Mobilisms Labs: Chevy @ SXSW 2010 – Location-based Engagement

SXSWLogo

This past spring we worked with our client Chevrolet to re-envision the concept of a sponsorship.  In a world with multi-million-dollar stadium naming rights, athlete shoe endorsements and primetime television buys, Chevy wanted to bring something different to the SXSW experience.  And, it started there – with an experience.  That theme guided every decision and ran through every program tactic at the conference.  It also influenced how Chevy experimented with technology – which the brand recognized as an opportunity to surprise and engage the tech-savvy and trend-savvy crowd that congregates at SXSW.

GowallaJoshYouTubeGrab

The mobile execution focused on using those technologies to create an experience or to enable or enhance one.  Most of the technologies we used then are quickly becoming mainstream.  From the use of QR codes to make a connection to mobile information, to location-based services that can engage and give the brand an opportunity to interact with people.

Chevy’s SXSW Gowalla Experiment
One of the technologies we used last year isGowalla. The goal for the Gowalla program, and much of Chevrolet’s presence there, was to bring something to the attendee experience that wouldn’t be there otherwise.  To experiment with a “what-if” attitude that brought forward new technologies and new ways to engage to let the community decide what they liked, what they didn’t and how to improve it.

Airport Pop-up

The Chevrolet Gowalla program included the following elements.

  • A welcome message when passengers arrived and checked in at the Austin airport.
  • A special offer for a select few who checked in, offering them a free ride to their hotel in an awaiting Chevrolet.
  • Specific location markers in the game for the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge and the Chevy Ride & Drive spot.
  • A unique item that could be found in the game and redeemed for a Hot Wheels Camaro or Corvette at the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge in the convention center.
  • A Chevy Walking Trip of select Austin landmarks that show Austin’s unique culture, which upon completion of the trip was also redeemable for a Hot Wheels car at the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge.

What we Learned

Since this was a first for all of us, there were a lot of unknowns when we began the program.  And I can say that we’ve just scratched the surface on the implications of these technologies for brands.

  • We showed that a big brand can integrate into consumers’ lives in a relevant way
    • We didn’t force users to embrace the technology, instead we created an experience by plugging into technologies that the community was already using
  • We were able to create something fun for users to do (free rides from the airport, downtown walking tour, collecting items) which made it an experience, rather than just a message
  • We learned that these applications can drive people from one location to another with a specific call to action (offering a redeemableitem at one location for completing the walking trip or finding a game item at another location)
  • Word of mouth helped spread news of the program organically, supplementing blog posts about the program on SXSW.com
  • We mapped anonline/mobile experience to an offline experience with a genuine pay-off for the participant

In the end, we were able to learn about the opportunities these platforms hold for brands and their value in extending a mobile, online experience offline where a transaction can take place.  We will take these learnings into account as we plan and build next year’s SXSW location-based experience.

GowallaCatchAChevy

By the numbers

In all, we learned a lot from the program, and it generally reflected well on the brand.  Some of the hard metrics include:

  • Several hundred people saw the Chevy welcome message when they checked in at the airport
  • 40+ people completed the downtown walking trip – putting it among the top most-completed trips on Gowalla at the time
  • Close to 75 Hot Wheels cars were redeemed at the Volt Recharge Lounge
  • 730 check-ins by446 people at the Volt Recharge Lounge – second most check-ins behind the SXSW badge pick-up location

While the numbers in aggregate tell one story, the overall message is that a brand can use these channels to engage in a way that people appreciate.  With more access, greater integration and new offers, these numbers will rise.

GowallaWalkingTour

Conclusion
Location provides a third dimension to social media that will continue to heat up over the next several months.  In that time, we’ll also see a huge push by the wireless industry to increase the speed and ubiquity of their networks.  This will bring more access at greater speeds over phones that continue to become the center of a consumer’s lifestyle.  The GPS capabilities of these phones that will fuel the mobile-social firestorm will also likely go through a firestorm of their own for security and privacy reasons.  But through it all these mobile applications will continue to be the bridge between online and offline social interactions – both for individual consumers and the brands that are trying to reach them.

(Originally posted on Mobilisms.com)

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