Brand Watch: SXSW 2012

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From its humble roots in 1992 as a regional festival for musicians in Austin Texas, South by South West, now twenty years old, has emerged as a mixed platform for independent directors and musicians by embracing emerging media and developing culture. In that way, the brand of South by South West, SXSW, as it is widely known has matriculated into something more than just music festival, it is a breeding ground of thought, a taste maker’s test market for trendsetting, culture reforming ideas and products.

SXSW is where smart, young products meet smart, young consumers.

Hanson, John Mayer and James Blunt are the musical often touted stories of SXSW, by finding eventual fame from pre-conference obscurity. From a branding perspective, these are the pillars of why SXSW remains musically relevant. The conference breaks good musicians by giving them a stage, good movies by giving them responsive audiences.

What most people do not know are the tech stories.  In 2006, SXSW featured a keynote panel of Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark. In 2007, Twitter notably gained a good deal of early traction and buzz and SXSW Interactive.  In 2008, Mark Zuckerberg participated in a keynote interview with tech journalist Sarah Lacy.  SXSW has even precipitated the launch of Foursquare.

SXSBW has done more for the tech industry than most tech niche specific conventions.

The brand of SXSW has grown tremendously. It has been said that attendance alone has strained network providers such as AT&T due to heavy iPhone usage. In 2009, The Hurt Locker held its US premier at the conference. Conan O’Brien even stops in to promote his new concepts.

Currently, SXSW is more than music or tech or film. It is a promise of emerging artists, revolutionary products and genius-level ideas. That promise permeates the conference at every level.

In 20 years, SXSW has broke records, birthed spin-offs and grew million dollar companies.

That’s brand power.

– Deeon