SXSW Creative Brand Activations

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Tech Brand Activations SXSW

The brand activations of Amazon Prime Video, Bose, and LinkedIn are three tech brand activations at SXSW 2019 that generated buzz and attracted the attention of attendees.

Amazon Prime Video's Brand Activation

  • To promote Good Omens, its upcoming original show that was based on Pratchett and Gaiman's fantasy novel of the same name, Amazon Prime Video built a garden on Austin's Driskill Street called the Garden of Earthly Delights, where visitors were asked to pick between heaven and hell upon entering.
  • The Garden of Earthly Delights featured a tree of life that doubled as a cocktail bar and that served prophetic apples and tempting food, cabanas that were either heavenly or hellish, pampering areas offering hand massages, manicures, and hairstyling services, a pop-up bookshop, tattoo services, a smoking car, aura readers, and a giant seesaw. There were musicians, DJs, and a puppy pen as well. The puppy pen, dubbed a "hellhound puppy pen," featured costumed puppies from the Austin Animal Shelter that can be adopted.
  • At the start of the activation, there was a conversation with the novel's author Neil Gaiman, and a few clips from the upcoming television series were shown. Actors posing as angels and demons wandered around to ask passersby about what they intend to do as far as the apocalypse is concerned. People outside the garden were told to "look for the signs" and were informed that "the end is nigh!"
  • The activation closed with a "Toast to the End."
  • Public relations news site PRWeek US asked its Twitter followers which brand activation emerged as the winner at SXSW 2019, and the majority or 63% of the poll respondents selected Amazon Prime Video's brand activation as their answer.
  • In an article published by Entrepreneur, Amazon Prime Video's brand activation was identified as one of "the five most buzzed-about experiential marketing pushes" at SXSW 2019.
  • Amazon Prime Video's brand activation was one of the best brand activations at SXSW 2019, according to Valerie Bihet, event expert and Vibe Agency founder, Tina Mulqueen, a former Forbes contributor. Daniel Ramirez, a Texas Lifestyle Magazine contributor, and Brione Bagge, senior event manager at marketing agency GPJ UK. Brione Bagge singled out Amazon Prime Video's brand activation as "the only activation that made its presence known across the entire festival."
  • According to Kaylee Hultgren, an Event Marketer contributor, over 10,000 attendees came to see Amazon Prime Video's brand activation during its four-day run. Event expert Valerie Bihet pegged attendance at a higher number — over 14,000.
  • A video of the activation can be seen here.

Bose's Brand Activation

  • For its brand activation at SXSW 2019, Bose showcased and demonstrated its augmented reality (AR) glasses, which unlike most AR glasses, utilize audio instead of video. The glasses, which incorporate lightweight and non-intrusive speakers that allow users to listen without headphones, are expected to benefit commuters who wish to hear both audio content and traffic sounds, people who wish to converse while listening to audio content, and hikers who wish to listen to both nature and audio content.
  • One application of the glasses that was demonstrated at the activation involved a Bose representative facing a restaurant and tapping the glasses to determine menu selections and restaurant hours. Bose informed the audience that it has so far partnered with Headspace, Strava, Golfshot, and TripAdvisor to improve the experience of people who use these apps.
  • According to Forbes contributor Sol Rogers, Bose dominated audio augmented reality at the SXSW 2019.
  • Former Forbes contributor Tina Mulqueen wrote that Bose's brand activation at SXSW 2019 was "one of the quieter activations [that] made one of the biggest splashes during SXSW." She identified Bose's brand activation as one of the best experiential activations at the event.
  • According to Isobel Webb, production coordinator at GPJ UK, Bose's brand activation was noteworthy because, unlike other brand activations, it provided a more relaxed setting where visitors got the chance to learn about the brand's latest products and technologies.
  • A portion of the activation can be seen in this video.

