Engaging with your customers and building community in the social space has become critical to a brand’s success. Thus it only seems logical that a number of brands made the investment to activate at SXSW, the world’s largest interactive conference. There were some great branded events and a few really smart promotional marketing activities on display.
Two of the best were from Chevrolet and HP (a client of Porter Novelli). With the conference having expanded beyond the walls of the Austin Convention Center there was a lot of walking this year. Spotted around town were a fleet of Chevy cars with signage offering tired feet a free ride. I didn’t have the opportunity to test it myself, but had I not been standing in front of my hotel I promise you I would have jumped in.
What made HP’s Mobile Park such a hit was the authenticity of the installation. In addition to providing mobile printing stations and a respite for weary attendees, the park featured HP-branded airstream trailers (provided to key influencers to stay in for the duration of the conference), beer, music and BBQ. Basically all things Austin.
But the big brand winner at this year’s conference was Apple, hands down. The iPad 2 was introduced on Friday, March 11, the first day of the conference and Apple opened an iPad 2 only pop-up store right in the heart of SXSW to capitalize on the number of early adopters gathered in one place. News of this spread like wildfire – I saw photos and tweets when I was still sitting back at my desk in New York. And, by the time I arrived in Austin, half my team had already upgraded their tablets.
But the ubiquity of the iPad 2 didn’t stop there. Speakers at many of the key notes referenced the product. Barry Diller mentioned that he had one and opined about how much better it is than the original. In another session when the speaker said he hadn’t seen many of the new iPad 2’s around, a good third of the audience raised their tablet high in the air. And, at the SXSW trade show, virtually every other booth was offering people a chance to win their very own ipad2.
While it appears that Apple didn’t pay a dollar in sponsorship money, it certainly got the biggest return on it’s investment. And it in may in fact be one of the most brilliant and authentic guerrilla marketing campaigns to date.
Confession: I sit here writing this post from my new iPad 2.