addition there were numerous examples of brands making the most of their proximity to the latest crop of startups who come to SXSW. Senior marketing execs from top brands could be found co-mingling and collaborating all over town at places like Budweiser’s Beer Garage as well as through outfits like Partnered and Kite.


Building a community of marketers

Now that SXSW has become an annual ritual for brands and digital marketing innovators, a real community is starting to emerge. One of our SXSW highlights was engaging in unfiltered conversations about what’s broken, beautiful and worth fighting for in marketing. I was lucky enough to participate in a panel at The CMO Club’s SXSW Clubhouse (hosted at OneSpot’s Austin HQ) with leaders from L’Oréal and Gatorade – we shared perspectives on the challenges of moving content strategy from a campaign based mentality to something more mission critical and alway-on for digital marketing. Also at The CMO Club, we heard directly from a diverse group of female CMOs about the challenges they’ve faced and overcome in reaching success as top marketing executives.


Making SXSW a globally recognized phenomenon

And who could miss the significance of seeing SXSW reach the height of its cultural relevance with a visit and keynote from none other than the President of the United States of America. The issues discussed, heavily focused on the intersection of technology, public policy, and how the tech community can help society, were relevant to all business and technology professionals regardless of their political leanings. But it wasn’t all about the issues – part of Obama’s visit was good old fashioned marketing – a brand activation from which any marketer could borrow an idea or two. For more on that topic read my recent byline in Ad Age.

With these highlights and the many other SXSW takeaways being written about and tweeted we’re energized and inspired to put our collective experiences to work. See you here at SXSW again in 2017!

What were your takeaways? Let us know by sounding off in the comments.


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