5 Brand Breakthroughs at SXSW 2017


I escaped rainy Seattle to head to Austin, Texas to join the crowds at SXSW, keen to get insights about how brands are showing up and breaking through in an experiential way. In between tacos, I saw some pretty incredible and innovative stuff. Here are my top five experiences:

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National Geographic SXSWCapital One House’s Touch and Animation Wall

When I walked into the Capital One House, I immediately stepped into an immersive experience, complete with an interactive projected map of Austin displayed on the wall that had different animation play out depending on what attendees touched. A GIF creator near the bar enabled guests to make fun videos of themselves and a projected display of tweets from visitors’ social posts included Capital One’s hashtag. This was also the go-to venue for hot new bands in the evenings. With all the cool social and music elements, millennial audiences were the clear target audience.


National Geographic Base Camp

This augmented reality activation lets you view National Geographic photographers’ work from faraway places like the Tonga Islands. It celebrates exploration and creativity, with interactive features like a whale jumping out of the artwork. They also set up a digital chalkboard operated by a robotic arm which becomes an interactive artist drawing people’s faces using Einstein’s mathematical formulas in his handwriting –  a nod to their new TV series Genius which premieres in April. This was a really unique, immersive way to connect to the TV show before it even premieres and a completely new way of connecting to the audience when marketing entertainment.



THE EXPERIENCE by Dell Technologies

Dell’s smart house takeover included a cool, comfy backyard hangout area that you would want to spend a lot of time in regardless of the event. But the coolest part was a bus that showed off the tech in a more personal way. This super interactive pop-up shows off some of Dell's latest technology solutions driving human progress. And inside the bus were different vignettes, like a laptop in an airplane seat and a living room with a screen that folks could touch and interact with, further highlighting the future of personal technology.


Intel Artificial Intelligence (AI) Lounge

Intel’s AI Lounge hosted several interactive demos and a backyard stage for AI panels, expert interviews and live music. Mixing AI neural algorithms with photography and famous art from their Pikazo app, they would recreate your head shot in the style of famous artists. There was also an expert onsite to show you some of Intel’s fleet of 300 powered drones used during Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl performance. And if you were brave you could let an AI machine guess your age. Intel is really leading the pack when it comes to integrating entertainment, art and science.


New York Times’ BMW Sound Wall

With the release of NYT Magazine’s music issue timed to SXSW, New York Times wanted to create an immersive experience tied to sound. They partnered with BMW to create a literal wall of sound that would play different instruments when attendees touched the silver sensors to create one harmonious sound. The future of print media is uncertain, and this engaging display helped one of the biggest newspapers jump off the page in a fresh way.


Connect with the authors, Jennie Miller and Heather Scott.