Leverage Gets Tangled in EAST Austin Studio Tour

One of the best parts about the Leverage office’s location in East Austin is its proximity to some great spaces for creativity. Within a two-block radius we have dance studios, co-working spaces, artist collectives, and a bakery whose cupcakes, some of us would argue, are works of art. We’re also in a part of town that sees a lot of participation during the annual EAST Austin Studio Tour, and we’re happy to announce that this year, we’re getting involved.

From 11am-6pm on November 11-12 and 18-19, Leverage will host a temporary exhibition featuring the works of Nicole Anderson and Polina Novozhenets. The two local artists have very different styles, but they’ve chosen the theme Tanglescapes to tie together their collections of abstract paintings, drawings, and mixed media art.

Nicole explained that she came up with the theme Tanglescapes because she and Polina share a meditative, reflective relationship with their art practice. “Because thought patterns can often be dense, complex, and ultimately, tangled, both our works had this same visual element in common,” she told us. Polina agreed that both their works have a meditative quality, and added that their art shares a sense of inviting the viewer to get lost inside it.

The Water Buffalo by Nicole Anderson

Green on Linen by Polina Novozhenets

What is the EAST Austin Studio Tour?

EAST Austin Studio Tour is a self-guided art event that takes place every year across two weekends in November. It’s free and open to the public, and attendees are encouraged to walk or bike to any of the 450+ participating venues that interest them. Tour stops include permanent galleries, temporary exhibitions, private artists’ studios, and even local library branches. You can check out a map and online catalog with all the tour stops here. The Leverage Marketing office is #441!

Why Should You Go?

If you live in the Austin area and have never checked out the EAST Austin Studio Tour, it’s about time you change that. This massive event gives you a chance to view the work of hundreds of local artists working in mediums including painting, photography, sculpture, collage, and more. Some tour stops offer a rare glimpse into an artist’s home workspace, while others give you the opportunity to step through the doors of local galleries and businesses you might not have discovered otherwise.

Nicole described the EAST Austin Studio Tour, which she’s attended every year since she’s lived in Austin, as having a warm, friendly atmosphere and representing artful Southern hospitality at its best. Polina told us that EAST is a true hub of artist activity in Austin, and it’s a great way for artists and non-artists alike to plug into what’s happening in the area.

Many of the tour stops include artwork and handmade gifts for sale, and there are also lots of stops hosting special live events during the tour. Our two visiting artists will be creating new paintings at our office from 2-3pm each Saturday and raffling the finished pieces off to attendees. We’ll also have snacks and wine available throughout the event, and Nicole and Polina’s artwork will be displayed throughout our office. Some of their pieces will be for sale.

We hope to see you during the tour—stop in, chat with us, and enjoy the work of our guest artists.

Check out some of Polina’s art here.

And check out Nicole’s portfolio here.

Brand Marketing at SXSW: How to Make Your Brand Stand Out

South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media and music conferences that take place in Austin, Texas. With increasing attendance and new attention-grabbing tech displays each year, brands struggle to get noticed at SXSW. How can your brand bring a unique experience to SXSW that translates into something unforgettable? It’s increasingly difficult to get noticed when every consumer-facing company gives out free swag, throws parties with free beer, and shows off the latest technology.

SXSW is known for helping to launch Foursquare and Twitter, and the conference regularly screens excellent films and television shows, many of which go on to great acclaim. Marketing at SXSW is an increasingly complicated endeavor, as getting noticed above all the buzz is difficult enough. Brands struggle to tie in product releases, navigate consumer trends, and figure out how to draw attendees to their events.

While every SXSW is different, last year some successful brand activations made their mark on attendees and marketers. Creating SXSW marketing that stands out sometimes means doing something a little different than what everyone else is doing (or what you think they’re going to do).

Each of these SXSW brand activations highlights a unique aspect of their product and communicates that to the audience—something every brand needs to do. While you may be successful by just following the current marketing trends– whether that’s virtual reality, make-your-own soda, or just giving out free stuff—doing something that conveys your signature SXSW brand image will likely be more successful.

American Greetings

american greeting sxsw branding

credit: @mullenloweus

It might seem odd for a greeting card company to even come to SXSW, let alone do a brand activation. But American Greetings wanted to disrupt the mold of disruptive digital technology by bringing in the analog. Their three-day 2016 promotion was entitled #Analog and allowed festivalgoers to do DIY printmaking and pop-up cards. They could learn letter-making techniques from an American Greetings artist, fill in a coloring book mural, and even get a selfie stitched with thread. American Greetings’ message is not to say that digital communication is not important or analog can replace digital communication, but rather that they’re complementary. Many people don’t slow down to send paper cards, and American Greetings’ SXSW marketing message is that analog still matters, and we should slow down to appreciate it.

