[email protected] 2019: Experiential experiments and the influencer economy

by Katherine Vasilos ([email protected]) 352 views 

Editor’s note: CJRW’s team of professionals will be providing Talk Business & Politics a daily roundup of activity from this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. The reporting crew consists of:

Wade McCune – Creative Director
Brian Kratkiewicz – Director of Media and Innovation
Chris Ho – Director of Digital and Interactive Services
Katherine Vasilos – Account Executive
Josh Walker – CJRW Digital Content Writer

It’s that time again. The streets are alive with an endless flow of creatives, marketing gurus, movie stars — even presidential hopefuls — all vying for attention during the biggest digital conference of them all. Yep, it’s SXSW, and we’re in Austin to bring you the best sessions and insights from this year’s event. Today, we heard about creating real-life user experiences and the ins and outs of the “influencer economy.” Follow along all week as we take you through the details from SXSW 2019.

At day one of SXSW in Austin, TX, Kristina Monllos, brands editor at Adweek, led a panel with Trevor Guthrie and Marc Simons, co-founders of Giant Spoon advertising. They discussed the firm’s creation of HBO’s SXSWestworld experience at last year’s conference. The activation promoted the second season of the network’s hit show Westworld. Giant Spoon built Westworld Park in Maynard, TX, an old ghost town, 22 miles outside of Austin.

Members of the media, influencers and SXSW attendees were invited to the immersive SXSWestworld experience and shuttled out to the site where they were free to explore the replica western town. The agency created 440 pages of script for 60+ characters, played by actors who interacted with the visitors. Conference-goers waited up to eight hours in line to attend the experience.

Guthrie said, “Experiential activations like SXSWestworld do a better job of engaging and immersing thought leaders and influencers in the brand than any other form of media or promotion. They help to move consumers through the purchase funnel, from awareness to purchase, much faster.” Simons discussed the fact that consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Zs, don’t want “things” these days. They want experiences.

It’s now common knowledge that follower count isn’t the sole metric for a company to use when identifying a social media influencer. Kendall Sargeant with Revolve Clothing claims that today’s consumers are “authenticity experts” and follower counts cannot be the only reason a company hires someone to promote their product on social media channels.

Consumers are in control. Influencers are sales drivers because they have engagement from social communities who want to support them. So, how do you identify an influencer for your business? Learn to appreciate all the ROIs from influencers — sales, engagement, brand awareness. And value talent that has multiple tools for reaching people — not just a 20K+ Instagram following — tools like email lists, high-traffic blogs and YouTube channels.

Will influencer campaigns continue to drive sales in today’s economy? Yes. And, Sargeant says, it’s important to continually evaluate content and fine-tune your influencer network. Stay true to brand. Build organic relationships with influencers — the consumer will see that.

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