Over the next week, I’ll posting some of the other insights I will be taking from the event, but in the meantime here are just a few marketing ideas that struck me as remarkable or noteworthy from SxSW:

  1. Using the tag as the tagline.  Everywhere you look there are signs posted telling you what tag (identifier word or series of words) to use when posting content to social networks, uploading images online, or blogging. The tags add order to the vast amounts of content that are being created as a result of this event.  I am tagging this post with "sxsw" and "sxswi" as recommended by the conference organizers, adding to the library of content created by those at the event.  Without tags, users are forced to rely on inexact methods to find content such as search algorithms.  With them your content is part of the community and consumed by others at the event.  The tag is the new tagline for marketing signs all over SxSW.
  2. Sponsoring something useful. Unfortunately for everyone, as part of each of the three events at SxSW – each attendee received a magazine quality program for the conference.  I say "unfortunately" because each of these programs was heavier than a May issue of a Bridal magazine filled with ads.  The end result was that no one could carry this around on a daily basis.  In any situation of information overload, everyone will seek the "hack" or summary to help make sense of it all.  To solve the problem, Iconbuffet had the brilliant idea of sponsoring a handy pocket guide – the ultimate widget for the interactive conference.  This was the only thing I saw people carrying around, and Iconbuffet was the only sponsor.  The lesson?  Think outside the program and do something useful for your audience and you will stand out.
  3. Selling old stuff as "vintage." At the conference shop, you can buy t-shirts from last year’s SxSW event.  Conference t-shirts at events are usually one of two things; a mark of ultimate dorkiness, or a signature of coolness that declares to the world that you were there.  SxSW is an event that fits into the second category – and what could be cooler than pretending you were as cool last year as you are this year?  Now I’m just waiting for the shirts that have the SxSW logo on the front and the simple tagline on the back: "I was cool before you."  Now anyone know where I can get a SxSW 1987 t-shirt?
  4. Integrating open source marketing. Sponsorships are a big part of every event – and we have all been to events where these sponsorships and the exclusivity arrangements negotiated put a strangle hold on all other marketing efforts.  Here at SxSW in the convention center on the main floor are tables where anyone can place their posters, flyers, promotional cards, and just about anything else.  The tables were packed with marketing materials for other Film Festivals, services for artists, films, stickers and even samples of books and music.  The tables were the chance for anyone with a service, film, song or book to market their wares.  Strewn across the table were the many voices of the little guys, the nonsponsors who still had a chance to put their message in front of the SxSW population.  And anyone could take that message and spread it to others.
  5. Drawing audience with the drum solo. At an event focused on live music in a city that thrives on live music, you would think the every bar would get a band to play live every evening.  Surprisingly, there were several bars on 6th street without live music.  Shame for them, since the bars that were packed with people inside and out were the ones where the drummer was by the window and had drum solos often.  The lesson here is to find the equivalent of the drum solo in your business and help it spread by making it highly visible.