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Stand Out or Sit Down at SXSW: 4 Takeaways from SXSW

3 MINUTE READ | March 20, 2019

Stand Out or Sit Down at SXSW: 4 Takeaways from SXSW

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Ting Zheng

Ting Zheng has written this article. More details coming soon.

Austin was recently abuzz as media partners and marketers made the annual trip to South by Southwest showcasing the latest in music, film, and interactive exhibitions. But it’s not just a culture fest; above all else, SXSW has become an event igniting yearlong conversations on tech and innovation. The roundup below shows off the latest and greatest SXSW experiential activations and what to expect going forward.

As usual, large brands experimented with pop-ups and experiential activations to generate buzz amongst the 70K+ SXSW attendees. There were several key themes and experiential activations that allowed certain brands to shine above the rest.

Many brands showcased new tech through hands-on engagement and personalized experiences, leaning into the era of personalization. Sony exhibited the Wow Studio  – a space filled with interactive, conceptual technology highlighting people’s relationship with tech. The exhibit housed various activities, from using AI as a partner to compose music to an inclusive haptic experience in making music in the dark no matter what disability you may have. Visitors were very hands-on with the new tech and could determine their own connection with it.

Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup cans

Forget Virtual Reality – Augmented Reality saw surprisingly huge strides in innovation during SXSW where it was taken from its standard visual medium and catered towards audiophiles. The biggest announcement on this front was Bose making its global entrance into audio AR with its latest wearable sunglasses that also double as headphones (Bose Frames). The sunglasses know what you’re looking at without using a camera and will feed you audio information directly to your ears through the headphones located in the middle of each arm.

Bose plans to go all in on this feature, building an open API last year with a $50M fund so any individual can create their own AR use cases. This year, Bose intends to partner with several key apps such as Yelp and TripAdvisor in hopes of creating a more integrated experience.

At this SXSW, Amazon Prime Video constructed a walled garden to promote a new show called Good Omens. The extensive garden brought the series to life and fully immersed visitors into an apocalyptic world. Festival-goers shared pictures and videos, and the show quickly became the talk of the town. Through impactful environmental design, Amazon created buzz and garnered more genuine earned reach.

On the grounds in Austin, Texas, Michelob Ultra created the first-ever sunset mass meditation, the “Pure Golden Hour.” This experience was directly followed by ice-cold beer and healthy snacks. Amidst the hot Austin heat and the hustle and bustle of SXSW, Michelob Ultra was able to give festival-goers exactly what they needed — mindfulness and meditation.

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Looking forward, don’t do experiential just to do it. You can’t rent an event space with an open bar and call it a day but rather, the experience itself needs to be tailored to provide customized and personal value for the visitor.  This year at SXSW, experiential activations, pop-ups, and new tech was the name of the game. In order to stand out in a saturated environment, brands must make meaningful and personalized experiences.