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SXSW Swag: 25 Marketing Ideas From The Big Bags

As anyone who has been to SXSW (a huge music, film and interactive conference happening now in Austin, TX) knows, after you have registered for your badge, you have the chance to go downstairs to a different room where you will pick up your "big bag."  It’s the canvas bag with all the brochures, flyers, magazines, and other assorted free stuff that you get as a registrant to the event. If you are registered for the Film, Interactive and Music events, you get three of these big bags … accompanied by the question of whether you will take them all now or come back later.  Why?  They weigh a ton. 

So, of course, the first rite of passage here is to go through all that stuff and toss out the things that are either too heavy, or not interesting enough to carry.  What’s leftover is what you take with you. Here are some quick notes with marketing ideas and pieces I found interesting from the big bags.  Also, to follow my live updates from the event, go to www.twitter.com/rohitbhargava and follow me.

  1. Toyota – Not sure how strategic this is, but Toyota has randomly parked two cars in the room where all registrants go to pick up their big bags.  This might be part of some kind of contest or promotion, but I didn’t see any signage when I walked quickly by.
  2. Adobe Fortune Cookie Box – Chinese takeout box stands out and who doesn’t like fortune cookies?
  3. Zone Perfect Nutrition Bar – the only such bar in the bag … seems like an obvious opportunity for other snack food makers. After carrying those bags, attendees can use all the energy they can get.
  4. Blue Man Group Recruiting – a postcard about open tryouts on March 14th to join the Blue Man Group.  Men or Women, 5’10" to 6’1", acting skills, drumming skills, and willingness to relocate.  They accept women?
  5. US Army Entertainment – 5×7 card with plastic GI-Joe figure tied to it inviting bands to come and play for the army on aircraft carriers.  Slightly creepy with cheesy ad copy – eg "Plug in your weapon, turn up the power and fire away. Your limo is a Humvee and your ride is a Blackhawk."
  6. YouTube 5×7 Card – Says "Every Song Deserves A Video" and points musicians to a website: www.youtube.com/musicpartners
  7. Dell Lounge and Music Exclusive – Dell is all over the place at SXSW, including a well placed lounge on the main level of the convention center.  At the Lounge, they are offering exclusive digital downloads of the latest music from Billy Bob Thornton & Boxmasters.  Well, $2 off if you buy all 10 tracks.  Seems to me that offering 2 free tracks would have been much more useful promo …
  8. Lifebeat.org – One of the few issues related marketing piece in the big bag, it talks about "how music can save a life" and points people to the website to learn about HIV/Aids prevention. 
  9. Dentyne Ice – A GREAT idea, they offer three packs of gum as well as two free downloads on iTunes if you visit a website they set up around Ben’s Brother, a band they are promoting: www.bensbrotherdentyne.com and take a quiz. I bet the Dentyne pack is one very few people throw away.
  10. Last.fm Artist Guide – In a very smart move, Last.fm decides not to focus on free downloads or losable cards, but instead produces a comprehensive list of all the bands that will be performing throughout SXSW.  The guide features 1547 artists, all identified by musical styles as well as a short bio.  Great way for Last.fm to stand out.
  11. Freshbooks – Included a flip guide the features user stories from their 2007 surveys.  The design of the piece demonstrates their ease of use, and their tagline (painless billing) as well as their promise to help freelance entrepreneurs and professionals to get paid faster will capture attention.  Given the number of freelance designers, coders and social media types at SXSW, I’m surprised there aren’t more products and services targeting this group.
  12. Miami Visitor’s Bureau – So far, these twin pieces have to be the winners for most beautiful printed pieces included in the bags.  Miami produced two horizontal half page sized mini-guides to the wonders of Miami.  The first is a guide to all the great shooting locations in Miami.  The second is a guide to the boutique hotels in Miami.  Together, they present a pretty compelling picture of the great things of Miami.  The only problem is, with pieces this slick, produced and obviously expensive … it might be easy for a filmmaker on a tight budget to conclude the Miami is just too expensive.
  13. Jaman – A site that I joined a long time ago (maybe around the time of the last SXSW?), they have a 5×7 poscard that invites people to try out the site with 3 free movie rentals.  Just go to www.jaman.com/sxsw
  14. Frrvrr.com Party – There are a ton of parties happening and at SXSW, sending an RSVP for anything is never a guarantee that people will show up.  So Frrvrr included an actual wrist bracelet to their party in the bag. You still might not go, but hey – at least there’s a reminder around your wrist of a party that you are (presumably) already registered for.  Great idea … I just signed up for their Alpha.
  15. Games & Puzzles – O’Reilly had a few marketing pieces in the bag, including a card about the Graphing Social Patterns event in DC (I need to get on the speaking roster for that) and a cute little book including games and puzzles you can play … a good idea considering the long lines to get into some of these parties.
  16. Made to Stick Chapters – Chip and Dan Heath are selling individual chapters of their book Made to Stick with the tagline, "If you can buy pie by the slice, why not a book by the chapter?"  They have a URL (www.randomhouse.com/madetostick), where there will be doing the selling.  I would love to get some numbers from them after this promo about whether there is an appetite among people to buy just a chapter of a book at a time.  For readers, is this like buying one song from an album (which makes sense), or like buying one verse of a song (which doesn’t)?
  17. Metanotes – I usually throw away the notepads that you get in bags like this, but Metanotes looked a bit more interesting because on their notepads they have an area for followup and another for tagging your notes. 
  18. The People Powered Party – The one party that I am most excited about is Sunday evening at a co-sponsored party hosted by Moo, Timbuk2, Etsy and Threadless.  Ironically, all 4 are sites that I researched for the book and three of them are actually in the book.  I’ll be at this party talking to all of them and sharing details about the book, and hopefully doing a blog post afterwards.
  19. BeThree Site Launch – In a nicely designed card, the site launch of BeThree promised to deliver on mind, body and soul.  Looks to be a female focused lifestyle social network.  Tagline: "BeThree. Finally … Where Hip Meets Health."
  20. Emma Email Marketing – I have always liked emma’s branding when it comes to selling their services for email.  It’s a tough and crowded market, and they are doing a great job of standing out.  They have an extremely well written card in the bag, which features lines like: "Can Emma help your business? Find out by visiting www.myemma.com and mention SXSW to receive $50 off your brand new Emma account. It’s our way of saying, ‘Hey, you were at SXSW. That’s cool. Maybe we can go bowling sometime." We’re surprisingly good bowlers, that’s all." They are also planting trees at SXSW (great relation to email marketing versus snail mail).  Follow their progress at www.myemma.com/sxsw.
  21. Animoto – In a small square card, Animoto promises "the end of slideshows" – which is an intriguing enough claim that I will likely go and check out the site.  Mission accomplished.  To get a free video credit, enter the code "sxsw08"
  22. MIT Technology Review – Is running an interesting subscription drive.  Get your first issue for free – www.trsub.com/conf
  23. BrightQube – An image library sort of site that promises to make it easy to browse images to find the one you want.  Doesn’t look like they bring in photos from istockphoto.com though.
  24. DirectTV – Put a packet of playing cards in the big bag.  Not sure I get the strategic idea behind this, as opposed to just putting in a giveaway that people might actually use more often.
  25. Everywhere Magazine – In addition to free copies of Wired, Fast Company, Popular Science, Create Magazine, there was also an interesting new travel publication called Everywhere which features user generated content that is voted on by the community.  I’ll be joining the site as well and definitely doing a longer blog post about it at some point in the future.

