Throughout our experience at SXSW we attended multiple activations, conferences, and events highlighting not only brands products and services, but the movements they are working on curating. The most prominent examples during SXSW involved brands integrating themselves with their communities based on their mission and story. Increasingly, consumers are more conscious than ever about the brands they choose to support. They want to know more than just what a company is selling; rather what they stand for, their values, personality, and how they are making a positive impact on the world. Brands that can effectively communicate their mission and story have a better chance of building a loyal following and gaining market share.
RokuCity embodied the chaos of SXSW with a 3 floor funhouse, where the visitor is transported into a physical representation of the TV software. Entering in groups, you follow a circuit of rooms, with numerous branded photo opportunities, merchandise, food and accessories including temporary tattoos, face jewels, and purple hair extensions. Throughout this experience there is no mention of the product, until the final room where you land at a living room, followed by an open top garden for a chance to socialize and relax. The event conveyed the personality of Roku, and made a lasting impression on visitors regarding their values, and identity. At no point was the product, price, or details mentioned, however recall for the product, product placement inside, and opportunities for earned media is bountiful.
Porsche, as expected , presented a showcase of car displays; an electric 911, concept future card, SXSW livery model, and an inflatable duck-embedded white 911. However, that ultimately was not the primary focus of Porsche’s house. The car brand used these models as excellent props to gather people at their convention, encourage photo taking, and direct ears to their rolling schedule of presenters who detailed the projects Porsche are working with outside of automobiles, and the other brands and products they’re utilizing and learning from. While select visitors may be encouraged to purchase the car, this was not the sole purpose of the convention so they didn’t focus the car specifics but instead shared the ideas, and knowledge valuable to them. Speakers and shows highlighted the roles Porsche plays in the Arts, Tech and Corporate spheres, and what the brand does besides producing cars.
At the heart of Rainey Street, a University of Texas cookout featuring live music, free barbecue, photo booths, and alumni centers took center stage. Utilizing the prominent attributes of the university and state, visitors were temporarily welcomed into the school’s family, mixing with alumni, staff, and enjoying student driven entertainment through exhibits and music. Like Porsche and Roku, no mentions of the schools cost, reputation, ranking or life is displayed or explicit, rather the atmosphere and intangible qualities of the event are the star of the show. As SXSW is a 21+ event, it is unlikely that prospective students visited this location, however the earned media distributed worldwide post event from family members, friends, & scholarly connections to young academics is invaluable. It also offers an open ‘university’ style event for individuals who haven’t experienced an american, or southern campus, creating a unique touchpoint for potential future consumers.
One of the key benefits of integrating a brand’s mission and story into its marketing efforts is that it allows the company to connect with consumers on a deeper level. By sharing their values and beliefs it can build a sense of community with their customers and create a more emotional connection. This, in turn, can lead to increased loyalty and advocacy. By doing so it help it can also help to differentiate the brand from its competitors. In many industries, products and services can be commoditized, making it difficult for companies to stand out. Focusing on values and beliefs can create a unique identity that sets them apart from the competition. For those willing to make the effort, the rewards can be significant.
In conclusion, the trend of promoting a brand’s mission and story over its products at events like SXSW is a reflection of the changing expectations of consumers, and the recall an experience evokes over a traditional presentation, or advertisement. Ideas and movements, over pieces and products took center stage at SXSW in a world where identity is no longer cache, but the main attribute. Brands that can effectively communicate their mission and story have a better chance of building a loyal following and gaining market share. While it can be challenging to integrate a brand’s mission and story into its marketing efforts, the rewards can be significant for those that are willing to make the effort.