The best of South by Southwest branding, from Door Number 3

Posted on Mon Mar 29 2010


By Bryan Keplesky, Door Number 3 art director
  It's been a week since the 2010 South by Southwest Interactive, Film and Music Conference came to a close. The taped-up posters and trash on the streets of downtown Austin have been swept away. All the free schwag has been itemized and tossed or stowed. And every brand that came into town to promote itself has packed up and gone home. In fact, right now, from Door Number 3's Austin perch, it doesn't look like one of the largest annual conferences in the country even took place. So, with another SXSW gone, the question remains: What is there to take away from a branding, marketing and advertising perspective?

Continue reading "The best of South by Southwest branding, from Door Number 3" »

Door Number 3 @ South by Southwest: Saturday, March 21

Posted on Sat Mar 21 2009

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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.


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BRANDING: Today, these fliers for American Apparel's SXSW flea-market event were tucked in every nook and crannie along 6th Street and Red River. There were about four different styles of glossy postcards all showcasing the lower half of some anonymous, pantyhosed model. The concept is just too temping—only two bucks to get in and 20 bucks after that, and you're dressed for tonight. American Apparel has its advertising aesthetic down. Hosting events like this is just the cherry on top.

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T-SHIRT: I found Trevor wearing this T-shirt he picked up at the Paste Magazine and Brooklyn Vegan party yesterday. Free clean clothes can be as valuable to the displaced SXSW attendees in town as all the free booze and entertainment. I live in Austin, and I was even guilty of trying out my free BMI baby-T when I went out for coffee this morning.

NAMEDROP: The buzz today was all about N.A.S.A., the DJ duo who put on their show last night at the local haircutting joint Birds Barbershop. I heard people raving about it all afternoon. See pictures of the group and read about the show here.

INTERVIEW: Dan Hernandez books bands for Tucson venue Club Congress. In years past he hasn't spent much time going to SXSW panels. Instead, he show-hops, looking for the next big thing, which this year, he assured me, will involve disco beats. This is what he had to say about the branding at SXSW. Mar20_interview copy
  What are you excited about seeing this year?
  I'm excited about Devo. I went to their panel yesterday, and I'm going to see them tonight. Aside from that there's a slew of bands I'm trying to see that never come through—a lot of bands that my capacity of venue could actually get pretty easily.
  Have any promotional items or events stood out for you?
  Basically, all of the free music I can get, I usually partake of. The Sweet Leaf Teas and the Fuze and the other free drinks are great. Usually I start drinking those before anything else.
  What brand-sponsored parties are you looking forward to?
  The Fader party is always the best party. The free beer and the group of people there are always really great.
  If you go to a branded party, are you more likely to use their product?
  Yeah, absolutely. Some of the Rhapsody giveaways were actually pretty good.
  Do you think street marketing works?
  Not necessarily. I do a lot of street marketing for my venue, and I found that electronic media seems to be an easier way. It might at times seem more invasive. But it's less invasive, I think, because a ton of information comes and goes very quickly.


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You'd think, for a shoe company, Saucony would want you wearing shoes. Instead, they're asking you to take them off.
  And it doesn't end there. Rather than coax you into slipping on a pair of comfortable, stylish, tech-induced Saucony's, these cunning marketers hand you a clunky, dated pair of roller skates. And the last thing out of their mouths, after you sign a waiver, is, "Have fun!"
  So, what exactly is going on here? Well basically, Saucony has tapped into something that redefines what we recently defined as "interactive." In addition to Tweeting and blogging, Saucony is, yes, roller skating. And dammit, it's working—even among a rougher crowd of East Austinites who at any minute look like they could break out into a knife fight. Quite the opposite, in fact. This crowd breaks into a group skate.
  Saucony teamed up with Drillteam, a New York engagement marketing agency, to create a non-intrusive SXSW roller-skating event that puts fun first and shoes second. The goal is to introduce, or reintroduce, a brand that hesitates to call itself "retro." After all, retro is a flash backwards, and Saucony's progressive brand has its sights on the future of fashion and athletics. Only with a nostalgic touch.
  "We focus on the 'underdog sports,' " says Josh Schrei, managing director at Drillteam, as amateur skaters struggle to stay upright with the hopes of winning a free pair of shoes. Saucony is targeting sports enthusiasts of a different breed—the kind who are into non-aggressive sports and don't mind wearing one of Saucony's giveaway "Loser" headbands. (Note: There's also a "Winner" version, but no one seems to be wearing that one.)
  These simple marketing ideas coincide masterfully with Saucony's overall brand strategy. "We're taking a low-key approach to design," says graphic designer Darryl Norsen, who explains the evolution of Saucony from 1981 to the present day. Seconds later, Norsen is finished, and I'm refreshingly not overwhelmed. Not much has changed since the company began in the early '80s. Fun is still fun.
  The overall takeaway from this Saucony skating event is just as simple. Saucony = laughing, falling, spinning, circling and wobbling. All in the name of fun. And a free pair of shoes.


