Quite noticeably missing from all the festivities at SXSW was any physical presence of the big three social players, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Perhaps they felt that as they already held the social thrones, they didn’t need to throw us a big party. Either way, of the three, Snapchat seemed to be the most active at the festival.
On Snapchat, many brands offered festival-goers some great geofilters (image overlays targeted to a user’s location) available in their pop-up installations all around Austin.
One brand using terrific geofilters was Mashable. Their highlight was the ‘Mashable House’ (think of a fairground fun house packed with tech toys to play with!). For two days over the festival, Mashable entertained the crowds inside its ‘house’ in a whimsical way with ‘the future of the internet’ as their theme. Showstoppers at the Mashable House included a real-life transformer, a VR experience in Vegas, live Facebook feeds from the cast of HBO’s Silicon Valley, glow in the dark tattoos (fake!), and free tacos, of course.
The Mashable House was also home to an invisible museum, powered by Qualcomm. To ‘activate’ the invisible museum, you were handed an iPad and had to hold it over a white pillar-like statue. All of sudden, the pillar came to life on the iPad with an animated overlay. Sections of the overlay could be clicked on to see more of the technology Qualcomm creates. What fascinated me about Qualcomm was that I had never heard of them, yet they are behind some of the world’s most significant technological advances in mobile, automobile and healthcare industries to name a few. For instance their Snapdragon technology enhances the quality of billions of mobile phones around the world! I’m sure tech heads everywhere will be well aware of Qualcomm, but I must say my mind was blown!
After my mind boggling experience at the Mashable House, I headed back downtown to locate some more free tacos. They say if you’re paying for food or drink at SXSW you’re doing it wrong! Low and behold, I came across a warehouse-style building with a rusted, industrial chic style ‘M’ sign outside. This turned out to be one of the only pieces of branding throughout the venue and was, as you may have guessed, a McDonalds – the most hipster Maccas I had ever seen. There was a VR painting experience, free create-your-own ice cream bar, free alcohol bar, a live music lounge with a very impressive lineup and, wait for it…free all-you-can-eat Maccas!
What really impressed me about the Maccas lounge was their sophisticated branding, much in line with the image overhaul they are attempting worldwide. People were walking in saying ‘Is this McDonalds?!’ It was the type of place that Ronald McDonald would definitely have been refused entry to at the door!
My takeout from my journey to the Mashable House and Maccas (which ended up being a four hour adventure) was that in order to see and do everything at SXSW, you either need to clone yourself or burn yourself out after day two. Sometimes you need to just sit back, enjoy the free stuff, ‘take a Snapchat’, and absorb the sheer buzz of the place.
Sarah Fitzpatrick is an Account Manager at BCM