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InsideFMM | August 4, 2015

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How Luxury and Premium Brands Leveraged SXSW

Warby Parker SXSW 2012Fashion, luxury and beauty brands were in full force this year at SXSW. While brand presence at SXSW is nothing new, this year, luxury and premium brands and retailers dipped their toes in the marketing waters of the largest film, music and interactive conference in the U.S.

Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Warby Parker, Land’s End Canvas, Rae Cosmetics, Lomography, Kate Spade and Bonobos we’re brands that stood out to us this year with their presences at SXSW. Here’s what they did:

Warby Parker

Warby Parker, founded by eye wear maker Neil Blumenthal, hosted Citizen’s Circus, an 18-band music festival curated by legendary music supervisor Randall Poster. Attendees were, of course, able to shop the brand’s sunglasses yurt or get a preview of the amazing eye wear as brand ambassadors biked around downtown Austin, as well as the 6th Street and South Congress areas, wearing the shades. The activity was also extended into the digital space: participants were encouraged to use Instagram and hashtag #WPCircus to showcase events, and the photos were aggregated on their website. Warby Parker SXSW 2012

American Express

American Express, while targeting tech companies, also warmed up to VIP conference attendees by hosting the Amex Sync Show with Jay-Z. The concerted featured a live demo of the company’s new Twitter hashtag promotion (#JAYZsyncshow), which launched a week before the festival. The new promotion allows card members to save when they tweet customized hashtags. Tickets were hard to come by, so even checking into the venue and the event line on Foursquare become a sign of prestige for festival goers.

Land’s End

Land’s End Canvas, something you know that’s I’ve become quite a fan of because of the The Boathouse, made an integrated presence at Texas Style Council this year, surprising bloggers with $15 gift certificates to the website to buy whatever they fashionably wanted. Amidst the mobile fashion apps, Stylebook, Poshmark, Buyosphere, Reward Style and Lyst, that also co-sponsored this event, we think this was a great way for Land’s End to test the blogger and sponsor of SXSW. We have a feeling they’ll have a much larger presence next year.


Lomography Camera Marketing

Lomography was perhaps my most favorite discovery this past festival. For the you that don’t know Lomography is photography company that kicks it old school–they make cameras that use film. Started in Vienna, Austria in the early 1990s, the company started a new style of photography based off of the Russian Camera called the Lomo Kompakt Automatic. The company spawned an international movement that has moved it to have stores in Austin, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. During SXSW, Lomography took a guerilla approach to it’s marketing. The company made its Austin store a community destination for attendees with $10 photography classes, SXSW interactive talks on innovation and creativity, music events and film screenings and camera giveaways.

It also flew its brand executives in to simply move about the city to meet conference attendees. Acting as newsboys, brand executives and employees walked around Austin handing out a printed newspaper that explained who the company was, showcased products, included
a schedule of brand events and offered discounts on SXSW purchases.

Michael Bayr, head of Lomography Online International, shared with me that the “approach yielded the better than expected results” and as a company, it was much smarter strategy than space on the trade show floor. “Connecting with our customers in this manner is much more organic and real,” said Bayr.

Rae Cosmetics

Rae Cosmetics is a local, Austin-based mineral makeup brand that made its sophomore sponsorship of the Texas Style Council with its makeover photo booth. We’re always looking how local companies integrate with big brands and Rae Cosmetics did this flawlessly. Amidst Blowfish, ModCloth and Land’s End Canvas, this amazing company of passionate people took the best photos in all of Texas during the blogger cocktail hour. Good marketing doesn’t have to be overkill, and Rae knows this. By simply providing beautiful content to fashionable attendees, their products and brand are distributed across the web by bloggers, the best content distributors in the digital business.


Men’s online retailer Bonobos was on site this year at SXSW promoting their men’s washable chinos during music and film and extended their #BonobosNation campaign into Austin, Texas. Conference attendees could follow Bonobos on Twitter and meet up with them at local Austin places (like Starbucks) to hook up with fun swag, such as iPhone 4 cases. As an added value, they also sponsored the Fidoo’s fashion and technology panel, offering attendees $30 online gift certificates.

Hey, women aren’t the only ones who should be marketed to online, and given the male dominance in attendees of SXSW, Bonobos clearly knows that tech savvy, music aficionados turned film makers love clothing that’s easy to wear and clean.

Kate Spade

To celebrate the launch of its Florence Broadhurst collaboration, Kate Spade is the latest brand to take the road in a large moving vehicle. The #FloBroTour cross country roadtrip/tour ended this week at SXSW where the brand hosted a live concert with Vivian Girls and announced the winners of its Battle of the Bands. While many in the local music scene felt it was an “odd project for the upper-crust clothier to throw their money into,” Kate Spade won the their indie music filled hearts judging by the responses posted to indie music blogs and Twitter.

Kate Spade SXSW Florence Broadhurst Tour

During its city tours, fans could shop the mobile pop-up, participate in giveaways and Facebook activities (which are beautifully integrated BTW). It’s clear from their online marketing activities, collaborations and real life events that Kate Spade is vying the next cover of Fast Company Magazine as most innovative retailer of the decade.

Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman

This year, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorfs came out of left field with their presence at SXSW. From panels to events, the luxury retailers combined their New York poise with their stylish Texas roots to show that their companies, and their marketing strategies, are not stuck in the dark ages as many luxury retail brands still are.

During SXSW, Bergdorf Goodman social media manager Cannon Hodge spoke about how the company is leveraging social media to connect with its affluent customer base through social media talking about life in New York City. She also revealed the company’s latest digital endeavor, a magazine powered by Zite, which allows users to tailor the content they see from the retailer, during the #TasteGraph panel at SXSW.

Hodge, who doesn’t have a Twitter profile herself because she’s the voice of her brand, takes a very strategic approach to the social networks she leverages in her overall social strategy, citing a close relationship with the company’s digital media group, Morpheus Media, as key to their social success as they explore digital. For those of you still enthralled with Bergdorf’s daring pivot, you can follow them around Austin via Instrgram partaking of the best music events.

Neiman Marcus also made a strong presence during the conference this year, NM Daily editor Jean Scheidnes (assisted by Sarah Bray) spoke on a variety of panels at Style X, Texas Style Council and reported on fashion and technology panels she attended. What’s more, the retailer launched a contest, “NM @ SxSW”, that ran February 9 –17 to find a street style photographer for conference events. The contest could be accessed through the Neiman Marcus Facebook page or on The winner attended all Neiman Marcus SxSW events and the Music portion of the festival, where he or she is charged with capturing stylish photos that can be used on the Neiman Marcus social channels including the Neiman Marcus Facebook page, Twitter account, Tumblr and NMdaily.

“The interactive nature of the SXSW Festival makes it the ideal venue for this challenge,” said Wanda Gierhart, chief marketing officer, Neiman Marcus Group. “The street-style photographer winner will have the opportunity to report on the stylish crowd typically drawn to the events. Fashion has become a larger component of SXSW and we see this as an opportunity to offer our customers a glimpse into the world of emerging style through our blog and social channels.”

What SXSW means for fashion

Gierhart’s sentiments are clearly shared by the retail industry at large as they realize that digital and social interaction are the backbone of any lifestyle vertical. Digital impacts everything we do as retailers these days. Festivals and conferences are just as important as trade shows and fashion week. What this simply means is that trade-only is becoming passe, and direct to consumer marketing through social mediums, as well as events that fit their individual lifestyle will continue to outpace and outweigh the way we used to do things. – Macala Wright, founder of FMM

Photography: Warby Parker BikeWarby Parker CircusLomography SXSW – Kate Spade – Neiman Marcus


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