Jeff Fromm: Casper Sleep Pods, Battery Rescues and Hershey’s Genius Idea at SXSWi
At SXSW Interactive, these brands shone the brightest
Every March, brands descend upon Austin, Texas for their chance to win the minds, hearts and Instagram feeds of over 50,000 super influencers and digitally connected prosumers at SXSWi.
No matter how much money was spent on virtual reality experiences, branded t-shirts, VIP parties, or even 100-foot Ferris wheels, the brands that stood out most this year were the ones that focused on amplifying the SXSW consumer experience in the analog world.
These brands showed that they understand not only the millennial festival-goer, but also the context of Austin during this time. Here are three of my favorites from SXSWi 2016:
Casper: Nap Tour
Casper, an online mattress and bedding retailer disrupting the painful experience of mattress shopping, keyed in on maybe one of the largest user-centered insights at the festival: Lack of sleep and personal space.
Early morning panels and late night VIP parties on 6th street didn’t leave a lot of time for the much-needed rest required to keep up with the pace at SXSW. Fortunately, Casper had us covered this year with sleep pods on wheels that attendees could reserve for 15-minute naps on the Casper bedding and mattresses.
The lines at the activation were consistently long and I never saw an empty sleep pod during the festival. The genius is that the activation linked festival-goers directly to the trial of the product and I’m willing to bet that a few happy nappers ended up purchasing a mattress while they were at it.
TAKE5: Swag Exchange
Hershey made its first appearance at SXSW this year with the re-launch of its TAKE5 Bar. The TAKE5 Swag Exchange zeroed in on a classic problem at this conference, and any other major festival: All the branded swag that fills your bags each day takes up space and is a pain to carry. As a solution to this problem, Hershey brand, TAKE5, created a station where SXSW attendees could go to the exchange and trade in all those branded koozies, stress balls and pens for things that would actually do them some good at the festival. From simple and small items like sunscreen, to big-ticket items like VIP party access or a person to wait for them in the dreaded SXSW lines, the rewards at the swag exchange were exactly what was needed.
It’s one of those ideas that you see and ask, ‘Why didn’t anyone else think of this years ago?’ I was extremely impressed when the TAKE5 team explained the algorithm of the activation, which correlated the items traded in each day to a value based on how many pieces of that item were received, similar to the real stock exchange. Not only was this a great way to determine what rewards to offer, but it also kept attendees coming back daily to see what their haul would bring them.
Beyond just a great activation, TAKE5 turned all of that wasted swag into something great for the community: It gave everything traded in to non-profit organizations around Austin, making this a big all-around win for TAKE5, Hershey and the city itself.
Nothing is worse than seeing that dreaded red warning light notify you that your phone, and your connection to everything, is about to die.
Mophie, best known for its batteries that help people charge their smartphones during travel, was back at the festival this year with St. Bernards, taking power to the streets and helping folks recharge their electronics on the go. The activation perfectly aligned with the product’s value and solved a big friction point for festival-goers.
In order to participate in the activation, all attendees had to do was tweet #MophieRescue with a screengrab of their dying phone, and Mophie’s rescue dogs would spring into action, tracking down the person and letting them power up for a few minutes. It was a win-win for all parties and was a great opportunity for people to connect with the brand through a physical trial experience.
All in all, SXSWi was filled with amazing brand stories, activations and experiences. Just like CES, SXSWi will likely determine the direction of the future of brand experiences and what we can expect to see from the most loved businesses this year.
Jeff Fromm is founder and president of FutureCast, a millennial marketing research and consulting firm.
Disclaimer: Hershey/TAKE5 is a client of Barkley, the parent company of Futurecast.
Lead image: TAKE5 Swag Exchange