Just What the Heck Is the SXSW 'Digital Swag Bag?'
South by Southwest is really the preeminent brand experience for people looking for free stuff. Every band, as well as every brand under the sun, in virtually every industry imaginable, is trying to get their name out there among the impressionable youth and decision makers of tomorrow. The internet’s loudest and most persistent voices.
Giving them a product that they like and introducing them to your business or art could be enough to launch your status into the upper echelon of your industry.
This year, it didn’t get to happen, as the festival was called off due to the pandemic.
But, going forward, SXSW won't be abandoning its creative and commercial partners and the ecosystem of brand-building it cultivates in Austin. It’s just doing it a little differently by creating a “Digital Swag Bag,” which is a lot easier to schlep around than a tote bag full of stuff in the Austin heat.
— SXSW (@sxsw) December 1, 2020
“The days of toting a bag full of SXSW keepsakes and souvenirs around a crowded expo hall lives on in the form of direct links, free or discounted product codes and more,” SXSW wrote on its site. “Bringing another piece of your brand directly to attendees makes for the personal touch we are all looking for. Treat your loyal fans and captivate new ones with special offers exclusively to your SXSW Online participation.”
Every in-person event that has had to go digital has found ways to still engage with attendees through products. Sometimes they send products directly to people’s doors. Other times (as we've seen with sports teams), they allow them to pick things up curbside style.
SXSW's plan is sort of like those "gifting suites" that allow end-users to select what they want, rather than being gifted a predetermined product. A company can send a download code or access link, where they can then “shop” for the product they want, thereby removing any risk that the product ends up in the bottom of a junk drawer or landfill. SXSW hasn't yet revealed the product options, but we're sure we'll start hearing about them soon.
When live events return, this practice still might be in place for companies looking to limit waste and reduce dead stock. If you give a person a business card or sticker with an access link, they can then go get whatever product they want, rather than stocking up shelves full of items that may or may not even make it to the desired end-user group.
There will always be a place for promotional items and gifts, but the means of delivering them might just change a little.