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Everyone who follows fashion trends knows that the humble mustache is super hot right now. But I've never associated awesome facial hair with social change. This is a pairing that, a social network for philanthropy and activism, is trying to make work. I was handed several different promo cards (complete with a removable fake mustache) for the "Mustache March." The march was an opportunity to rally around whatever cause you wanted. (I suppose that was a bit of a calculated risk.) There was no set agenda or political slant coming from Causecast, but it seemed that most of the "protesters" took on issues like peace and Darfur.
  Why not capitalize on the popularity of the mustache? It at least provides something tangible and fun to get people to remember the site and the event. Causecast's Flickr page for SXSW has some nice shots of SXSW attendees and the rally. The people at the rally appeared to really believe in their issues, whether they end up using Causecast or not. But overall it was a nicely organized bit of promotion that had good intentions behind it.

Read about our guest bloggers from Door Number 3 here.

Door Number 3 @ South by Southwest: Friday, March 20

Posted on Fri Mar 20 2009

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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.


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BRANDING: These cardboard discs were pegged on the wall behind a long line of eager show-goers. I haven't seen many circular branding efforts that aren't stickers, and these looked good without giving too much away; they don't immediately make you think of beer. Also a plus for Magic Hat Brewing Company: People that go to day shows at SXSW certainly seem to be better audiences for visual promotion. Usually they're out to see something specific, and if a brand is sponsoring, they pay more attention. They also tend to be less inebriated than the evening crowds.

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T-SHIRT: Lately, about a quarter of the great T-shirts I ask about turn out to represent dead brands or bands that have already broken up—in other words, vintage. Yesterday it was an shirt that caught my eye, and today my favorite was for the defunct rock band Zen Guerrilla. Here's an example of an artist-designed T-shirt for a band that still exists. L.A. artist Freegums designed this shirt for the DJ Michna. "Raw Paw" is one of his latest tracks.

NAMEDROP: Nomathmatics is a multitasking DJ collective based in Kansas City. In addition to spinning and maintaining an intricate social network online, they provide poster design and promotional services. They are at SXSW to throw an all-day blowout just off the 6th Street scene, hosting bands and DJs from all over the world. Some of their design work can be found through their MySpace page.

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INTERVIEW: I found Ty White walking back to his company's rented home base in downtown Austin. He does artist relations for a major record label, which apparently isn't as glamorous as it sounds. The label is throwing one of the bigger SXSW parties this year, and Ty has been busy putting up posters and fetching coffee for the higher-ups since Tuesday. This is what he said about branding at SXSW.
  What are you excited about seeing this year?
  I'm most excited about a band called The Drones from Australia.
  Have any promotional items or events stood out to you so far?
  I got headphones handed to me on the street by the BlackBerry folks. That's about the most promotional thing I've seen so far.
  If you go to a branded party, do you think you're more likely to use their product?
  Not particularly, because I don't think it matches perfectly with the event itself. It matches the demographic, but it's not tied closely enough to the music.
  Do you think street marketing works?
  From my experience, no. It might for some people, but for me, no. It's just creating a whole lot of noise.


Another street "promotion" that caught my eye: aseries of green cups for SEBA Skates that served as a mini obstacle course for this rollerblader. For the most part, she did a pretty good job of going through them and avoiding knocking over random people. And people were paying attention—either out of curiosity or not wanting to get plowed. But overall I'd give this an A for effort but a D- for execution. There's no way anyone learned that SEBA is a rollerblading company. There was no one on hand to pass out literature or free shwag or give any kind of information about the products. The promotion existed solely as a visual, and very brief, experience. Using those green cups to hand out water (it was another 80-plus day in Austin) would have been more successful.


