SXSW…Still packing a punch for brands?

Unless you steered clear of the Internet for the first half of March, you probably noticed more tweets and articles about South by Southwest than you ever thought possible. And of course, there was Meerkat. While it debuted a few weeks earlier, SXSW was definitely where it enjoyed its moment in the limelight (and with Twitter’s Periscope now in play, I fear that a moment is all it’s going to get). Despite its short time in existence, Meerkat’s real-time streaming has already been used to broadcast everything from protests in Ferguson and celebrity narcissism, to the swearing-in of federal government officials. SXSW definitely lived up to its reputation as the place where the conversation of the day takes place. 

Social stream-of-consciousness aside, the question I pose today is from the perspective of the brand: is there still a value to SXSW?

We certainly thought so in 2012 when Doritos unveiled a 64 ft. vending machine on the #boldstage for the first time to introduce Doritos Jacked to the world. 

… and in 2013, when Tesla coils kicked off the Doritos #boldstage, fully interactive concert experience. We turned things up once more in 2014, when Doritos brought a fully immersive experience inside the #boldstage, making consumers complete a bold challenge to enter.

However, after 3 years of going all in with the Doritos #boldstage, we sat out this year’s SXSW, pondering the inevitable question: are the brands that sponsor free shows even getting their money’s worth?  Is content marketing really the way of the future; does it build long-term brand equity? I would love to hear from brands that have been at SXSW the past few years, and compare learnings.

I’ll admit sitting out this year was tough. SXSW has always been a major awareness builder for us, but the time has come for the brand to start thinking about reinvesting attention on new emerging opportunities.  I personally oscillated between resentment and respect as I followed the brands at SXSW this year. I resented that I missed out, and wasn’t part of the action at arguably the most pop culturally relevant event of the year, but I must say I respected them too… mostly because they seem to have good taste in music.