LinkedIn's Brand Activation

  • For its brand activation at SXSW 2019, LinkedIn took over Brazos Hall and built The LinkedIn Studio, which featured free professional headshots, free LinkedIn profile consultations, a networking space, and a happy hour with DJs Angel + Dren.
  • There were also panels where LinkedIn influencers Goldie Chan and Brian Solis offered career advice, and a fireside chat where comedian Mindy Kaling talked about workplace diversity and her career path.
  • LinkedIn Learning courses, online video tips, and cafe drinks were also offered. Apart from the "Rock Your Profile" station, where visitors were treated to private consultations on how to improve their LinkedIn profiles, there was also an "Insights Corner" where visitors were able to watch, via a Hololens display, how work has evolved.
  • Claire Geithner of mass media company Viacom described LinkedIn's brand activation at SXSW as one of the memorable brand activations at the event. According to Geithner, LinkedIn's brand activation was engaging, interactive, original, and entertaining.
  • Kaylee Hultgren's description of LinkedIn's brand activation as "a bustling hub of professional advancement" is indicative of the success of the brand activation.
  • Visuals of the activation can be seen here.

Research Strategy

To identify tech brand activations at SXSW 2019 that generated buzz and attracted the attention of attendees, we looked for articles covering the top, best, most popular, or most noteworthy brand activations at the event, and noted if there were tech brands among the brands that were mentioned. As can be seen below, PRWeek, Entrepreneur, Special Events, Forbes, Texas Lifestyle Magazine, Medium, Viacom, and Event Marketer have all published an article on the subject. From these articles, we were able to gather that the most popular tech brand activations at the event include the brand activations of Amazon Prime Video, Bose, and LinkedIn.

PRWeek: Amazon Prime Video
Entrepreneur: Amazon Prime Video
Special Events: Amazon Prime Video
Forbes: eBay, Bose
Texas Lifestyle Magazine: Amazon Prime Video
Medium: Amazon Prime Video, Snapchat, Bose, Dell
Viacom: LinkedIn, Bumble
Event Marketer: Netflix, Sony, Amazon Prime Video, LinkedIn
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Trends in Tech Brand Activations SXSW

Two trends seen in the activations of tech brands at the recent SXSW include Amazon's consumer-focused festival-like activation for its show Good Omens, and Bumble's experiential marketing activation for its namesake dating app.

Amazon's consumer-focused festival-like activation for Good Omens

  • Amazon's activation for Good Omens has been named as one of the most extraordinary activations at SXSW 2019. Additionally, the activation was heavily featured in the media, with outlets calling it "a flex of Amazon's marketing muscle", "heaven", and "go big or go home".
  • PRWeek named the activation the one that won SXSW, and based on those mentions in the media and the fact it made several top lists, we considered it a trend in activation for Amazon, a tech brand.
  • The activation was consumer-focused, with a choir of nuns and performers playing "angels, demons, adorable hell hounds, rowdy witch hunters, and the riders of the apocalypse from the show canvased the downtown area." The space was transformed into a garden of Eden that had plenty of Instagram-worthy sets inspired by the show.
  • Moreover, Amazon hosted a party in collaboration with Entertainment Weekly that featured "a fire-breather and a remarkably spot-on Queen cover band", making the activation look like a music festival.
  • According to Mike Benson, Head of marketing at Amazon Studios, Amazon looks at its event activations as "a way to do something meaningful and create a good experience for the customers. Knowing the type of people who attend SXSW, Amazon wanted to make sure to bring in the right show" which was focused on younger, influential attendee which normally attends SXSW.

Bumble's experiential marketing activation for its dating app

  • Bumble's activation for its namesake dating app has been named as one of the most extraordinary activations at SXSW 2019. Additionally, the activation was heavily featured in the media, with outlets calling it "a triumph in experiential marketing"
  • Additionally, Bumble's activation was one of the most-visited at SXSW, with more than 20,000 visitors. Based on the listed mentions in the media and the fact it made several top lists, we considered it a trend in activation for Bumble, a tech brand based on its one product — a dating app.
  • Bumble's experiential marketing activation was based on an "intimate space designed to connect with users and create meaningful, one-on-one relationships" which was achieved by the company taking over the local coffee shop "with a physical dating hub that provided profile experts to help shape user’s profiles and free taco-breakfasts and coffee."
  • The activation also included inspirational talks from female gamers, a brunch for dog lovers, and a workshop for friendship-bracelets making. Additionally, Bumble enabled attendees the chance to meet different profile doctors which assisted in optimizing users profiles, as well as speed mentoring sessions and, birth-chart readings.
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