How Chevy Won SXSWi

I just came back from SXSWi, and the best way to describe it was mardi-gras for geeks. Although I had a blast and managed to fill my days with sessions, speakers, and productive meetings, what was most striking was the torrent of marketing activity going on. Yes, there were dozens of mobile place-based and group messaging apps launching (all of them seemed to be following the same strategy of having cute girls in branded tank-tops handing out post cards), and yes the big brands came out to play (e.g. Samsung, Pepsi, Microsoft, etc), however the clear winner in my mind was Chevrolet.

Using a big wide, generalizing brush, I’m going out on a limb that the goals of sponsorsing SXSW would be:

  • Connect your brand with the concepts of hip, savvy, technical, relevant, forward-thinking, etc
  • Get young, connected, social-media minded people to talk about your brand
  • Have people with disposable cash try your product, to intice them to buy

I’m sure there are other goals, but let’s start there, as I’d like to share how General Motors kicked ass on these fronts.

General Motors isn’t a brand that I’d normally associate with any of those adjectives above (connected, hip, etc) but the showed some keen insight in their execution at SXSW.

Vector 1: Get People To Try Your Product

Just outside the conference centre, GM had a “Drive a Chevy” setup, where you could exchange contact & demographic information for the right to drive any of the Chevy Cruze, Volt, Camaro, or Corvette. After filling out the forms, I was whisked off to the Volt line where I had all of 30 seconds to wait before getting into a vehicle. This car has one hell of a first impression – the interior is gorgeous, and as we drove off, I realized it had surprisingly good acceleration. From there I had the chance to shift over and give the new Camaro convertible a drive, and was similarly impressed. Finally, I capped the afternoon off by taking a new Corvette Convertible for a spin around Austin. All together, it was an incredible way for them to introduce their cars to me, and to really show of their new design approaches. All three vehicles were fantastic to drive, and now none of them would feel out-of-place in my garage ;)

Vector 2: Get People to Learn About & Talk About Your Product

Chevy offered a “Catch-a-Chevy” program where they had 30 Chevy Cruze’s driving people around town – essentially running a free cab service. The drivers new their cars, and didn’t hesitate to talk about the festival and the brand. This was reinforced by telling people about it through twitter and heavily broadcasting the #ChevySXSW hashtag. It worked incredibly well – people were lined up waiting for a drive, and it did a great job of teaching people about the the Cruze. Beyond that, people were telling their friends and other attendees about the free drives and about the test drives. Their placement (just outside the front doors) was excellent, and their use of social media reinforced the buzz.

Vector 3: Show Off Something Different & New

Cars, even electric cars, aren’t *that* new – what was pretty different, however, was the 360 Photo Boom with the Chevy Sonic. By placing about 30 digital SLRs on a circular boom, they could snap a pic of you from multiple angles. They then animated it much like was done in The Matrix. It was new, different, and shareable. Here’s mine.

Vector 4: Ease a Pain

They had a kick-ass charging lounge (all of the attendees were busy draining the batteries of their cell phones and laptops), and with the Catch a Chevy program, were resolving taxi dilemmas. Need I say more?

Put these efforts all together, and I found myself leaving SXSW with a much more positive impression of GM’s future, their design sense, their products, and their relevance to me. Before SXSW I don’t think I could have identified a manufacturer that “got it” when I thought of technology, social media, and experiential marketing.

Now, however, if someone asked me to pick one, I’d be pointing at Chevy. That’s why I think Chevy won SXSW.

Wry Twist – China Monetary Policies vs. Maintenance Work

In a wry twist of fate, we have a small maintenance project at work that’s been impacted by an international economic governance situation. At CIGI (The Centre for International Governance Innovation) we recently installed a TV Studio for doing live media hits. As part of the setup, we’re installing an upgrade to our security system. Although our security company is a local provider, the upgrade has been delayed by over a month due to a part that’s on back order – a part that isn’t available here or anywhere else in Canada. Read More »

The Sound of Raging Designers

I just finished reading Peter Merholz’s rant against Ad Agencies on the Adaptive Path blog (Peter is AP’s President) and it’s as filled with rage and vitriol as any good rant should be. What’s most engaging, however, is the flood of replies and comments that were trigged by the post – many of them from other AP employees. If you are interested in the debate of User Experience Designers vs. Advertizing Agencies then I urge you to read the original post, the comments, and the many cross-linked posts in the comments. If you have only a passing interest, then the following summary is for you. Read More »

CIRA Registry Change

I just received an email from OpenSRS that makes me, as a .CA domain name holder, very happy. On October 12, CIRA will be flipping the switch on their new registry platform which will replace their current system (an old, difficult-to-use, and frustrating system) with something much more in keeping with registry standards out there. Here are some highlights of the changes: Read More »

Peer Learning Experiment

I had a great conversation with a friend yesterday, where we talked about how important it is to be always learning new things, and about how important it is to be always sharing the knowledge that you have. Our conversation meandered to Japanese history, to math to ideas about changing the way our education system works. Although we may not have solved any of life’s great mysteries, we did come up with the idea for an experiment: a peer learning group. Read More »

Three more tools for the toolchest

This blog post is as much for me to keep track of these three tools, as it is to share with others. I stumbled across three useful tools today, that I think others may appreciate: Read More »

Quick-Mover’s Disadvantage

Unfortunately, Google Wave is officially in the DeadPool. What’s truly unfortunate about this, though, is that it highlights an issue: organizations that put significant money and effort behind an unproven technology, particularly when that technology is backed by a “reliable” player like Google. Read More »

G8 and G20 Summits in Haiku

This weekend I’ve been in Toronto for the G8 & G20 summits supporting CIGI‘s G20Net project with OpenText and DFAIT. It has been an interesting experience camping here at the International Media Centre while chaos abounds in the streets…the juxtaposition of riots just outside this building filled with suit-wearing soccer fans is intriguing. I began this post as a discussion of these contrasts, but quickly realized that there was too much to sum up let alone explain. And so, in the spirit of brevity, I present the G8/G20 Summits in Haiku Read More »

Celebrity CEOs in Social Ventures and NFPs

There’s a great discussion going on at Venture4Change today, and one of the topics is on the role of the Leader/Entrepreneur/CEO in a Social Enterprise or NFP – the consensus at the table is that social enterprises need to eliminate the role of the “Celebrity CEO” and rather focus on building depth and breadth in their organizations. Read More »

Close the Loop! 3 Products That Haven’t Been Completed

I’ve recently found myself getting frustrated at products that don’t close the loop – meaning they don’t come back around and solve their original purpose. Here are three quick examples and my recommendations on how to fix them. If you’re a product designer on any of these products, please feel free to implement any of these features and charge me more for the product – these fixes would be worth higher prices to me. Read More »

web tech entrepreneur
waterloo region enthusiast
ninja in-training