Bryan Keplesky and Prentice Howe of Door Number 3 in Austin, Texas, are filing reports for BrandFreak from South by Southwest. They are looking at emerging trends, technologies and strategies that brand marketers are using to reach today's trendsetters and tastemakers.
T-SHIRT: Just outside the Convention Center, I caught a trio of guys sporting matching T-shirts for OtherInbox. Despite the un-Austin-like 38-degree weather, this team member was kind enough to remove his heavy jacket for a picture. OtherInbox, with the tagline "The cure for email overload," is a filtering program that makes its public launch this weekend at SXSW.
NAMEDROP: streetartlocator.com. The designated signage columns in the convention center were much more populated and diverse today than yesterday. Among the movie posters, this sticker caught my eye. Part of the appeal of street art is finding it in unexpected places. But if you should come across something special you want to share with the world, or want more exposure for your own art, this Web site lets you post pictures and comments as pinpoints on an easy-to-navigate Google map. Since opportunities for exhibition on public property can be heavily regulated at something like SXSW, I can see a concept like this catching on with the artists in town.
BRANDING: After noticing that U.K. Trade and Investment was one of the sponsors for the Entrepreneur lounge at a nearby restaurant, I paid special attention to their banners set up outside one of the interactive panels. The design looks like it's for a government entity (or a bank), though I thought the girls in the picture looked a little young to be launching a business overseas. With the prevailing concerns about the global economy, it is good to see financial institutions using the conference to encourage entrepreneurs and create new business. Of course, playing on those same economic worries can also be a useful marketing tool.
INTERVIEW: Kenneth Himschoot and his buddies call SXSW the "Woodstock for geeks." He's a web developer from Ghent, Belgium, in town with a company that writes software for the film industry. This is his sixth year atending the conference, and he had this to say about the branding at SXSW.
What are excited about seeing at the conference this year?
This is a place where you get like 20 million ideas in one week. That's the reason why I come. It's not really to learn certain aspects of development or to have specific questions answered in film; just to get new ideas. Try and stay ahead of the competition.
What brand-sponsored parties are you looking forward to?
We have someone special at our company that does the parties. He's still in bed though. The Big British Booze-Up, I'm certainly doing that. I'm going to Diggnation tonight. I think Wordpress is also throwing a party that should be very good. Open bar tab as well. I'll follow Twitter and see where the others are going like we did last night. We ended up at a strip club.
If you go to a branded party, are you more likely to use their product?
I'll look at it. Like Silverlight. I hate Microsoft products in general. But I went to a Silverlight party in London that featured Web apps. So, I took a look at Silverlight for like half an hour. But still, I wouldn't have otherwise.
Do you think street marketing works?
I just said "no" to girls outside trying to stop me. I don't know. Usually in my industry that's not the way I like to be approached. So, no.
Have any promotional items or events stood out for you?
One thing I love: If you come to the U.S., you need a second cell phone with a local number. And so they throw in an Adobe-branded cell-phone sock. So, I'll be sporting the Adobe sock throughout the conference.
Pepsi has a very large presence at SXSW Interactive this year. Interestingly enough, it's Mountain Dew that is listed as the official, banner-level sponsor of the conference rather than the parent company. (Sierra Mist is a sponsor of SXSW Film, and Pepsi itself is a Music sponsor.)
Pepsi has been generating some good buzz so far this year, especially with its Pepsico Zeitgeist site. It's a pretty cool example of a national brand utilizing social media (in this case, Twitter) to provide real-time, local content. It's all related to SXSW, so really there's not even any Pepsi-related postings (unlike the Skittles site, where one had to mention Skittles to get into the live Twitter feed). I'm guessing the zeitgeist homepage is just a demo, though. Austin's reputation as a party town is very well deserved, but when I logged on at 9:35 a.m. this morning, I highly doubt that 1,065 people were currently "partying." I would have believed something more in the range of about 450. But the subsequent pages all seem to be pretty legit, and fun to look at. Wordles are super huge this year.
