Stand Up and Stand Out: A Lesson from SXSW

In March, M/C/C sent a team of five to SXSW Interactive. We showed up in Austin, Texas on Friday afternoon wide-eyed with anticipation. From the moment we hit traffic, we could sense what was in store. As we inched along the highway, we pointed out a giant buffalo, tents packed into every corner, people walking around with totes we just had to find.

We made our way through registration, countless sessions and a plethora of brand activations. It was a four-day-whirlwind, filled to the brim with as much as we could possibly experience.

woman holding TV remote control with brain on blue background

Since our return, we’ve all been asked the same question more times that I can count: “How was it?” My go-to answer has become “Where to start!”

At any given moment at SXSWi, there are at least 10 things vying for your attention. As you sit in on a session, you’re likely to be pinged with notifications from the SXSW Go app. As you walk from one panel to the next, you’re likely to be offered a handful of free things associated with companies you struggle to remember.

With so much competition for your attention, one must give kudos to the things that truly make an impact.

In advertising, we all know our audience is unlikely to recall every detail of our messaging. In a session titled “This is your brain. This is your brain on ads,” a panel of neuroscientists from Neuro-Insight US Inc., Sentient Decision Science and the Advertising Research Foundation discussed analyzing neuro-activity in order to predict the success of an advertising campaign. By tracking a viewer’s eye movements and facial reactions, neuroscientists evaluate responses to ads and, if negative, how to improve them.

One of the examples was an ad that did not perform strongly, at least not as it was originally conceived. Pranav Yadav from Neuro-Insight US explained that his team was able to identify the “big moment” of the video, or what the viewer would remember, if nothing else. With this moment being so crucial, it ought to include the branding or key message. In this particular example, the big moment contained neither. Rather, it was a moment that had nothing to do with either the product or the brand.

Responding to this finding, the advertiser edited the video to align the key message and the big moment. Then, they tested the revision and found that the alterations achieved the objective of the big moment and key message functioning as one.

This is an excellent lesson for all of the brand activations going on in and around SXSW Interactive. With so much noise, it’s important not only to be loud but to be efficient. If attendees at the event only take away one part of your efforts, what would that be? And what should it be?

Now take SXSW out of the equation and think about your broader marketing efforts. In a crowded marketplace with distractions, offers and competitors’ messages at every turn, there are two questions we should always ask ourselves: Is our key message at the forefront of our efforts? If not, what can we do to more efficiently and effectively communicate it?

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About Christina Phillips

As Account Executive, Christina aligns agency resources in the best ways to help our clients reach their business objectives. She works with clients closely and daily and collaborates with various MCC teams to ensure successfully executed deliverables. Prior to MCC, Christina graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in strategic communications from Oklahoma State. Born and raised in Dallas, Christina is quite outdoorsy. Often, you may find her kayaking, climbing trees or planning her next adventure where there is more topographic diversity than her hometown. Follow on: LinkedIn

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