Our SXSW 2023 Marketing Recap

Join our team as we reflect on the top marketing takeaways from SXSW 2023 and recap our week in Austin.

Written by
Monique Lorette
September 26, 2023

Last week, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the electrifying atmosphere of Austin’s SXSW. If you spent any time here during the conference, it’s no secret that ChatGPT stole the spotlight. It dominated the discussions from an at-capacity fireside chat with Open AI co-founder Greg Brockman to mentions in sessions on entirely different topics. While last year was all about web3 and crypto, this year seemed dialed back, with similar sentiments from the previous event. Join me as I reflect on the top marketing takeaways from SXSW 2023 and recap my week in Austin.

1. Importance of Community & UGC

With the improvement and accessibility of AI, we’re seeing marketing start to blend together. In the next year, we expect community to be the determining factor for many brands. You’ll see more focus on creating space for your brand’s community to come together, understanding what your customers care about, and utilizing UGC effectively. Brands will need to make their customers part of the story to stand out. Learn more about UGC content in our TikTok Marketing Trends for 2023.

2. Passion Wins Out

Burnout has been an extensive discussion since the pandemic, especially within agencies. Riding the line between working hard and overworking can be challenging. We heard from podcast creator Ashley Flowers about how passion affects motivation. She describes her tireless work ethic without reaching burnout. When you are passionate about your work, while you may be worn out, you’ll never be burnt out. With our stance on only working with brands we’re passionate about, I really loved this session.

3. Brand Over Performance

We’ve heard it since last year, but it was echoed throughout SXSW: brand over performance in 2023. In a session with Indeed CMO Jessica Jensen, we were told this is likely the year of the brand. With performance marketing becoming more segmented and providing less reliable measurement, we’ll see more companies focusing on brand marketing. Honing in on a solid mission statement and excellent creative will go far in this environment. Did I mention we can help you with that through our marketing strategy, branding, & graphic design services?

Overall, there was a clear sense of excitement over ChatGPT, a consensus to focus on branding, and an understanding that we still need to lean on our own intuition and our communities (even as we gain access to more data). But we know SXSW is more than a conference. It’s a week to explore new trends, network, and get inspired. So here are my favorite moments of SXSW 2023:

1. Favorite Giveaway: Koala from Australia House

SXSW comes with a lot of free swag. This one stood out because it was creative, small, fun, memorable, and (I’m guessing) affordable. The Koala clipped right onto your badge lanyard. Everyone I met loved it, and it became quite the talking piece.

2. Favorite Unofficial Event: Camacho 2020fo at Bangers

Impressive PR stunt by the Idiocracy team, especially for an unofficial event announced just a few days in advance. You walked into Bangers and entered a campaign rally complete with cans of Brawndo. They went all out with the branding and even brought out Terry Crews for a speech.

3. Favorite Activation: Roku City

Walking into Roku City felt like stepping into another world. The space was dripping with purple, including the custom jewels placed on my face. The interactive rooms came together with a rooftop lunch requiring advanced OpenTable reservations. Guests enjoyed themed meals from various famous movies and TV shows (the big salad was a hit). This was as immersive and memorable as it gets.

4. Favorite Session: The White Lotus Fireside Chat with Evan Ross Katz and Adam B. Vary.  

I always try to watch the newest White Lotus episode right away because if I don’t, something will get spoiled on social media. It was fascinating to hear the strategies around timely content from true social media experts.

5. Favorite Showcase: Your Grandparents at Higher Ground

I ended the week with a Friday night showcase at the upstairs of Higher Ground. The intimate venue with stained glass windows and sounds of nostalgic r&b and hip hop had the whole crowd on cloud nine. And who wouldn’t love a band with a name like that?

As SXSW 2023 comes to a close, we’re left with a sense of excitement about the future of marketing and the endless possibilities of AI. This year’s event was nothing short of amazing, from the creative swag to the immersive activations and unofficial events. So what was your favorite moment of SXSW 2023?