Otherwise, stay tuned for lots more marketing thoughts from SXSW tomorrow.  YAWN … good night.

18 thoughts on “SXSW Swag: 25 Marketing Ideas From The Big Bags”

  1. So now that you’ve selected the 25 products you are keeping in your bag, how many of them do you actually go and visit their website? I like Dentyne, but I don’t know if I would remember to go to a computer and look up the band they are promoting… unless I like the band.

    Reply
  2. So now that you’ve selected the 25 products you are keeping in your bag, how many of them do you actually go and visit their website? I like Dentyne, but I don’t know if I would remember to go to a computer and look up the band they are promoting… unless I like the band.

    Reply
  3. Hi Rohit,

    Thanks so much for including BrightQube in your review of SXSW Big Bags. We’re really pleased that you found our insert interesting and noteworthy. We just recently launched our site and are seeing good response from designers, creative agencies and image buyers.

    To further expand on your comments, we do offer over 1.5 million microstock images for purchase, just not from istockphoto, but rather from our partner Dreamstime, another microstock agency. We also offer more than a million premium stock photos from over 40 agencies, including Getty Images, Corbis, Jupiter and dozens of niche collections, creating one of the largest stock photo marketplaces online.

    Our innovative interface puts the user in front of all the images relevant to their search results in a pageless dynamic mosaic, on which they can zoom, pan and click to reveal larger images along with details and pricing. It’s like Google Maps meets a lighttable of slides meets Kayak.com meets Zillow.com, albeit in an online marketplace for digital media currently focusing on stock photography.

    Feel free to visit us at http://www.brightqube.com and see how we are changing the way the world finds images.

    All the best,
    Lee Corkran,
    Founder and CEO,
    BrightQube

    Reply
  4. Hi Rohit,

    Thanks so much for including BrightQube in your review of SXSW Big Bags. We’re really pleased that you found our insert interesting and noteworthy. We just recently launched our site and are seeing good response from designers, creative agencies and image buyers.

