Experiential rules at SXSW.

By Kit Loughran

This is my first time attending SXSW, and it hasn’t disappointed. It’s filled with people, energy, excitement, ideas, creativity – and experiences. Lots of experiences.

Brand experiential activation and events are huge at SXSW – they’re literally on every corner. But, after attending several of these over the past couple days, it’s clear that some are better than others.

At the Starz house you could have one of several designs screen printed on a t-shirt or tote bag.

Starz Network developed the Starz Sensory House – transforming a bar on Austin’s Rainey Street into a 360-sensory experience, with rooms individually dedicated to the five senses (smell, taste, touch, sound, sight) that collectively promoted two of the network’s new shows, “Vida” and “Sweetbitter.” It was fully equipped with Snapchat filters, music, an open bar and manicure station, all feeding your senses and giving you an excuse to hang out and take it all in.

Viceland took over a corner lot, and made its brashness very clear. They had a party bus, a ton of swag, a live DJ and a bunch of goats. Yes, goats. You could walk into the little goat “farm” to pet them and of course take a selfie with them (no doubt, a lot of goat emojis were used while posting). This activation was really well targeted to their audience, reinforcing Viceland knows who it’s talking to.

Baby goats!

Land O’Lakes, Inc. took a brand stance with their experiential house. It promoted their “The Food Effect” project, demonstrating how they’re an agriculture company that’s growing a lot more than food. From their co-op of farmers, to their farming technology, to their commitment to supporting food banks, to growing sustainable foods, Land of Lakes brought these efforts to life with different demonstrations. They had a giant head of lettuce that you could stand inside and view a video that took you through the full food process. And, they served smoothies made with cauliflower – it didn’t taste half bad.

Me, with my head up some lettuce watching a video.

So, what made the experiences put on by Starz, Viceland and Land of Lakes good experiences?

The intended experience was clear. Walking into the venue, the brand knew exactly how they wanted you to engage with them, making sure you didn’t say to yourself, “I don’t get it.” Each experience told a story and was assembled in a way to lead you through pieces of that story to ensure a more complete experience.