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This was a bit unexpected. Of all the brands here at SXSW, the official gear for Major League Baseball was a bit of a surprise. They had about half a block secured for their wrapped bus and a pretty nifty pitching cage that, when I walked by, a couple of drunk Scotsmen were super into. Another nice touch: The MLB reps on hand were all wearing Texas team jerseys—the Rangers and the Astros. On display were some select merchandise, including hats, jerseys and even some bean-bag chairs that looked like deflated baseballs.


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Despite the crowds and all the visual static downtown, sometimes basic street marketing still works: in this case, a bunch of Japanese dudes with funny haircuts holding up a giant banner. It was impossible to miss these guys, and a bunch of random passersby were taking their picture. Unfortunately, they named their band an un-Google-able name like "Geeks." However, a search for "Geek Up Your Ass" yielded this legit page. Looks like these guys are having fun in Austin.

Read about our guest bloggers from Door Number 3 here.

Door Number 3 @ South by Southwest: Thursday, March 19

Posted on Thu Mar 19 2009

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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.


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This is so smart, I almost wish it wasn't from Mountain Dew. Right now, every available space is overflowing with stapled-up posters, almost to the point where it's easier to just ignore them. But I couldn't ignore these giant green X's. It's such a cheap, easy way to get people's attention and a great way to break through all the visual static that permeates downtown Austin. They're for Mountain Dew's Green Label Sound, a sort of hybrid music label/Web site that backs a handful of popular indie bands.


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Here are two companies that understand Austin weather. It was a beautiful 85 degrees and sunny here today, Altapparel copy and unprepared people all over town were sporting these BMI hats and Alternative Apparel sunglasses. They were available at a variety of venues all over downtown Austin. Even if these folks never spend a dime on either of these companies, at least for today they are ambassadors for the brands.


Brand managers aren't the only ones feeling the downturn. Here to ring in the SXSW Music Festival is the band AVITIA, and they want you to sign them. Problem is, you're not an agent or a band manager, are you? Well, neither am I. But hopefully they'll run into one this week who's in the mood to read a sandwich board with bullet-pointed rationale. Regardless, you have to admire their unabashed approach. "Hey, these are desperate times," said the lead singer. "We're in a recession, dude."


Read about our guest bloggers from Door Number 3 here.

Door Number 3 @ South by Southwest: Wednesday, March 18

Posted on Wed Mar 18 2009

Dn3 copy

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.


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T-SHIRT: Ben Herson and Magee McIlvaine were on their way to the Convention Center when I stopped them. Both of their shirts bore different stylized prints of the shape of Africa in contrasting colors and clean designs. After furnishing me with some literature, they explained that the logo comes from African Underground: Democracy in Dakar, a documentary exploring hip-hop culture and politics in Africa. Ben and Magee will be participating in a panel discussion related to the film later this week.

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BRANDING: This poster for the Pop Montreal Festival stood out from the rest of the glossy print at the Convention Center. By now the columns in the lobby are completely covered with stickers, posters and fliers, and there are puddles of literature everywhere. (I even saw a slogan spelled out in duct tape.) Many are wordy and graphics-heavy, but this one is cheerfully simple. It's asking bands to join in the whimsical fun, but I think music fans would be seduced just the same.

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NAMEDROP: Holiday Matinee. Contributors cover a wide range of lifestyle topics, from advertising to the Web, with the aim of "promoting creativity." One of them was in town stickering up South Congress this week.

INTERVIEW: Ratchel is from Hollywood, Fla. She and her friend Joseph, who is from London, are in town donning wristbands to see bands at the music portion of SXSW. She had this to say about branding at SXSW:
  What are you excited about seeing this year?
  Explosions in the Sky, definitely. I heard New Age was good. Vivian Girls. Wavves.
Mar18_interview 150   What brand-sponsored parties are you looking forward to?
  Paste, Subpop. The Fader/Levi's party.
  If you attend a branded party, are you more likely to use their product?
  Well, I do subscribe to Paste magazine. But I'm not really a Fader/Levi's kind of person. But I'd give it a try.
  Have any promotional items or events stood out to you?
  Well, it's the first day. So, we haven't really seen any yet. There'll be Mountain Dew on Sixth Street, I bet. (laughs)
  Do you think street marketing works?
  Yeah, it kinda gets your attention, I guess. Getting something for free.



