SXSW Brand Activations that Stand Out, Why Everyone Loves Brand Experiences at Festivals, & 6 Experiential Pitfalls to Avoid (Elevate Connect)

Experiential marketing has grown, with brands in almost every sector incorporating brand activations into their marketing strategy. Often, brands take advantage of pop-culture events and conferences to reach audiences face-to-face. One of the most popular events to watch is South by Southwest (SXSW). SXSW is an arts and culture behemoth that has become as famous for its brand activations as it is for its programming. In honor of SXSW kicking off this week in Austin, the White Board opens by revisiting last year’s stand out brand experiences. We also discuss influencer marketing and micro-influencers to improve event engagement and visit Absolut Vodka’s extravagant Grammys party.

Last Year’s Most Memorable SXSW Brand Activations

The phenomenon that has become South by Southwest has a fascinating story. What started in 1987 and hoped to attract hundreds of people has grown exponentially in size and scope over the past three decades. Last year, direct participation in SXSW totaled approximately 421.900 people, with 77% between 21 and 45 years of age. Brands of all types, from consumer goods to finance, are eager to activate in this high-opportunity environment.

SXSW is kicking off this weekend, so we are looking back at last year’s best activations. This AdWeek article offers up diverse types of activations, but all had one thing in common. Each brand created an experience that was not only aesthetically compelling but provided fully-immersive engagement for consumers. From intense experiences, such as HBO’s escape rooms, to Facebook’s B2B-targeted activation, here you can read all about last year’s most memorable events.

Live Nation’s Unique Ability to Tap Into Millennials, Gen Z

Aside from the allure of seeing their favorite artists, many millennials and gen z’ers are drawn to live music events to engage with a like-minded community. And as ticket sales continue to grow for these events, brands are keen to continue partnering with live music producers. Often, experiential brand activations enhance the attendee experience at festivals and music venues.

Live Nation began its domination of the music promotion space in 1996. Since it has become the largest live music production company in the world. Now, the company is aiming to become the predominant resource for brands looking to engage both Millennials and Gen Z. In 2017 alone, Live Nation sold over 530 million tickets, gathering massive amounts of consumer data along the way. Live Nation can give brands deep insights into what fans are looking for from their experiences. And pairing Live Nation’s intel with a brand’s own consumer data allows the potential for high-impact brand activations. As the article points out, Live Nation’s value proposition is something that companies like State Farm and Pepsi have found irresistible.

Why Everyone Loves Brand Activations at Festivals

As mentioned above, music festivals are a rich opportunity for brands to engage with key demographics. This experiential-friendly environment gives companies a multitude of creative options when planning their brand activation.

Gone are the days of the basic sponsorship.Consumers demand experiences, and that standard of brand interaction continues to grow. But that is good news for brands, as these experiences can also serve as content generators for brand promotion across social media and other digital channels. And the fact that this content is generated and shared by consumers themselves makes it that much more powerful.

A recent blog post by TicketFly provides two notable examples of how brands can ensure that they are providing buzzworthy experiences to festival-goers. From hands-on art installations to virtual reality, outside-of-the-box activations keep festival attendees focused on what’s happening beyond the artists performing on stage.

Has SXSW’s Massive Growth Become a Barrier for Some Brands?

As mentioned above, since its beginning, SXSW has been on a rapid-growth trajectory, and it shows no sign of slowing down. The 10-day conference spans music, film, and interactive media, and attracts hundreds of thousands of eager consumers from all around the world. As a result, SXSW has become a mecca for brand actiavation, and companies see a high value in participating in this annual festival.

Yet, this article in AdWeek argues that there could be a downside to a SXSW brand activation. Here they offer a closer look at some brands that have participated for many years but have decided to not take part this year. Read on to learn the reasons behind why some brands are choosing to sit out this time around.

Absolut Vodka’s Lime-Inspired Grammys Oasis

During awards season, pre- and post-parties can be as big of a deal as the awards themselves. From Elton John’s extravagant after-Emmys party, to Entertainment Weekly’s Pre-AG awards soiree, the who’s who of Hollywood are in full force. And these gatherings of the glamourous translate to a high amount of media exposure. It is no surprise that brands are teaming up to throw equally extravagant events.

One party that caught Event Marketer’s eye this year was Absolut Vodka’s Pre-Grammy’s party. In partnership with Spotify and the Open Mic Project campaign, Absolut transformed an empty New York club into a “green oasis.” Decked out with lush tree and floral arrangements, Absolut provided lime-themed cocktails while immersing attendees into a different world. Check out the full experience here.

Why the Internet of Things Could Make Brands “Irrelevant”

As technology begins to play a larger role in our lives, talk about the Internet of Things (IoT) has begun to dominate conversations. IoT is rooted in the idea “of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other).” This can include items such as your cell phone, Amazon’s Alexa, your car, and more. It is a growing concept that has experts excited about the possibilities, but concerned about unintended consequences.

Despite it all, the IoT is here and growing in scope. The best strategy is to understand its impact on everyday life, and in this context, how the IoT is impacting how we market products and services. As Maurice Levy, former CEO of Publicis Groupe, puts it, it “could make brands ‘irrelevant’ in future if they do not master new technology and find more intelligent and creative ways to market consumers.” Experiential is one of the best ways to combat these challenges.

Avoid These 6 Experiential Marketing Mistakes

With the continuous rise in popularity of experiential, there is a sense of urgency when it comes to engaging with consumers face-to-face. Throughout each campaign, marketers make it a regular practice to analyze the results of each campaign. By setting a clear and measurable goal, brands can assess whether they are seeing positive ROI. This ensures each brand activation is moving in the right direction.

If your experiential marketing campaign is not seeing the results you expect, this infographic could provide insight. Here Marketing Profs lists 6 mistakes that you might be making when it comes to executing a successful brand experience. From lack-luster audience engagement to neglecting to track ROI, these elements can help brands see the campaign results they need.

Using Influencer Marketing to Elevate Experiential

As digital media continues to revolutionize the way we market to consumers, traditional advertising has become less relevant. Consumers are in control of what they see, and when, and how.

As consumers tune out advertising they find impersonal, marketers are getting creative. What has grown are partnerships between digital, experiential and social media. By incorporating several platforms, brands can create and amplify authentic, meaningful brand messaging. This strategy allows marketers to nurture consumers and provide an end-to-end brand experience.

Taking this marketing ecosystem a bit further, brands are seeing success with incorporating influencer marketing and micro-influencers. Here BeCore provides a key elements to consider when crafting a strategy that includes these elements.

Author: Elissa LiongElissa Liong is the Data and Analytics Manager at Elevate Staffing. She's a certain kind of particular, and loves thinking about all things data and insights. When she's not uncovering consumer insights and building out engagement tools that people love, she is probably at the gym or reading online spoilers about TV shows (even for episodes she hasn’t watched yet).


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