Picking Apart the SXSW Music Schwag Bag

(Looking at the third of 3 SXSW Gift Bags – One for each festival.)

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The music bag is always the heaviest when it comes to schwag. This year’s was no different. And much of it was just clutter, plain and simple. For instance: tons of tons of CD samplers. I personally am not a fan of them, unless they’re mixed by friends. But I do love the annual Japan Nite CD sampler, which is a great sampling of the Japanese bands that showcase every Friday night of SXSW at the club Elysium.

There was some gum from ubiquitous advertiser Dentyne, who I think covered every possible medium and location during the festival to get their gum out. There was also a sample snack size of Zone Perfect nutrition bars. The pack of playing cards from DirectTV was a nice gesture, but anyone who plays cards religiously could tell right away that they were really cheap.Perhaps the strangest item was from BestofBands.com: some kind of plastic “Casper the Friendly Ghost”-like thing with a blood splatter on its “head.” None of my friends or I could figure out what this thing was. It looks like it has a “tail.” Or is it a cape? Is it supposed to clip on something? Oh well, too vague to maintain any interest. And since it’s an election year there was a Rock the Vote button, but no other call to action on it. No voter registration stations or even a website. Local Austin diner favorite Kerbey Lane included a surprisingly thin pad of Post-It notes, with their website address only. Kerbey is great: it’s one of the few places in town open 24 hours. I feel like this was an opportunity missed.

I liked the intention of Last.fm‘s offering: a small guide to all the bands playing at SXSW. The reason I like the intention is because it’s obvious they wanted to make something kind of useful, but still branded. It’s not a bad strain of logic, but the follow-through really doesn’t hold up at all. A dozen websites do this better (and also link to calendars).

For straight up design aesthetic, no one is doing it better than British Music at SXSW. Under the banner name “British Music Embassy,” the printed guide to all music British was impeccably produced, even down to the details like rounded corners. They did an equally impressive brochure last year as well and once again they’ve done the seemingly impossible- they’ve made a brochure I actually want to read. Cheers to that.The final piece of schwag was the favorite of my group of friends. “Sgt. Solo” from Armed Forces Entertainment. I’m not exactly sure why, because it’s just a green army man figurine with an acoustic guitar instead of, say, a flame thrower. I suppose my friends just liked throwing it at each other or stacking it on top of dishes at restaurants. But a small, completely portable piece of schwag that can break up a few minutes of monotony is always a good idea.

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4 Responses to “Picking Apart the SXSW Music Schwag Bag”


  1. 1 Michael Lombardi March 18, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Wow, what hiddeously vomit-inducing bags! If I didn’t love DirecTV and Last.fm so much, I’d lose respect for them for being in this bag. I’m guessing the poor saps that got stuck in this bag didn’t even know what it was going to look like.

    The contents: eh, not the worst I’ve seen, but certainly not spectacular.

  2. 2 doornumber3 March 18, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    yeah. if my memory serves me correctly, last year’s were much better, esp. the music one designed by david byrne. the music bag also had a hangover kit last year, which was pretty smart.

  3. 3 Michael Lombardi March 19, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Now that’s marketing! 🙂

  4. 4 Tyler April 22, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Well, I’m glad the Best of Bands schwag got noticed! We had a lot of folks stop by our booth the find out just what ‘that thing’ was!
    The mystery question answered…It’s a ‘cordman’. You wrap your headphone cord around the body to keep it from getting tangled!


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SXSW is an Austin event. And Door Number 3 is an Austin advertising agency. We're interested in how new ideas in advertising, media and branding will be presented during these 9 quick days. From inside the lecture halls where top specialists present their thoughts, to out on the streets where advertising is put to the test on tens of thousands of festival-goers. We'll be there with the complete coverage, reports, photos, editorials, and perhaps some tricks on how to sneak into a few sweet afterparties.

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