One of the major sponsors of South by Southwest is ZonePerfect, which makes "nutrition bars." Scores of street-team people have been handing out snack-sized chocolate bars every day so far. There's also the live.create lounge right by the Convention Center, which features art, an open bar, electric guitars on display and tons of ZonePerfect brown and yellow branding. It also smells really chocolatey in here, almost like some kind of weird hipster gingerbread house. Authenticity is always an issue with things like this. Does a chocolate bar really care all that much about fostering a creative environment? But the place is packed, so ZonePerfect is definitely doing a good job getting the word out, and I've spoken to a few random people who've claimed their bite-sized snack was a clutch choice as an afternoon pick-me-up. They also have a partnership with VH1's Save the Music Foundation, so at least their love of music isn't just lip service.


One of the big-buzz films at SXSW is the newest documentary from Gary Hustwit called Objectified. Hustwit's original claim to fame was his debut 2007 documentary Helvetica, an hour-and-a-half ode to font nerds the world over. Objectified continues the style and pacing of that film: interviews with some of the leading product designers of the world interspersed with tons of product-design porn. Obviously the world of product design, compared to a single typeface design, presents a whole multitude of challenges. Objectified is pretty successful, as long as you don't think of it as the authoritative film on product design. It merely skims the surface, tackling a variety of themes: beauty, sustainability, design for children and the disabled, among others. And if there's a film about product design being made in the late '00s, there's absolutely no surprise that one of the featured companies is Apple. It would be too hard to ignore Apple's contribution to beautiful product design. Everything from the MacAir and powerbooks to the iPhone gets its moment on film. Intentionally or not, Objectified continues Apple's brand positioning as a company that produces high-end, beautifully designed products.


While accidentally checking my MySpace account (who uses that anymore?), I discovered that Flip Video is the "Official Camcorder of SXSW Music 2009." The Flip is justifiably well-liked for it's super-easy interface and compact design. They've teamed up with Spin and MySpace Music and have given Flip cameras to 20 bands to document their experiences at SXSW, which I am sure will promise to provide some level of hilarity. To kick off the whole promo, the Flip video channel features this "SXSW exercise video" starring someone (forgive my ignorance) named "Lights."

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Tuesday was the last day of SXSW Interactive, and walking the main drag on 6th Street in downtown Austin you can start to see the preparation for the branding hurricane that will be SXSW Music. The banners are being hung, the giant inflatable energy beverages are towering over all like weird demigods, and truck after truck is bringing in the ice and the booze. In many ways, the branding at Interactive can take on an academic, indoor atmosphere. But not the music fest. This is when branding meets the pavement. We'll have our cameras on standby.


SXSW is all about networking. But after sharing a few interactive tidbits with your new friend/contact, do you really want to finish by pulling out your ... business card? Seems a little 20th century. Contxts That, at least, is the inspiration behind, a site I've heard popping up in a few conversations. It's a pretty simple idea: sign up, create a profile with all your contact info (everything from phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and any profiles to LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) and you can send it via SMS to anyone. The one hitch, as with any new online community, is that you get more out of it when more people in your real-world network also have contxt profiles. Then it can serve as a true online Rolodex. But if you're looking for an easy, paper-free way to get your details to someone else, it's worth at least trying out for a couple days. Maybe it'll stick.



The free-shwag business just isn't what it used to be. The downsized economy hasn't been much help either, and the tote bag was noticeably lighter upon pick up. However, that shouldn't stop brands from coming up with creative, sustainable and valued solutions for the ubiquitous shwag. Oh well. The bag itself is fine—like I said earlier, wordles are hot. (There's also a giant logo on the flip side.) But as for the items within, there's not much to write home about. The yellow Adobe cell phone sock was kind of cool, and the camera pouch from Thirsty Al looked OK, even though I would guess most people already brought a pouch for their camera. There's a monitor cleaning cloth from NewEgg that I'll definitely hold onto. The rest was just random printed ephemera, a few stickers and a button from Firefox. All in all, not a whole lot to lift any spirits. Also, to appreciate the sheer volume of SXSW attendees and the amount of possible waste, check out this Flickr photo by drbrain.

Read about our guest bloggers from Door Number 3 here.

Door Number 3 @ South by Southwest: Tuesday, March 17

Posted on Tue Mar 17 2009

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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.