Suicide Squad

Another unique brand activation at SXSW 2016 was Suicide Squad’s tattoo salon. Although the movie didn’t come out until Summer 2016, Warner Brothers started promoted it early through this special Harley Quinn-inspired experiential marketing. Instead of just doing a sneak peek of the film, Warner Bros transformed Affinity Tattoo and Body Piercing into Harley Quinn’s Tattoo Parlor—and offered free real (and temporary) tattoos. This brand activation got people excited about the film, created a unique SXSW marketing angle, and involved artists and fans in an innovative way, without using virtual reality or alternate reality to do so.

Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot, a techie show that launched at the 2015 SXSW festival and won the SXSW Audience Award, wanted to come back in 2016 and make a splash. The show’s marketing team figured there was no better way to do way to do that than to bring their iconic “Wonder Wheel” Ferris wheel to Austin. In one of the largest SXSW brand activations to date, USA Network designed the Ferris wheel to look like the Coney Island Wheel in the show, complete with nearby carnival games. The Mr. Robot cast and crew even visited SXSW to pay homage to the success the festival helped them garner—and of course, see the Wonder Wheel in real life. By creating SXSW branding that directly references the television show and allows the audience to experience a piece of their world—Mr. Robot succeeded in their SXSW marketing.


If you have a smartphone, you’ve probably heard of Mophie. They make external batteries and cases to charge your favorite devices. As you can imagine, at SXSW, battery life gets eaten up pretty quickly. Between all the tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, and interactive brand activations and events, your smartphone may be dead before the day is half over. But Mophie is here to rescue you—with adorable St. Bernards. At 2016’s SXSW, Mophie partnered with the National St. Bernard Foundation, Glympse, and a motorcycle company to bring you a fresh phone battery when festivalgoers needed it. If someone tweeted using the hashtag #mophieRescue, the company would send one of its fleet of St. Bernards straight to them with a Mophie battery pack to charge up. This cute SXSW brand marketing makes Mophie look good, helps people out, and helps a good cause—dog rescues.

The Takeaway

SXSW is a brand marketing war. There are hundreds, if not thousands of different companies competing for attention from festivalgoers and consumers. Many companies try using the tried and true techniques of giving out free swag, throwing parties, and utilizing the latest technology trends. But these aren’t enough to truly make your product or company memorable. Take note of the uniqueness of the SXSW branding campaigns mentioned in this article—they all did something that was integral to their brand identity and helped their core audience in some way. If you can harness this mentality for your SXSW marketing, you can succeed in the crowded marketplace.

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Unofficial & Free SXSW Interactive Events 2016 [UPDATED]

Austin’s massive South by Southwest conference may be known as a celebration of all things music, film, and tech, but it’s also a popular event for those who work in digital marketing. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the latest marketing tech and trends, meet other marketing professionals, and get inspired for your next campaign.

There are plenty of great marketing-related events you can attend at SXSW, even if you don’t want to shell out $1000+ for an official badge, but these unofficial events are getting harder to find. To help you navigate the conference, we’ve put together a list of free SXSW interactive events that we think will appeal to our fellow digital marketers.

Keep checking back: new SXSW events are being announced every day, and we’ll add new marketing-related events as we learn about them.

Pre-SXSW Startup Crawl

When: Thursday, March 10, 5pm-10pm

Where: Capital Factory, 701 Brazos St, Austin, TX 78701

What: The annual SXSW startup crawl isn’t technically just an event for marketers, but it’s always a big draw for professionals in the marketing space. Attendees take complimentary shuttles around town to visit different startup workplaces, network, and enjoy free food, drinks, and games. More info.

Freelancer Friday SXSW Breakfast

When: Friday, March 11, 10AM-12PM

Where: Contently SXSW HQ, 1120 Navasota St, Austin, TX 78702

What: Does your marketing company work with freelance content producers? If so, you may want to come meet some of the creative freelancers who will be in town for SXSW at this free breakfast hosted by Contently. More info.

Spredfast Social Suite Lounge

When: Friday, March 11 – Sunday, March 13, 10AM-6PM

Where: Spredfast HQ, 200 W Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78701

What: Social management company Spredfast is returning to SXSW with their Social Suite Lounge, where conference attendees can rest, enjoy food and drinks, charge their phones, and network in a relaxed environment. The suite is invite-only, and you’ll need to email [email protected] to get on their list. More info.

