Sunday I returned to Minneapolis after my annual trip to Austin for SXSW. Last week marked the second straight year I made it down to Texas for SXSW Interactive and my fifth consecutive year for SXSW Music. It’s becoming a bit of a tradition: part business trip where I can get inspired and meet with various agencies or vendors and part warm weather vacation where I can get away from the long Minnesota winters while getting to see TONS of live music.
Just like last year when I wrote about some highlights from the conference, I thought I’d share some highlights from this year’s trip.
More attendees, more marketers, more brands
SXSW Interactive has grown in popularity significantly the last several years. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the Interactive portion of the conference yielded over 30,000 attendees in 2013. With that, I’ve seen some debate in the marketing and advertising community about why so many professionals are making the trip down there and whether it’s worth it. When it comes to something like SXSW, I think you get out of it what you put into it. For me, the benefits come down to two things: inspiration and networking. I look at SXSW as a place for me to see panels and presentations that are related to my job but not necessarily in the sweet spot of what I do everyday. I want to learn about new topics, new technologies and new vendors, and SXSW allows me to do that. Secondly, by going to SXSW I’m able to meet with several different companies that I work with and take advantage of meeting them all in one location while being in Austin. Over the course of my three days at SXSW Interactive, I had a working meetings set up with peers from other brands and agencies that I work with as well as with some media companies. In addition to connecting with people that I already know, I also find SXSW to be a fertile place to meet new people who are really, really smart. Over the last few years during previous trips to Austin I’ve made new connections who have become sounding boards for things I’m working on and also become good friends along the way.
SXSW = launching pad for new consumer electronics
There is no shortage of brands that market themselves at SXSW, but this year that caught my eye – especially as someone that works for a consumer electronics retailer. Aside from just marketing their new products at CES which typically occurs in early January, consumer electronics brands seem to be using SXSW as a key part of their product launch plans. BlackBerry, Leap Motion and Samsung all had a significant presence at SXSW.
I asked several people I ran into what stood out to them at SXSW, and unprompted many of them mentioned Leap Motion‘s motion controlled computing device. This was reaffirmed on Monday when I read this piece in Ad Week where Leap Motion garnered the most social buzz during the conference. BlackBerry used SXSW as a spring board to create notoriety for their soon to be released Z10 smartphone by creating an event near the convention center that centered on product demonstrations and live music. And last but certainly not least was Samsung. In the go big or go home department, Samsung pulled out all the stops in the promotion of their latest smartphone the Galaxy S4. Samsung invested some serious cash down in Texas: they helped bring start up Uber to Austin for a short period of time exclusively for SXSW; they hired an army of pedi-cabs – hence the photo above; they created a pop-up Samsung experience in a retail store front; and they hired Prince to perform a closing party on the final night of SXSW Music. Talk about an investment.
Rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well
Sometimes my better half gives me a hard time for liking music that is slow or on the melancholy side of things. I won’t dispute that – there are many bands that I like that can be mellow or a tad bit….sad. But when it comes to live music, sometimes I just want to see a band that brings a ton of energy and rock out. I feel like I had been going through a bit of a drought along those lines lately but being down in Austin changed all that. There were a handful of bands that stood out to me. Some of the groups that just plain killed it with their live performance included Divine Fits, the Joy Formidable, Palma Violets and Diarrhea Planet. (Yes, I know the name of that last band is pretty ridiculous. But I’ll tell you this – any rock band that can pull off three electric guitars is good in my book, Diarrhea Planet sports FOUR electric guitars. Enough said.) If you have a chance to check out any of these acts live and in person then do not hesitate. Get your tickets, grab your earplugs and prepare for an awesome evening.