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Get inspired by the best grassroots marketing campaigns during SXSW

From St. Bernards to Grumpy the Cat, SXSW had some of the most innovative marketing campaigns we’ve seen in a while, not to mention cute.



Film. Music. Interactive.

This is the basis of South by Southwest, or SXSW, which is a combination of conferences and festivals in Austin, TX that offers the latest and greatest in film, music, and digital branding. This year’s festival put extreme emphasis on the interactive aspect as a variety of marketing campaigns caught the eyes of attendees – and the Internet.

SXSW began on March 13 and ran through March 22. Sponsors at the 22nd annual conference took an interesting approach to marketing, including using an abundance of animals and as well as a popular dating app.

1. Meow meow meow meow? No.

First, Friskies, a popular brand of cat food, promoted their new bacon flavored chow in the hippest way possible. The company brought in Grumpy Cat, an Internet sensation who is well known for her permanent scowl. News of Grumpy Cat’s attendance at SXSW spread through the Internet like wildfire and sparked interest of her biggest fans.

grumpy cat

Grumpy Cat appeared at the Haus of Bacon and Friskies advertised her presence by chartering a plane to fly around Austin carrying a large banner of Grumpy’s face. Grumpy Cat came in tow with her friend Waffles and the two felines brought a large crowd to Haus of Bacon.

2. Woof woof woof, yes!

SXSW continued their flair for four-legged advertising as dogs were brought into the mix. This campaign took Twitter by storm and was for a good cause. Mophine, a company that specializes in battery cases for smartphones, tugged at festival attendees’ heartstrings by creating the MophieRescue campaign.

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The company had previously developed a Rescue Lodge to be home to a small number of St. Bernard pups. People of Austin helped with the campaign in a multitude of ways, including tweeting, as well as taking the old school route of passing out flyers to promote MophieRescue.

Attendees could tweet @mophie with the hashtag #MophieRescue alongside a screenshot of their smartphone battery level. By including their location with the tweet, the tweeter had a shot at being met by an adorable St. Bernard to “come to their rescue” with a battery pack. The campaign also benefitted awareness of the Saint Bernard Rescue Foundation.

3. Ooh look, a squirrel!

Moving away from (actual) animals, a campaign that generated attention at SXSW was developed by The site provides users with locations of books in their area, giving them insight to their next read.

By taking a play on the website name, the company hired humans to wear squirrel costumes and stand around reading books. This effortless campaign caught attendees’ attention and created buzz for the company.

4. OUR FAVORITE: abusing Tinder

Last but not least was probably one of the most innovative combinations of technology and demographic. Because the festival tends to attract a younger crowd of people interested in technology, it is safe to assume many of those in attendance have the Tinder app on their smartphone.

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This assumption was put to brilliant use as it has become popular for Tinder users to utilize the app when traveling to different places as a way to meet people during their quick visits. The upcoming film, “Ex Machina”, debuted at SXSW and the film’s main character made a few friends at the festival.

Marketers for the film developed a Tinder profile for movie character Ava, played by Alicia Vikander, which got a lot of swipes from fellow users. “Ava” would strike up a conversation with her matches and eventually would like them to an Instagram account that advertises for the movie. This generated a lot of buzz around the web as a unique way to advertise a film.


The takeaway

South by Southwest sponsors, partners, and even third party companies on the fringe broke boundaries this year and followed through on their platform for interaction. It was a great year for inspiration.

Staff Writer, Taylor Leddin is a publicist and freelance writer for a number of national outlets. She was featured on Thrive Global as a successful woman in journalism, and is the editor-in-chief of The Tidbit. Taylor resides in Chicago and has a Bachelor in Communication Studies from Illinois State University.

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