The Oslo Lounge

When: Friday, March 11-Tuesday, March 15, 11AM-8PM

Where: Brass House, 115 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin, TX

What: During the day (11AM-4PM), the Oslo Lounge will be an open workspace with coffee and WiFi, so drop in with your coworkers if you’re interested in getting out of the office for a meeting or brainstorming session. After 4, the Lounge will host panel talks on creative industries, presentations from tech companies out of Oslo, and even something called the Nordic Startup Pitch Battle. More info.

Drupal Drop In

When: Saturday, March 12, 12PM-3PM

Where: The Roof Deck at Maggie Mae’s, 512 Trinity St, Austin, TX 78701

What: Drupal, a web content management system company, is hosting a meetup for executives, digital marketers, and developers, whether they’re already using the Drupal platform or are just interested in learning more about it. The rooftop party will feature live music, free food and drinks, and a great view of 6th Street. More info.

Mobile Marketing Meetup with Mobile Dev Memo

When: Saturday, March 12, 4PM-7PM

Where: The Brixton, 1412 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702

What: Network with fellow mobile marketers while enjoying an open bar, food, and music. This looks like it’s going to be a very popular event, so contact the organizer to get on the wait list if you’re interested in attending. More info.

The CMO Clubhouse

When: Saturday, March 12 – Sunday, March 13, all day

Where: 515 Congress Ave, Suite 2420, Austin, TX 78701

What: The CMO Clubhouse is billed as a “two day oasis” where marketing executives can build relationships with peers, host meetings, enjoy refreshments, attend CMO round tables, and more. If you’re a content marketing executive, you can request a pass for this event now. More info.

SXSW Job Market

When: Saturday, March 12 – Sunday, March 13, 10AM-5PM

Where: Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 1

What: If you’re a digital marketer in search of new career opportunities, or if your agency has been looking for new job candidates, you’ll want to attend the SXSW Job Market. In addition to connecting employers with prospective candidates, this event will also include talks on talent acquisition from industry leaders. You can attend for free—you just need to pick up a SXSW guest pass. More info.

SXSW Health Communication Networking Coffee

When: Sunday, March 13, 8AM-9AM

Where: The Moody Theater, 310 W Willie Nelson Blvd, Austin, TX 78701

What: This one’s kind of a niche event, but if you’re a digital marketer with clients in the healthcare industry, you won’t want to miss it. The meetup is hosted by the Center for Health Communication at UT Austin and will include free breakfast tacos and coffees. This is a smaller event with limited space, so you’ll need to RSVP by March 9th if you want to go. More info.

IAB@SXSW Sunday Brunch

When: Sunday, March 13

Where: Location TBA with invite

What: Digital marketing insights company eMarketer is teaming up with SmartBrief and Blast PR for what they describe as a low-key brunch, where marketers can mingle and have conversations with leaders in online advertising. This is an invite-only event, so it’s likely to be more intimate than a lot of the other free SXSW events. You can request an invite on the eMarketer site now. More info.


TechBreakfast Showcase 2016

When: Sunday, March 13, 9AM-1PM

Where: Crave, 340 E 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

What: This event gives attendees a chance to see 25 speed demos of emerging technology while enjoying a free breakfast from Crave. Spots are limited, so register ASAP. More info.

Mobile Future’s #MobileRitas Brunch

When: Sunday, March 13, 11AM-1PM

Where: Chupacabra Cantina, 400 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

What: The SXSW Sunday brunches continue with #MobileRitas, which is hosted by Mobile Future, an association of tech and communications companies that are invested in wireless innovations. Sounds like another good event for mobile marketers. More info.

ProductTank Meetup

When: Sunday, March 13, 2PM-5PM

Where: 520 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

What: This meetup is geared at product managers who work in the mobile and web industries, but it could also be a great opportunity for online marketers to meet some of the people who build useful marketing tools. It’s also an opportunity to enjoy free beers on the patio of Little Woodrow’s. More info.

Tech.Co’s Startup Celebration

When: Sunday, March 13, 8PM-11PM

Where: Maggie Mae’s, 323 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

What: Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail) is hosting an event that seeks to bring together technology enthusiasts (including digital marketers) with good music and complimentary drinks. Spots are limited, so RSVP now. More info.

The Big Data You Didn’t Know You Have

When: Thursday, March 10, 6PM-8PM

Where: Leverage Marketing Office, 2400 E. Cesar Chavez, Ste. 300, Entrance in the courtyard behind Juniper restaurant.

