SXSW is an iMecca for brands. Big corporations, startup and even Kickstarter projects are looking to lure in and convert influential consumers to evangelists, demonstrate and entice, and often get stuck into recruiting from a feast of talent that pours into Austin. Interestingly, many people I asked (and maybe it was a biased creative industry audience getting the questions) seemed to recall more prominent highlights from brand activity rather than new startups or technical innovation they’d never heard of before. Clearly, now in 2014, there is a habit of people staying up to speed with the tech-all-and-sundry all year round. It’s difficult to do a surprising new reveal so, much of the impact is from touching, trying and being exposed to different ways that companies are trying to tell their story.

Some of the more notable efforts from brands were Oreo who built a custom 3D printer that can customize frosting designs onto already baked cookies.  The various customizations were based on trending tweets. So for instance if Fourth of July is trending your cookie would most likely be covered in stripes of red, white and blue. Chevrolet recognised that with over 70,000 people flocking to the Texas Capital each March, it’s hard to find a taxicab. So they ferried people from place to place, free of charge using a range of highly visual new models (very popular on the rainy Friday). Microsoft had one of the most popular parties with their Xbox One “Titanfall” launch event attracting huge interest, and massive queueing. Of course, a queue is a great expression of brand fandom – not so much brand satisfaction.

But..

.. for me, the brand that smashed SXSW right open on a number of levels, was Samsung. The consumer electronics powerhouse hit Austin with a multi-pronged effort to excite attendees, assist conference goers with real utility, bring the big names.. and importantly, stealthily bridge the Interactive and Music parts of the conference. Lead by those at Cupertino, companies now get that smartphones play as big a role in people’s hunger for music, social and other content services as they do traditional telco features. So if you’re you’re a company like Samsung, how do you approach SXSW? You hit it by being socially-inspired across the Interactive and Music weeks, thus further providing evidence of your mission (and aspirational brand equity).

Here are just some of the Samsung activities at SXSW this year:

Loveable Functionality: If you were a Samsung Galaxy owner, Snapchatting n Skyping and creating battery discontent, you were in luck. Samsung had teams roaming the streets offering free swaps for fully charged batteries. If you tweeted #PowerOn you would get the @SamsungMobileUS team rock up to your location and make all your iPhone and non-Samsung Android peeps feel like lesser beings. Needless to say, in this kind of campaign, where the utility is played out over Twitter, the social audience is more than happy to tweet/boast about the benefits of being with Samsung.

Happy bloggers are ever-so slightly more influenced bloggers: Samsung created one of the best blogger-type lounges at SXSW featuring top food and drink, some of the better WiFi going around, journalism pods (for live crosses etc) and featuring visits from everyone from Shaquille O’Neal and Webby Awards founders to CEOs and the world’s leading creatives.

Inspire and educate: Samsung sponsors a Solve for Tomorrow education contest, which gives schools across the U.S. the opportunity to raise interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects among students by awarding their schools with a share of more than $2 million in technology products. It decided that SXSWedu 2014 would be a great place for finalists to present. Voting took place online and Twitter went crazy with folks trying to garner votes for their local schools and projects.

Hey, let’s launch a NEW MUSIC service. With bigness: In Austin, Samsung times its launch of Milk Music to hit the cusp of the interactive and music schedule with full effect. Promotion for the Samsung-only service was prominent streetside during the first few days but the buzz about Milk Music hit fever pitch in the parties and conversations when news broke that Jay Z and Kanye West were coming. There was a ticket draw for the show which gave badge holders potential entry. But if you had a Samsung Galaxy with Milk Music on it, you got in free. No problem.

At SXSW 2014, Samsung made a big impact with an audience hungry for inspiration and desperate to be impressed.
Got Milk Music? You may have soon.

Dave

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