Pepsi also took over a whole corner of the convention center and erected a series of small tents. Registrants are free to pop into one (after filling out a form at the central desk) and either hang out and blog or podcast straight to PepsiCo.com/sxsw. Or if you're really inspired, take part in the "What's Your Pitch" compeition. It's pretty open-ended. You simply walk into the tent and record a video of you pitching your great idea. Judges choose a winner, who $4,500.
Overall, Pepsi has put together a very impressive presence at the conference. They're flexing their social media muscle and technical prowess, which certainly generates a good response from this audience. It's eye candy, for sure, but it's not just artifice either. They've definitely done their homework.
I saw these two pimped-out Ray-Ban vehicles parked on the street by the convention center. It took me a moment to figure it out, but the type design says "Colorize." I haven't seen anything else branding-related for Ray-Ban yet, but this could be a stage 1 kind of thing. The cars ended up driving routes a few blocks around the complex all afternoon. A quick search on the Web led to this site. It's now my goal to snag a free pair of baby blue ones.
Alex Bogusky says his agency's biggest successes come "when we get involved with something we don't really understand." From Shimano to Florida anti-tobacco to Burger King, Crispin Porter + Bogusky has made a business out of "sticking our nose where it doesn't belong."
This philosophy has led CP+B, along with Humana and Trek, to create B-Cycle, an ambitious bike program with plans to roll out across America. It stemmed from Bogusky's personal interest in cycling and from reading a lot of discouraging data on auto pollution, lost productivity and wasteful spending. With a bike engineered by Trek and solar-powered stations designed by CP+B, B-Cycle is set to launch in Denver this summer with 500 bikes and 30 stations.
So, how can all this positive cultural change be quantified? The U.S. could save 462 million gallons of gasoline a year by increasing cycling from 1 percent to just 1.5 percent of all trips. Let's take Austin, Texas, as an example. If 10 percent of the city uses B-Cycle for just 30 miles, that would total 2,339,367 miles. The city would reduce carbon emissions by 1,123 tons, saving 115,799 gallons of gas and nearly $2 million. What's more, the cyclists would burn 109,950,390 calories.
Clearly bike sharing can have a strong impact on our communities, our heath, our environment and our future. But here's the really cool part: Your brand could be just as happily affected. Any company that associates itself with bike sharing will no doubt garner goodwill. What's more, it's a relatively inexpensive way to advertise. If the cost per thousand for a billboard is $6.12, it's $0.42 for a B-Cycle bike.
Sure, there are unanswered questions: What will B-Cycle charge for a half-day bike rental? How will they keep up with vandalism and repairs? Who will ultimately fund this: cities, citizens or private companies? Many questions, to be certain. But if you go to B-Cycle's site and check out the "Who Wants It More" map, where visitors can cast their vote to encourage B-Cycle to bring a program to a town, it's clear that the idea has already become enculturated.
And it all started by sticking a nose where it didn't belong.
One of the hottest things I saw at SXSW today were the "shoes" on this guy, who I believe is from the future. It would not be rude to say that the registrants at SXSW Interactive aren't known for their fashion sense, but I couldn't pass up taking a cell-phone pic of this guy sitting next to me. I'm sure a simple Web search would probably immediately tell me what exactly these things are, but I'd rather let it remain a mystery.
ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGERS
Based in culturally and creatively rich Austin, Texas, the advertising, media and interactive agency Door Number 3 is in its third year of covering SXSW. Leading the effort are Bryan Keplesky, art director, and Prentice Howe, creative director/principal. Along with their team of writers, videographers, and sub-cultural anthropologists, Door Number 3 will provide a fresh look at emerging trends, technologies and strategies that brand marketers are using to reach today's trendsetters and tastemakers. Since its beginning in 1994, indie shop Door Number 3 has unlocked and unleashed its unique style of advertising and branding for clients from coast to coast.