Improv everywhere tshirt

T-SHIRT: This shirt bears the logo for Improv Everywhere, a street performance troupe of which the wearer, Dan Winkler, is a member. They pull what are called "anti-pranks" on the streets and in the subway tunnels of New York City and document them on their blog. You can visit their Web site,, and read about the highly-organized "No Pants Day," which made life a little more interesting in 24 cities across the nation.


NAMEDROP: 97 bottles. Being around SXSW Interactive has taught me that a social network can be formed around pretty much anything. At, any beer enthusiast can create a profile and rate beers from 1 to 100 as well as share pictures and reviews. It's a great-looking site and maintains its integrity and focus by separating the experts from the novices, dubbing them beer lords and noobs, respectively. I found out about it while inquiring about this piece of badge flair.

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INTERVIEW: David Kim is interactive creative director at San Francisco ad agency Venables Bell & Partners ( He was taking a smoke break in between panels. This is what he had to say about branding at SXSW:
  What are you excited about seeing this year?
  Well, it's my first year, so I'm just kind of trying to consume as much as I can. And I had a few friends doing panels, so I wanted to see them as well.
  What brand-sponsored parties are you looking forward to?
  The Crispin thing, but it wasn't all that. Barbarian Group party tonight. Imeem.
  If you attend a branded party, are you more likely to use their product?
  I'd say I'd probably give it a shot. ... I'm actually bummed that there isn't more crossover with music. And when there are bands or DJs at these parties, they're not properly promoted. It feels like it's more about the guys paying for it, the sponsors, than the artists. So, if they'd flip that, it'd be better so people knew what sort of music would be there, and the brand, I think, would look better that way.
  Does street marketing work?
  Overall, yeah. But here there is too much clutter, so it's really hard. That's why not any single thing really pops out to me. It's like visual inundation.


One of the most-talked about trends at SXSW so far has been the subject of crowdsourcing. In a nutshell, crowdsourcing utilizes the large-scale, rapid-response nature of the Web to solve a variety of problems. Say I want to find a good Italian restaurant here in Austin. I can simply post a Tweet and within an hour get recommendations from the online community. That's basically crowdsourcing. It's gotten more complicated with Web sites like 99designs and crowdSPRING because they take that basic idea and apply it on a more professionally creative level. 99designs200 It's spec work 2.0. The AIGA, for example, very clearly states its position on spec work. There's even a grassroots organization, These organizations have provided legitimate, well-established reasons for creatives not to provide their services for free.
  However, the influx of creative crowdsourcing Web sites has complicated the issue. Companies no longer have to find designers and ask them to work for free—there are Web sites out there that now do the legwork and utilize a global army of anonymous designers who are eager to take on any job.
  This has inspired some passionate debate. On one end, there are the creative professionals who can (rightly) argue that sites like crowdSPRING, with their vague creative briefs and hundreds of design options, can never replace the role of a competent, paid designer. And on the other end are companies with limited budgets and inexperienced executives who don't see the problem with getting as many design options as possible on a fixed budget.
  The consensus so far has been that these Web sites will not go away. And companies who want to crowdsource their branding will not go away either. The best position for a creative professional to take is to stand by their own work, to value it, to charge for it and to take solace in the fact that if a company wants to get something for almost nothing, they're probably not worth working with anyway.


Sierra mist tent

Prior to this week, I had never tried Sierra Mist. When I've ordered Sprite at restaurants and been offered the door prize otherwise known as Sierra Mist, I always declined. Then SXSW Interactive started, and I've since had five 12-ouncers. But don't blame me for lack of restraint. Blame their super-chill, crazy-comfortable indoor/outdoor lounge just outside the downtown Convention Center. It's called the Sierra Mist Ruby Splash Sun Lounge. Step inside for a complimentary Vodka Mist on ice, then park yourself on a giant Fatboy pillow under the warm Texas sun. Not a bad way to kill time between panels.
  What I like most is that they aren't trying too hard. The whole presentation is clean, light and laid back, which I have to assume is in step with their brand positioning. The packaging has a misty, refreshing vibe. They even mixed my cocktail with a local Austin vodka, which was a smart way to counterbalance the fact that, at the end of the day, I was just drinking another Pepsi product engineered for the masses.