What: A free interactive seminar that reviews online tools (most of them free) to analyze global trends, user behaviors and more. Learn how to Leverage this insightful data to get the most out of your digital marketing efforts. Q & A with experts and foosball tournament with refreshments to follow. Limited to 40 seats. RSVP with your name, company and role to [email protected] to request a spot.

Know of any free SXSW events for digital marketers that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

How to Network Amidst the Chaos of SXSW

South by Southwest is one part music and film festival, one part tech conference, and ten parts crazy carnival. Austin’s biggest annual event gives artists, entrepreneurs, and innovators opportunities to attend panels by industry leaders, head to tightly packed bars to see buzz bands, and race to networking events that promise free BBQ (often all in the course of a single day).

SXSW, which lasts for a week and a half, can be overwhelming, distracting, and exhausting—so how do people who are serious about networking get the most out of this large-scale conference? I spoke with six professionals who will be at SXSW this year in order to get their take.

Have a Game Plan

Because SXSW is so large and has events spread out all over the city, it’s almost impossible to go into it cold. David. J. Neff, a professional speaker, author, and founder of Lights, Camera, Help, recognizes the importance of finding order in the chaos. He notes that everyone attending is “trying to learn, network, pitch their crazy startup ideas, meet up with the one person in the world who’s into exactly what they’re into… [so] the best thing you can do ahead of time is sit down and plan.”

Josh Miles, Motion Director for the Seattle-based Killer Infographics, will be attending SXSW for the first time this year and has put a lot of thought into the sessions and events he’s going to attend. He says that he and KIG’s co-founder Amy Balliet are “booked solid” and that they’ve made a plan to split up to cover more ground, “focusing on different sessions so that [they] can bring back as much new knowledge as possible to share with [their] office.”

Leave Room for Spontaneity

A certain amount of planning is key, but it can also be valuable to leave time for chance meetings—after all, you never know who you might run into at SXSW. Luke Wallace, Market Research Associate at the software review company, Software Advice, says that he tries not to overschedule himself during the conference. He recommends that attendees “go to the meet-ups in addition to talks and be open to impromptu conversations with unlikely people in unlikely places.”

While Josh and Amy from Killer Infographics are attending a lot of sessions, they also plan to spend time at some of the SXSW lounges, such as the Mashable House and the Miller Lite Lounge, where they’ll likely encounter plenty of other conference-goers recovering from more structured events.

Don’t Get Distracted

For veteran SX-goer David Neff, avoiding unnecessary distractions is crucial. “Don’t get distracted by the 7,000 people giving out free keychains on the street,” he warns first-time attendees. While there are hundreds of official and unofficial events and giveaways that pop up during SXSW, he recommends that attendees focus on attending the events they’re truly interested in. That way, they’ll meet like-minded individuals who could become valuable professional connections.

Look for One-on-One Opportunities

Huge crowds are a common sight at SXSW, but almost everyone I spoke to attested to the value of having more personal, one-on-one conversations with the people you really want to talk to. Luke recommends reaching out to the people you want to talk to ahead of time over email. “You’re more likely to present yourself well if you (and they) aren’t caught off guard,” he says. “And they’re more likely to recognize you if you share, pre-event, your hopes to meet them.”

Matt Forcey, Senior Account Executive at Marin Software, takes a similar approach. He recommends scheduling meetings in advance, and adds, “Be patient and remember that those with whom you’d like to connect likely have competing priorities.”

If you aren’t able to have as in-depth a conversation as you like during SXSW, don’t let that dissuade you. David points out that it can be challenging to get time alone with people during SXSW, so it’s worth getting in touch after the conference and scheduling a follow-up meeting.

Start Conversations

Even if you’re not someone who would normally strike up a conversation with a stranger, SXSW is a time to get out of your comfort zone. “Don’t be a wallflower at networking events,” Matt Forcey reminds us. “Everyone is there to meet people.”

Leverage Marketing’s Director of Client Services, Thy Ta Hooks, emphasizes starting real conversations with people and not just focusing on the hard sell for your products or services. She says that if you start out asking typical questions, like ‘What do you do?’ and ‘Are you visiting from out of town?, you’ll be able to have a much better conversation than you would if you open with a business pitch. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to avoid your elevator pitch altogether. Thy recommends practicing your positioning statement so that you don’t stumble when someone asks what you do.

Move Around

Ideally, you’ll be able to have more than one or two conversations over the course of an event. Natalie Parra Novosad, Leverage’s Director of Content Strategy, says that sometimes when you’ve been talking to one person for a long time, it’s best to “think of a polite excuse to move on”. That way, you and the person you’ve been talking to with both have the opportunity to meet more people who share your interests.

