Marketing at SXSW: Go Big Or… Don’t?

This was my second year attending Austin’s SXSW Interactive and I’m surprised to say that I was quite blown away with the growth in attendees and content, even from just one-year prior. There was something for everyone: Nike+ court to get your slam-dunk on? Done. Free BBQ Tacos with wet wipes and antacid accompaniments? Easy. A chance to smash guitars with The Office’s Rainn Wilson? Of course!

The “I’m impressed!” neurotransmitters are stimulated to exhaustion and you still keep coming back for more- wanting bigger, better, shinier, free-er things (meanwhile causing increased use of neolexia). No doubt these big flashy exhibits and parties may momentarily grab your attention, but, to be honest, it was the low-budget marketing, random acts of kindness, and the truly personal touches that left the lasting mark for me. Here are a few of the companies that left a positive impression on me without having to throw down lavishly.

  • AT&T: You’re short one important email, or Foursquare badge to be earned, when you notice a blinking red battery…<gasp> and it’s only noon! We’ve all been in this terrifying 21st century situation. Thanks to AT&T this year, you didn’t have to be – the company offered free cell phone charging stations in guarded lockers. Now that’s some bang for your (marketing dollar) buck!
  • Uber: While they already have a rapidly growing and loyal fan club, it wasn’t Uber’s clever SXSW on demand BBQ that got my attention, it was the team’s generosity. As the happening Crosswa.lk house party came to an end, our TriplePoint group had a realization – we are far away from anything, it’s raining cats and dogs, and the place is overflowing with people (aka cab-hunting competition). Just as we were about to lose hope, our newly befriended crew from Uber swooped in like a team of Robin Hoods, giving us a ride back to civilization… and winning my business.
  • ToutApp: Tout pulled the best marketing move of all: a product that is actually useful. While SXSW was the beta-testing ground for all manner of apps focused on sales and networking, Tout’s iPhone app shone because it’s as powerful and ubiquitous as email itself. The company recently did a blog post on how Tout can replace business cards (go green!), but it doesn’t have to. Even with traditional business cards, using Tout can dramatically speed up sending and following up on emails. The service is much more than an iPhone app – even if you don’t have an iOS device, Tout offers tight integration with Gmail, SalesForce, and other email clients and CRMs.
  • Netbase: Ice cream cart and t-shirts proclaiming, “We know what women want” (which apparently is ice cream)… in order to promote their product and panel session the following day. Now they have grabbed the attention of both men and women. For a Ben & Jerry’s sampling, of course I’ll tell you what I want. Good move, Netbase.
  • (Honorable mention, but disqualified due to large Google budget) Schemer: (Which I didn’t realize WAS Google until after-the-fact…very clever), had me remembering their name by giving me a mustache. Computer program connected to a small Polaroid printer and voila! – Shockingly realistic image of me with a ‘stache (probably not unlike what my dad looked like in the 70s). Potentially regretfully attaching below.

All in all, no matter the size of your budget you don’t need to feel overshadowed by the Fortune 100 throwing down the (thousands of) Benjamins… Hire well and be creative and you’ll still come out on top.

 

 

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