We don't like spending time managing money. It's a brutal time suck that always leaves us feeling bad about ourselves. Thankfully, a new wave of innovations and resources are quickly changing the landscape of personal finance management. And ironically enough, none of these tools are coming from our own financial institutions.
Mint, founded by entrepreneur Aaron Patzer, can be credited with leading the charge. Patzer realizes that, just like in every other facet of our lives, we want simplicity and choice. We want the power in our hands and on our iPhone. Money can't buy happiness, but taking charge of our finances sure can.
  Patzer was part of a panel discussing new money-management tactics that take us way beyond antiquated Excel spreadsheets or Quicken software. is another resource worth noting. It's a Web-based tool for setting goals, saving smartly and tracking your progress. You can even publicize your goals for friends to see, so everyone in your network can help keep you accountable along the way.
  Older generations aren't likely to embrace Mint or any of these other tools because they likely don't trust third-party sites with their finances. But Generation Next eats this stuff up. Patzer says his business has doubled since the recession hit. For those who grew up in the digital age, it's not a hard sell. Welcome to simplicity and accessibility in your pocket, 24/7.
  Nearly two-thirds of 20-somethings carry debt. And 40 percent don't have a savings account they contribute to regularly. So, these tools arrive at the most welcome time. I just think it's too bad that banks like Wells Fargo aren't the ones driving these innovations on behalf of their customers. The session's moderator did not let this concern go unnoticed: "Why can't banks grasp these concepts? Why isn't there a banker on this panel?"

Read about our guest bloggers from Door Number 3 here.

Door Number 3 @ South by Southwest: Monday, March 16

Posted on Mon Mar 16 2009

Dn3 copy

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.


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T-SHIRT: There were more Belgians in the lobby of the Hilton today. They were all wearing great T-shirts. One of them was wearing a "misprint" from the Wrangler jeans factory. I think we would refer to it as "irregular" here in the U.S. This one had a sweet Texas theme, but it is actually the T-shirt for a rock band from Belgium. Yeah, I wish we thought of it too. Unfortunately, I couldn't find evidence that Triggerfinger will make an appearance during the music portion of SXSW.

NAMEDROP: turn2live. According to Tammy and Laura, press organizers for SXSW Interactive, right now it's all about the freshly launched Web site turn2live. The site tracks down what live shows the user would want to see most according to his taste, location and mood (?). It seems to be limited to the Austin area for now, and there are a few kinks that could be ironed out, but it was fairly easy to use, and the show listings had a nice aesthetic.

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INTERVIEW: It was around lunchtime when I interrupted Ingrid while she was responding to e-mails in the lobby of the Convention Center. Ingrid is a Web developer for Gnip who is attending SXSW for the first time from Boulder, Colo. She had this to say about branding at the conference.
  What are you excited about seeing this year?
  I think for me it's about the people. A lot of these people I talk to online and don't get to see in real life, ever. So, it's kind of closing that loop.
  Have any promotional items or events stood out to you so far?
  It's kind of hard to keep track of that stuff. I did find out about some parties via Facebook. And then through Brightkite and Twitter I have been able to keep track if there's something different going on. But it's a little bit overwhelming. I didn't even get a swag bag because most of that stuff is throw-away and I just didn't want to be bothered.
  Do you think street marketing works?
  Probably not. I might be too old. Maybe it works for younger people. I mean, it's not bad, it just doesn't necessarily influence what I'm going to do. I tend to plan more, and again, for me, this is really about the people.


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Living in 2-D is so 2008. NVIDIA invites gamers to load up some software, plug in a Samsung SynchMaster monitor, pop on a pair of wireless glasses and watch their favorite PC game be transformed into an interactive 3-D experience. Sure, 3-D isn't anything new. But the NVIDIA experience is a far cry from donning paper glasses and watching Creature From the Black Lagoon. This is the first hi-def 3-D solution for the home. It's crystal clear. No hints of ghosting or flickering. And surprisingly, the glasses don't make you feel like that much of a jackass.
  The rise of 3-D technology could open the floodgates for new product placement opportunities. Is anyone at Wonderbra reading this?

This is the year that visuals overtake words in the boardroom. That probably wasn't the most convincing way to start a blog posting, but so be it. It's true. Dan Roam began spreading this gospel on a broad scale in his book Back of the Napkin, named the No. 5 business book of the year on Amazon. The gist: A scrap of paper is the best way to explain complex business ideas. I also see it as a powerful way to connect the dots between brand strategy and creative messaging.
  Here's a pretty cool visual-language piece someone created during Stephen Baker's keynote interview with Nate Silver of See a larger image here. Silver is the whiz kid whose statistical analysis predicted an Obama landslide very early in the presidential election. As attendees poured out of the conference hall, I heard more than a few "I couldn't follow that guy" mumbles. Maybe if Silver had used some drawings, they would have had a different take.