If there’s a conversation that you’d really like to continue, you can always exchange business cards and make plans to follow up at a later date. “Bring your favorite networking apps (or paper and pencil),” Luke from Software Advice says, “to make sure that you are able to stay in contact with anyone you meet.”

Have Fun

The best networking often happens naturally, not in a stilted conference room environment, so take advantage of all that SXSW has to offer and enjoy yourself. “SXSW is an opportunity to deepen business relationships through a unique shared experience,” Matt Forcey points out. “Make sure you’re creating some stories to share throughout the rest of the year.”

Are you attending SXSW this year? Feel free to reach out to us in the comments—or come up and say hello if you see anyone from Leverage at a SXSW event!

Prepare Your Business for SXSW

$315 million. That’s how much money South by Southwest pumped into the local Austin economy in 2014. Even if you don’t own a retail or hospitality business, SXSW–which runs from March 13th through the 22nd this year– is a great time to network with other business owners, share your idea for a new startup, and increase brand awareness with prospective customers and clients. Unsure how to make the most of the festival? Check out our business prep tips below.

Sponsor an Event

Maybe you have the budget for SXSW marketing but don’t have the venue. Fear not—it’s still possible to promote your business by sponsoring an official event. Festival organizers tailor sponsorship packages based on budget, marketing goals, and target demographics, so fill out a sponsorship contact form to learn what kind of deal you can get.

Hosting an Event? Brush Up on Regulations

SXSW reduced their number of temporary event permits by 25% this year, so if you snagged a permit, that’s great—but it doesn’t mean you have free rein to, say, build a giant wall of speakers and invite bands to play until sunrise. Outdoor venues that are more than 600 feet from residential properties have an amplified sound curfew of 10:30pm Sunday-Wednesday, 11pm Thursday, and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Any outdoor venues less than 600 feet from residential properties need to unplug by 8pm Sunday-Thursday and 10pm on Friday and Saturday.

If you’re hosting an event at an indoor venue, also keep in mind that building capacity does not automatically increase during SXSW—it’s still based on square footage.

No Badge? You Can Still Network

Your business doesn’t need to have a huge budget or an approved music venue to benefit from South By. Even if you don’t want to spring for a $1000+ festival badge (we don’t blame you), you can still attend plenty of free networking events. Here are a few that we’ve found:

  • Pre-SXSW Startup Crawl: This pub-style crawl between downtown startups had more than 50 host companies and 24,000 registered crawlers last year, and it promises to be even bigger this year. Several of our Leverage team members will be there—come say hi if you attend. The event takes place March 12th from 5-10 pm; you can register here.
  • SX Create 2015: This weekend tech showcase at the Long Center is for anyone who considers themselves a ‘creator, maker, hacker, or enabler of these types’. Even if you don’t work directly in the tech industry, it’s a good opportunity to meet people who could help you grow your business. Learn more here, and attend any time from 11am-6pm, March 13-15.
  • Tech Cocktail’s Startup Celebration: This is another opportunity to network with tech innovators in a laid back setting (Maggie Mae’s, on 6th Street). The free event takes place from 7pm-11pm on March 15th. Register here.

More free networking events will be announced the closer we get to SXSW, so keep checking MeetUp, Do512, and Eventbrite to find the ones that are best for you and your business.

Carry the Essentials

If you’re planning to run around town to different networking events during South By, make sure you pack/wear your survival kit:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Clothing for all weather
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Portable phone charger or extra batteries
  • Up-to-date business cards
  • Your polished elevator pitch (you never know who you’ll meet)

Strengthen Your Online Reputation before SXSW

One thing that many local businesses overlook when preparing for SXSW is their online reputation. This is especially important if you own a restaurant or store in the downtown area—many festival attendees will be checking Yelp, Urbanspoon, Google+, and other online review sources to decide where to go, and a few prominent negative reviews may be enough to dissuade them. In fact, research shows that even a 1 star difference in online reviews can affect a business’s revenue by 5-9%.

So what can you do? Claim your business’s Google+ profile, if you haven’t already. Make sure you’ve updated all your business’s social media channels and your personal LinkedIn profile. Respond positively to any negative reviews, potentially offering a concrete solution to problems that past customers have voiced. Highlight positive reviews on your website and in your ad campaigns. If all of this sounds overwhelming, contact Leverage Marketing—we’d be glad to help you build and maintain a positive online reputation.