    To further expand on your comments, we do offer over 1.5 million microstock images for purchase, just not from istockphoto, but rather from our partner Dreamstime, another microstock agency. We also offer more than a million premium stock photos from over 40 agencies, including Getty Images, Corbis, Jupiter and dozens of niche collections, creating one of the largest stock photo marketplaces online.

    Our innovative interface puts the user in front of all the images relevant to their search results in a pageless dynamic mosaic, on which they can zoom, pan and click to reveal larger images along with details and pricing. It’s like Google Maps meets a lighttable of slides meets Kayak.com meets Zillow.com, albeit in an online marketplace for digital media currently focusing on stock photography.

    Feel free to visit us at http://www.brightqube.com and see how we are changing the way the world finds images.

    All the best,
    Lee Corkran,
    Founder and CEO,
    BrightQube

    Reply
  5. Hi Rohit!

    It was great meeting you at SXSW. I was just going through my swag bags myself and thinking about what makes for good swag.

    Bad swag: Stuff that may look cool but later makes you go, “Why did I pick this up? It’s not worth putting in my suitcase.” A lot of companies had buttons, but really, who wears buttons for another company? I know a few people with backpacks decked out with pins and stuff, but rarely do they promote other brands — even if they are Google. Cutesy toys and keychains can easily fall into this category.

    Good swag: Stuff that people will keep and use. I kept the ear plugs from one company, the guitar picks, the wheat grass tin, the magazines… Few people will probably see me use them, though — at least in a way that they can see the name.

    Great swag: Stuff that people will keep and use in ways that others will see. The luggage tag was one of the best pieces of cheap swag that I saw. The one I came with went missing in transit, so it was very useful — and there are a lot of people at airports who probably at least saw the new one. Bags and t-shirts can also be great swag — if they’re done right and aren’t so ugly or ad-ish that people don’t want to use them. (Also, make sure that shirts are available in smaller sizes and figure-flattering cuts.)

    And of course, the best way to market is to meet them in person and share some wings and margaritas, then tell them about an upcoming book.

    Reply
  6. Hi Rohit!

    It was great meeting you at SXSW. I was just going through my swag bags myself and thinking about what makes for good swag.

    Bad swag: Stuff that may look cool but later makes you go, “Why did I pick this up? It’s not worth putting in my suitcase.” A lot of companies had buttons, but really, who wears buttons for another company? I know a few people with backpacks decked out with pins and stuff, but rarely do they promote other brands — even if they are Google. Cutesy toys and keychains can easily fall into this category.

    Good swag: Stuff that people will keep and use. I kept the ear plugs from one company, the guitar picks, the wheat grass tin, the magazines… Few people will probably see me use them, though — at least in a way that they can see the name.

    Great swag: Stuff that people will keep and use in ways that others will see. The luggage tag was one of the best pieces of cheap swag that I saw. The one I came with went missing in transit, so it was very useful — and there are a lot of people at airports who probably at least saw the new one. Bags and t-shirts can also be great swag — if they’re done right and aren’t so ugly or ad-ish that people don’t want to use them. (Also, make sure that shirts are available in smaller sizes and figure-flattering cuts.)

    And of course, the best way to market is to meet them in person and share some wings and margaritas, then tell them about an upcoming book.

    Reply
  7. Great feedback! At first I really liked the chinese take out box idea, but when I read Meg’s comment, I totally agree! You really DO want things that are going to keep your company in the forefront of your customer’s minds. Luggage Tags or Spotters are a great idea. We did a promotion a while back with this luggage spotter handle, and honestly it was the best promotion we did! The Executive Advertising was where we got them, and I know we will be back for more.

    Reply
  8. Great feedback! At first I really liked the chinese take out box idea, but when I read Meg’s comment, I totally agree! You really DO want things that are going to keep your company in the forefront of your customer’s minds. Luggage Tags or Spotters are a great idea. We did a promotion a while back with this luggage spotter handle, and honestly it was the best promotion we did! The Executive Advertising was where we got them, and I know we will be back for more.

    Reply
  9. The way to discover and use the best tips to develop your email marketing campaign is to start off with what you already know and then just keep on testing everything in your email campaigns. Both, other people’s best email marketing tips and also your own ideas.

    Reply
  10. The way to discover and use the best tips to develop your email marketing campaign is to start off with what you already know and then just keep on testing everything in your email campaigns. Both, other people’s best email marketing tips and also your own ideas.

    Reply
  11. Hi Rohit, great blog! I missed SXSW this year but looking forward to attending in 2009. Interesting to read feedback on customized promotional gifts. I specialize in them and actually blog about promotional gift giving / advise and great ROI products. It’s always nice to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

    Reply
  12. Hi Rohit, great blog! I missed SXSW this year but looking forward to attending in 2009. Interesting to read feedback on customized promotional gifts. I specialize in them and actually blog about promotional gift giving / advise and great ROI products. It’s always nice to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

    Reply

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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.

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