My SXSW experience a study on SPAM

I know my title feels off but SXSW was an amazing controlled environment  where I was able to analyze marketing first hand. Beyond all of the other topics which were featured between influencer marketing, geo-location marketing and gamifying your world; I got the most insight from observing the mayhem. SXSW became my laboratory where I could analyze the future of marketing. As technology becomes an even more integral part of our lives, so will the amount of content that is pushed.  It was interesting to see in action what worked. It reinforced my belief in the power of Social Media/Relationship marketing.

SXSW Interactive is the mecca for new apps, softwares, digital products. New technology companies attend with the goal to expand their customer base and connect with potential brands or investors. Now, you can only imagine the number of pamphlets, posters, QR codes, parties, speakers, books that were pushed on attendees. Hello SPAM! Surprisingly, the more I was surrounded by SPAM, the more I started to exude signs of tunnel vision. I was in shock since my entire purpose for going to SXSW was to take it all in. Intrigued, I started my observation.

So what exactly worked?

Not surprisingly word of mouth, relationships, focused efforts and being the black sheep.

1) WORD OF MOUTH: I ended up paying attention to content which already had established twitter buzz prior SXSW or events my circle of friends recommended. Surprisingly, I stuck more than ever to my tribe. The following really illustrate how important continued efforts are. Ensuring buzz is created prior an event/campaign is key.

The most talked about app at SXSW was GroupMe. There were quite a few apps that offered group texting, Grouped{In}, GroupMe and Fast Society. There were opportunities for either one of these apps to be used. Group messaging was SXSW relevant. It enabled users to set-up groups and keep taps on each other. Who won the battle? GroupMe. They didn’t have the huge billboards Grouped{In} invested in. GroupMe had buzz.

Before the conference, there was a lot of online chatter about the app. They garnered few mentions in publications like Tech Crunch and Mashable before the conference. The buzz GroupMe secured was phenomenal. Other factors that helped seal the deal?  The product’s relevance to SXSW. Their website, which is straight forward and skewed to a broader demographic than it’s competitor. GroupMe killed it.

2) RELATIONSHIPS: Relationships became even more important throughout the mayhem. I attended events friends planned on attending as well. When I met folks, I paid closer attention to folks who took the time to explain their product versus others who mechanically repeated mindlessly their elevator pitch. Despite all of the noise and folks I was supposed to meet, I ended up sticking mainly with people I already knew. Posters that called my attention where from vendors I had already worked with.

This was a testament  that relationship marketing is core and everything around it is just support. It’s not about pushing content out there whether it be Social Media, Print, TV, Mobile Marketing – it’s about really thinking about the demographic and ensuring you develop a one on one connection with them. Like any relationship what is in it for me.

3) FOCUSED EFFORTS: I respected companies who focused their efforts in having one great event. They didn’t pass out flyers. They just focused on meeting folks, getting the word out and orchestrating one great intimate event.

4) BLACK SHEEP: Another great tactic was attending SXSW without having any affiliation to technology. It was interesting to see in action the power of differentiation through a fashion friend who attended. He already had established a partnership prior to get his brand some exposure. Everyone was so receptive to his product and he had zero competition.

It was pretty hilarious because I kept on meeting peers within the industry. We exchanged a few words and in some case gave each other that competitive gaze. Ha! My friend in the other hand got so much love being the only sneakers brand out there. Everyone wanted to know more about his product. Why? Because regardless of being in a tech conference, we needed an escape from the technology the first chance we got.I later made it my mission to get him to meet as many folks as possible. Friends help each out.

What didn’t work?

1) QR codes: QR codes were everywhere. It was a bit embarrassing.  Sorry folks but no I am not going to engage and take time out of my day to read a QR code unless I have some prior information about it. What is the reward? What do I get out of it? In most cases a good old fashion flyer would had been more successful.

2) Flyers/Posters: There were tons of Flyers everywhere. There were too many to notice. And maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, I don’t pick up flyers. I don’t need extra spam in my life.

3) People dressed in funny attires: It might work for a split second, as I will notice the absurdity of the outfit. Like any gimmick, it will only capture my attention for a split second until I stop caring. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen extremely successful guerilla marketing tactics but like anything there needs to be a call to action that makes people tic. Being dressed like a green man will not get you far.

CONCLUSIONS: Do your homework before your launch any campaign! Strategy is extremely important. Study your demographic! What differentiates your product? Why would the consumer care? As ubiquitous computing becomes more prominent, customers will be more and more bombarded with ads, offers etc… This is why I believe social media is so powerful, it enables recommendation/endorsement, sentiment sharing while enabling marketers to gauge how much or little buzz their brand is getting.

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