SXSW 2017 is in the books and, like any memorable event, its “effects” linger on. This year’s numbers aren’t out yet, but last year Austin welcomed 70,000 trade show, exhibit, and party goers. 38,000 folks from 82 foreign countries participated in SXSW Interactive, with 3,093 speakers at nearly 1,400 sessions.
Folks, if you’ve ever wondered about the definition of “din,” well, that’s it. If you chose this venue to introduce your brand, you chose an expensive marketing tool. So if your participation goal was to introduce, build or elevate your brand, were you successful? Or do you feel like you wasted your time and money?
Branding the SXSW Way
Let’s say you were well prepared. You used the event to target key media and CEOs. You worked with venues that connect with your target audience and had a product or service that fit with SXSW attendees. You built up your share of voice prior to the event, with a creative strategy and content calendar. Perhaps you had the ideal promotion with advance preparation, using compelling visuals and a catchy hashtag to drive attendees to your innovative exhibit and generate buzz throughout the week.
But if you’re like the majority, you didn’t do all that. Maybe you just did some, handing out press releases and business cards while sipping on free drinks. In that case, you should get a head start, whether it’s for next year’s festival or some other event (because let’s face it – it isn’t the right fit for every brand).
How Brands Grow Like Tacos
Google “SXSW and tacos.” You’ll be hard pressed to find a wrap-up article that doesn’t mention the humble but revered stuffed tortilla. Why is that? Tacos – specifically breakfast tacos – organically became a key component of the Austin brand. At least one theory gives South By a lot of credit for elevating the taco, right along with Austin. Now, SXSW organizers have incorporated them into their own branding. Did you participate in the Taco Meet Up? Tacos of Texas? Both were on this year’s SXSW schedule.
Not many brands can be as successful as the Austin breakfast taco, but there’s a thing or two tacos can teach us. Just like with taco enthusiasts, you should fuel your target audience’s hunger before SXSW and give them a taste during it. Then keep their cravings going all year so they come back for more.
Finding Your Advocates
So how do you groom brand advocates as devoted as Austin breakfast taco evangelists? Here are a few tips:
- Look within: Your most important advocates are your organization’s personnel. Your internal communications should empower team members as living, breathing representations of your company culture.
- Know your target audience as well as you know yourself: Spend as much time as possible with your audience. Know what they’re reading, writing, posting and tweeting. You can also check the pulse yourself using online survey tools.
- Use your relationship rules: Do unto others. Listen more than you talk. Be a giver, not a taker. Relationships are the keystone of media relations, which is why PR is such an important branding component.
- Ask them what they want, not what you want to give them: Don’t assume you have what they need; ask them what they need. Treat social media as a tool that builds trust and conveys information without reverting to a self-serving sales pitch.
- Be consistent: One of the oldest rules about retention, or being remembered, is repetition. In marketing and branding, that means having a consistent look and feel. If you have that as a reliable framework, you are free to be creative with other branding components.
No Time Like The Present
The good news is that your South By efforts are never really wasted. You probably met some cool and interesting people, learned a few things at the sessions, got some ideas from other brands and of course, watched some interesting films or heard some up-and-coming music.
You don’t have to wait until SXSW 2018 looms to start building your brand. Start planning now. Stoke that hunger in your audience. And call or email us if we can help. We know the best taco places in town!