Last week I attended South by Southwest, and while the festival itself was the main attraction, the events and parties that sprung up every night were examples of great and cheap marketing that many small businesses could learn from.

This year was my first SXSW, and leading up to the event, I was told often by veteran SXSW attendees that the festival is 'all about the parties'.  I was only able to attend one party, as I was invited to speak at the Conversation Starters event sponsored by Dell, The Social Media Club of Austin, The Conversation Group, Federated Media and Bulldog Solutions.  The event itself featured several of the most popular business and tech bloggers, including Robert Scoble, Shel Israel, Chris Heuer, and Jeremiah Owyang.  The event was fabulous, as myself and everyone else got the chance to talk with some amazing people doing amazing things in the social media realm. 

But as I was talking to others at the event, I remarked that you could look around the venue and you didn't see banners with logos everywhere.  Dell and the other sponsors had created an experience for us that had become a marketing tool for the company.  And Dell and the other sponsors had the added benefit of getting to pick the brains of some of the most accomplished bloggers on the internet.  At one time I was in a discussion involving three members of Dell's senior marketing and online management, so the company was a very active participant in the event.

Thumbnail image for CBrogan.jpgBut this event was one of dozens that were held, and sometimes created on the fly, during SXSW.  Chris Brogan posted about what a blast it was to attend a Rock Band party that WashingtonVC sponsored:

"AND I want to encourage companies thinking of creative ways to get involved with conferences to think about throwing a Rock Band party. For the dollars spent, I promise you that it was one of the most memorable nights ever. I think that bringing an experience to an event far trumps a simple branding effort these days. Agree?

I enjoyed the heck out of the experience, and as a result, it gave me positive feelings about WashingtonVC, Harmonix and several other companies. Cheap trick? Great idea? You decide."

A great example of how marketing doesn't have to be 'in your face', and instead can be all about simply having fun and creating a fun experience for others.  So many of these parties were so much fun because the sponsors weren't trying to promote themselves, they were trying to promote a fun environment for everyone.  That's why people like Chris (and myself) are now going and promoting these events, and the sponsors.

What can you do to make your marketing worth talking about?

Pic of Rock Band party via Chris Brogan

March 17, 2008

Mack Collier is a social media consultant, trainer and speaker. He has been actively immersed in social media since 2005, and in that time, has helped advise, teach and consult with businesses of all shapes and sizes on how they can better connect with their customers via these amazing tools and sites. While being passionate about the social media space, what truly excites Mack is the human connections that can result from the proper use of these social tools. His motto is "Don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate." His goal is to help his clients create those connections with their customers, and nuture them into relationships that help grow their bottom line.

His social media 'homebase' is The Viral Garden, which in 3 years time Mack has grown into an influential marketing/social media blog with a monthly readership of over 175,000. He is also a frequent contributor to the website Marketing Profs, as well as the marketing blog Daily Fix, and small business blog Search Engine Guide. His writings have been referenced in several mainstream publications and websites, including The Washington Post,, Ad Age, CNET, and The Boston Globe.

Mack is also a requested speaker and has presented at some of the top social media conferences and events, including South By Southwest Interactive, Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer, and Small Business Marketing Unleashed. He is also passionate about teaching companies how to use social media sites and tools more effectively, and offers training and seminars privately to companies, in addition to his public speaking schedule.

You can learn more information about Mack's social media training and consulting services here. If you need a social media speaker for your event, or want to know where Mack will be speaking next, click here. If you want to email Mack, click here.

Mack wrote this bio. The third-person thingie is just for fun.


I think the substance of this article makes a lot of sense. It misses and important point, however. And I don't think it is just semantic. I think it reflects an all too frequent mindset.

In fact, most marketers will tell you that a "brand" IS an "experience."

It is not just a set of words or a graphic (eg logo).

It's the emotional link between a user and seller based on how the user feels the "brand" meets or surpasses his or her need.

Because it is often symbolized by a logo that can trigger the emotion or a set of words that can give meaning to symbol and the brand promise, these often are confused as being the actual brand.

No. The brand is much more, just as each of us is more than our name and the clothes we wear.

In that respect, a positive experience that can be attributed to the brand is Some of the best brand promotion available.

Of course, it helps if the experience is related in some way to the brand promise.

Maybe a rock band party is. I don't know. But, at least, it WAS a "brand experience", of sorts.

Here's what I came away with from my time with WashingtonVC at their Rock Band party: I thought, wow! These guys really know how to have fun. Wow! They are young and hip! Wow, they really went out of their way to show me a fun time.

Boy, if I were a brand, that's a relationship impression I'd pay big money to experience. : )

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