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SXSW 2017: More Music, Fewer Brands

March 15th, 2017   ||    by Callie Wheeler   ||    No Comments

If you’re one of the thousands who have descended upon Austin for SXSW this year, you probably think you know what to expect: live (and loud) music, sticky floors, and great food. But one thing you may notice is missing? The usual bevy of big brands.

If you’re noticing fewer brand experiences—concerts, parties, and attention-grabbing stunts—you’re not imagining it. Billboard reports there may be as many as 25 percent fewer brand-sponsored events this year.

Avoid an Anticlimax

You may be shedding a single tear as you mull over lost opportunities for free swag and food—not to mention the question of what this means for brand marketing. But the tides are changing for a reason.

Take Videa as an example: SXSW is a place where advertisers, marketers, media professionals, agencies, and executives are mixed in with festival attendees. These groups often attend not just to support their own businesses, but also to get a look at new products. Any of these professionals interested in increasing ROI for their ad spend would be a great fit for our B2B platform. Why aren’t we there?

AdAge published an editorial last year that succinctly summed up one reason the event is less appealing: It’s no longer the place to discover new technologies or products that stand out from the crowd. The piece actually proposed that it’s more challenging to launch (or find innovative ideas) at the festival than almost anywhere else, at almost any other time of year!

The competition required just to get noticed has reached a breaking point, and brands are finding it may no longer be profitable to maintain a presence at such a packed event.

Make It Personal

Brands choosing to stick it out are changing their strategies: Instead of big blowouts, these brands are scaling back and creating intimate, personalized events. Digiday noted that Spotify’s house show of years past is being replaced with private recording sessions, while Tumblr is replacing its annual party with a Planned Parenthood rally, according to Co.Create. This shift isn’t just noticeable at SXSW, though. Personalization is a must for advertisers and brands across channels.

Big, loud, and generic isn’t always the best fit for television, either. Broadcast television ad spend may be most effective when applied to smaller, local areas where messages are targeted and personal. Brands can build on consistent advertising in select local markets in a way not possible when trying to reach too many audiences at once.

Learning from SXSW this year means evaluating what you’re doing, finding a more effective way to get better results, and changing your strategy to fit a growing but evolving market.

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