Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Off-Location Reporting from SXSW

If you're like me and were unable to make it to this year's South by Southwest Interactive Festival, you may be glued to your Twitter feed trying to keep up with all of the innovation,
collective brainstorming, and brilliant rhetoric happening at an alarming rate. After all, SXSW acts as a bellwether for all things tech we're going to see in 2012, so it's foolish not to tune into the buzz.

The 19th annual SXSW conference, which kicked off this past Friday in Austin, TX, gathers a swarm of the greatest minds in the digital space and the most tuned-in, savvy consumers under one roof. Attendees vie to be the first to broadcast new trends to those in their social networks, and are surely glued to their devices at all times.

To save you time and bandwidth, we've culled some highlights in the areas of brand marketing, mobile technology, web services....and even binge eating.

Brand Marketing

Though many scorn the presence of big brands as a departure from traditional SXSW protocol, marketers have entered the mix and are making their presence known. Though some brands attend simply to return home with an iPad full of notes about this year's hottest trends, others make waves by introducing services to the nation's largest audience of early adopters and vigilant influencers.

Chevrolet is one of a few big names in attendance this year. They're promoting Chevy via their own version of OnStar called Catch-a-Chevy, which offers a premium experience for conference attendees by shuttling them from event to event in cars filled with indie music and graffiti-art. Chris Perry, VP of U.S. marketing for GM, describes the initiative as an effort to reach out to social-media influencers: "All of the Chevy activiations at SXSW are focused on bringing value to the participants while giving them a positive experience with our brand," (Ad Age).

Kraft is also generating brand buzz by hosting oreo-branded ice cream socials, placing mac-and-cheese trucks throughout the SXSW grounds, and offering Wi-Fi hotspots and charging stations.

Mobile Applications
The latest in mobile technology is always a top area of interest for entrepreneurs, developers, and consumers at SXSW. This year, a new technology called Highlight seems to be making the biggest splash.


Highlight is a social, location-based app that allows users to log in through Facebook and locate friends with similar interests who are nearby. The app recommends who you should contact based on mutual interests, mutual friends, and a slew of other Facebook content. As of late, the app is only available for iPhone users and has received some criticism for draining battery life.

Web Services

According to a PCWorld article, a technology known as Correlate is slated to change the game of customer service by making sense of e-mails coming from consumers. The service first syncs with your e-mail inbox and uses labels and flags to categorize what's coming in based on the content and sender. Correlate then attempts to derive the sentiment of the e-mail and allows the recipient to easily uncover major themes and company issues that may need addressing.

Though it's hard to predict the future success of Correlate, the service shows great potential for companies that frequently interact with their customers.


And finally, what tech convention wouldn't be complete without an eating contest and brief cameo from a gorging superstar? On Sunday, everyone's favorite world renowned foodie Kobayashi set the world record for eating 13 grilled cheeses in one minute. Grilled cheese is a childhood favorite of mine, but after catching the video below I'm not sure if I'll ever eat one again.


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