SXSW and Virgin Best Marketing Tactic is Education

PAN Communications

It felt like just minutes after returning to SXSW, I was on a Virgin Atlantic flight to London. After a week of kick off meetings with new clients and our network of global agency partners, I am spent. But knowing I owed a reflection or two on SXSW, something dawned on me when I was crossing back over the Atlantic.

Flying Virgin is always an experience. The planes are clean, the service is stellar and you can customize your entire flight. Your in-flight TV screen kicks off your stay with a retro video look at the FAA/International flight restrictions and safety demonstrations. For the first time in decades, I actually paid attention. On my recent flight to and from London, I actually learned some things as well!

On a Boeing 777, I now know how to engage the safety slide if it doesn’t automatically open, I learned how to engage LED lighting if that doesn’t work and learned the proper way to embrace upon impact when holding a lap child. I’ve been flying for 33 years, couldn’t tell you any of this before.

The content and experience engaged me enough to learn – that is what SXSW is all about and why it’s been so successful. Furthermore, it’s how we should be thinking about marketing plans and investment.

I typically don’t care about how my safety belt closes or where the nearest exit is, but this time I was watching and more importantly, I was learning.

SXSW gave the same experience, not just to me as a PR person, but to my client. Leaving the show, our client CEO said something most don’t – “I learned so much.” He had unparalleled access to key journalists and he was rubbing elbows with his consumers. It’s a true leader that is always learning, and SXSW gives that experience far beyond its sessions and keynotes.

Content is king…blah blah blah…and videos are so important for search and engagement…bleh. Content and video are just the delivery mechanisms. Education is the key tactic in marketing, not the tool that delivers it. Education is the biggest challenge in marketing, not the technology.

Take a look at Reddit for example. You can’t find a bigger group of geeks and content aggregation and it’s THE place where things get viral. But the biggest shift in Reddit’s business this year has been educating a more mainstream audience on Reddit’s importance. One way they did that was celebrity engagement.

Victoria Taylor, head of Comms at Reddit was telling us a story at their Meetup in Austin about her role in the famous Bill Murray interview. I’ll leave the details for another post, but it points to their vision for Reddit. Reddit is a community through and through and it knows it has to be a community to everyone. Reddit is educating the mainstream on what Reddit offers. And yes, it’s doing so with content that interests the mainstream. But Reddit is ultimately educating the unknown users on how to engage and how to benefit from its community. That’s the ultimate win.

SXSW and Virgin have two things right – education on how things should be done differently (tradeshows and flight) and producing content that leads us to believe in the brand.

In technology, the barrier is always far and wide to true education. How do you sell a reporter on the secret sauce of the crowded cloud storage? Where does messaging actually differentiate a company? Which tactics will make the most impact on lead gen?

It comes down to education. Maybe we need less marketing and PR plans and more education.

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Topics: Culture, Services, Thought Leadership

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