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If you're like me, you've probably heard the broken record that is Tony Hsieh talk about his company's culture. This is the guy who offers new employees $2,000 to quit after their first week of training, thus weeding out the people who aren't committed to working at Zappos. Hsieh hammers home his "culture first" mantra to any media outlet that will listen. You've surely heard some of his sound bites, like how all employees are encouraged to decorate their cubes or how team members meet up through Twitter after work.
  This is cool and all, but does a warehouse worker making $11 an hour really expect his company culture to be all that riveting? Shouldn't Hsieh be a little more focused on, say, the new line of cross trainers or how to unload white sandals after Labor Day?
Tony   Apparently not. And Hsieh has $1 billion in sales to back that up.
  He says that when the culture is right, everything else falls into place. Everything. It begins by aligning personal values with company values, something that took Zappos one year to fully define. If employees are given a path to happiness, all else—from sales to customer service—works itself out. Zappos employees are genuinely happy to work there. So much so, in fact, that Hsieh allows reporters to speak with anyone in the organization. A PR guy's worst nightmare, right? Not in the case of Zappos, where transparency is ingrained into the corporate DNA.
  These guys have a genuinely good time, and they express it via Twitter and company blogs. (Employees are given a Twitter tutorial when they join the company.) For them, social networking is both fun and a way for outsiders to connect to their brand personality. Hsieh gave a personal example of how culture impacts the customer experience before finishing his keynote address to a sea of SXSW attendees. He was out drinking with some shoe vendors one evening. The woman from Sketchers wanted some pizza, but it was late and most restaurants had long since closed. Someone joked, "Call Zappos and order pizza from them." She decided what the hell and dialed them up. The Zappos rep kindly explained that they sell shoes, not pizza, and then asked her to hold for a minute. She returned to the line and gave the woman the five closest places that were still serving pies.
  While Hsieh's message may get redundant, you have to give him an A for consistency. Where would Customer Service Hall-of-Shamers Sprint, Comcast or Time Warner's AOL be today if they had adopted his methodology from day one?
  So, here's my plea: Take note of this broken record, and infuse his line of thinking into your own company. As creative marketers, our jobs would be far more rewarding if every client was as purpose-driven as Zappos. Instead of burning brain cells trying to create a believable brand personality, and then watching the model fall apart when it isn't embraced internally by the company being advertised, we'd instead be merely coming up with unique ways to project a personality and soul that already exists.
  E-mail Tony at tony [at] for a free copy of the Zappos Culture Book. Be sure to include your physical address.


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Seems fitting that Mountain Dew is the lead sponsor for the ScreenBurn Arcade, a venue for exploring the newest innovations in video games. Most of the attendees are 16- to 29-year-olds in search of their next caffeine high.
  Mountain Dew set up a Rec Room, which seemed to miss the mark. The focal point was a Vegas-style bar with hottie waitresses (good). But surrounding this were living-room sets with plaid sofas and wood-paneled walls donning dartboards and posters (bad). The result was an awkward amalgam of new school and old school. It's as if there were two set decorators and neither one talked before the exhibit. But here's the saving grace, Mountain Dew: Every set of eyeballs in that exhibit was fixated on an LCD screen, so nobody much cared.


Even though AT&T has absolutely no brand presense at SXSW, it got enough column inches (on Wired, Business Insider and all over Twitter) today to make any marketing director jealous. Oh wait—all the talk was about how horrible the AT&T service has been throughout downtown Austin after a few thousand iPhone 3G nerds simultaneously conducted a Twitter search for "open bar."
  AT&T's respsonse: "To accommodate unprecedented demand for mobile data and voice applications at SXSW, we are actively working this afternoon to add capacity to our cell sites serving downtown Austin. These efforts are ongoing, but we anticipate that customers should see improved network performance this evening and for the remainder of the event. We will continue to monitor network performance throughout the event, and will do everything possible to maximize network performance throughout. We apologize to customers who were inconvenienced during this surge in local network demand."

Read about our guest bloggers from Door Number 3 here.

Door Number 3 @ South by Southwest: Sunday, March 15

Posted on Sat Mar 14 2009

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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: 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.


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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 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.

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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.

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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.



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.



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