Blog Header
The Insights Blog

Dedicated To Helping Readers
Be More Interesting
Since 2004.

As Featured In:

And The Best Marketing Strategy At SXSW Is … Kindness


As the three hour party RSVP line outside an Austin bar stretches around the corner, no one wonders why a surprising number of people seem to be wearing red clown noses. To my right, a guy walks towards me with a light up disco ball covering his head. He passes nonchalantly by a woman dressed in medieval armour wearing a helmet with two foot horns. Standing beside them is a gentleman holding a yellow sign declaring his availability as a real estate agent for anyone considering moving to Austin. Nearby a strange medley provides a suitably odd musical score to this outdoor parade as a violinist wearing a werewolf mask, a bucket drummer and two distant outdoor bands merge into an accidental quartet.

This is the daily scene at SXSW – an annual festival of music, technology, film and everything quirky in the world that comes home in March every year to the “capital of weird” in Austin, Texas. The event has grown rapidly and today features more than 50,000 attendees who all come from across the world. Thanks to previous launches of Twitter, Foursquare and other big tech success stories here … the festival is now a place where marketers from all types of organizations come to launch everything from careers in robotics to new murder mystery television shows.

SXSW, in short, is a tempting place to promote just about anything. It is the Super Bowl of marketing the trivial. Yet among the chaos and rush, there is one thing that has stood out this year as the ultimate marketing strategy: kindness.

There is daily kindness from the people who choose to forgive the hopelessly slow cashier on a food truck. There is unnoticed kindness from people who strike up conversations with lonely strangers to involve them in unexpected conversations.


And there are plenty of examples of brand kindness.  Like Samsung promising to bring a spare battery directly to customers simply via tweets. Or virtual assistant company Zirtual offering complimentary on site assistants for their customers as a way of saying thank you. Or Go Daddy creating moments for viral generosity by being the brand that picks up the bar tab for a large group without the typical desperate requests for tweets or attention. Or Southwest Airlines playing the hit song “Happy” on a flight into Austin, and encouraging passengers to dance in the aisles. Or USPS software partner Endicia offering to “ship your swag” for free.


Everywhere you look here in Austin, the smartest brands are skipping the temptation of putting up big banners and instead offering value, creating moments for people to share ideas freely and connecting them face to face in spaces like 3M’s Idea Exchange Lounge, or Paypal’s Blogger Lounge. Each offers the rare chance to have “lean back” moments where participants can put devices away to just enjoy an experience.

And so the surprising marketing strategy that seems to be paying off most at one of the world’s geekiest and most continually connected events is using kindness to be useful, foster human connections and help people escape the self imposed isolation of their own technology.

Even if that bond happens over the barely audible backdrop of street drummers and werewolf violinists.

2 thoughts on “And The Best Marketing Strategy At SXSW Is … Kindness”

  1. Wow what a way to show branding at work in the backdrop of festival activity, as entertainment happens and onlookers notice the eccentric nature of those who want to be seen. Brands get attention and the good folks, who are fortunate enough to be in Austin, get a real show.


Leave a Comment

Vector Smart Object

About Rohit

A keynote speaker on trends, innovation, marketing, storytelling and diversity.

Rohit Bhargava is on a mission to inspire more non-obvious thinking in the world. He is the #1 Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of eight books and is widely considered one of the most entertaining and original speakers on disruption, trends and marketing in the world.

Rohit has been invited to keynote events in 32 countries … and over the past year, given more than 100 virtual talks from his home studio. He previously spent 15 years as a marketing strategist at Ogilvy and Leo Burnett and also teaches marketing and storytelling as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

He loves the Olympics, actively hates cauliflower and is a proud dad of boys.

Rohit Bhargava About (1)


Do you need a speaker that can help your audience be more innovative and anticipate the future?

For more than a decade, Rohit Bhargava has been inspiring audiences at NASA, Disney, Schwab, Microsoft, SXSW, Coca-Cola and hundreds of other clients with his signature non-obvious keynote presentations. He is a master at weaving recent stories into his talks in a way that helps audiences better understand the world today, while also preparing to lead the future.

Non Obvious Insights
Layer 97
Non Obvious Insights Newsletter
Layer 118

Skip the obvious and anticipate the future with our weekly newsletter. Join over 25,000 subscribers and start receiving the stories (and insights) you’ve been missing.


#1 WSJ & USAToday Bestselling Author

Rohit is the author of 8 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.

Vector Smart Object


Have a Question or Inquiry?

Just fill out this form, and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours!

About You

What Are You Contacting Us About*:

Your Message