SXSW 2023: Seven Brands that Gave Attendees a Taste of their Products

With hundreds of events and activations taking place throughout Austin over the 10-day SXSW 2023, it’s no wonder that the brands that brought a bite to eat, a sample to sip, or a product to try quickly stood out from the pack. But at the show this year, seven brands lured festivalgoers with full-on explorations of recipes, technologies and content, from Piazza Sanpellegrino’s poetry corner to Lush’s Bath Bot debut.

sxsw-2023-peacock-nuns standing outside-teaserCatch up on SXSW 2023:


Avocados From Mexico, a nonprofit marketing organization promoting Mexican avocados, set up its House of Goodness at Lustre Pearl Rainey, March 13-14, to #SparkTheGood among SXSW attendees. House of Goodness was originally conceived as a digital interactive experience, in which users could click through different rooms and take part in challenges, discover recipes and watch videos. The virtual house’s avocado-themed living room and kitchen were combined and brought to life in a fully enclosed pop-up space splashed with bright pinks, yellows and greens on the exterior.

Only a small group of participants was invited inside for each cycle that lasted four minutes, allowing them to rest in an avocado-shaped chair, snuggle with corn chip pillows and avocado plushies, interact with an AR Magic Mirror to try on virtual accessories, don mixed reality glasses to learn the origin of avocados, and pick up guacamole recipe cards to take home. Signage with QR codes around the house promoted giveaways of the brand’s Avocado Glow swag with a chance to win by sharing items on Twitter.

A highlight of the experience was the GuacBot Fortune Teller robot that was “programmed to bring you good fortunes or a dance party,” it said. For the dance party selection, GuacBot grooved, waving its arms around and leaning back and forth. It talked to attendees, reading their fortunes and encouraging them to share the experience on their social channels. Participants exited the House of Goodness through refrigerator doors to join the party outside on the Good Times Patio with music from emerging artists, ping pong tables, avo tacos, beverages and a photo booth tied to the official release of Avocados From Mexico’s Pantone brand color. (Agency: LERMA/)



As SXSW’s official energy drink partner for the second year, C4 Smart Energy activated for three days during the music festival, March 16-18, at East Austin’s sprawling Fair Market venue. The four-part guided journey at the “C4 Smart House” pointed to the product’s relaunch and new positioning as “fuel” to achieve greatness. After entering the space, attendees were escorted through a white tunnel containing fridges stocked with C4 and enthusiastic brand ambassadors, and then into a room featuring a large, projection-mapped video highlighting how artists and doers can use the product to fuel their passions.

Next, attendees wound their way through a black-lit graffiti alley, both an homage to Austin’s vibrant street art scene and a teaser for the next activity, the Creator’s Lab, where guests could tap into their inner artists. After digesting a detailed set of rules presented by a brand ambassador, attendees each chose a small studio-like space in which to design a white hoodie, bucket hat or tote bag using custom stencils and brightly colored acrylic paint for the duration of five minutes. (Yes, it was timed.)

While waiting for the paint to dry on their new designs, festivalgoers moved on to a photo activation that tied into the overall campaign. Each person was asked to complete the phrase, “4 Moments of ____,” by adding in their own passion or interest. The phrase and portrait were then printed out as a takeaway. Post-event, the brand picked 100 of its favorites to use for an out-of-home UGC campaign across Austin celebrating the brand relaunch.

The last portion of the experience was the “flavor lounge,” with outdoor seating, a bar with four new flavors and a stage featuring a mix of 12 different music artists hand-picked by the team to perform throughout the three days. (Agency: Wilco Collective)



LaCroix House was all about the vibe: a playful, pastel-themed garden party to match its branding and popular Instagram aesthetic. Open to the public as well as SXSW badge holders and taking place toward the tail end of the event, the experience was one of few that enjoyed a line for entry around the block. Festivalgoers entered the space through a bright pink door that doubled as a faux cooler full of LaCroix. Inside, a dj spun upbeat lounge music while guests queued up for flavored mocktails, posed for photo ops with colorful branded backgrounds and lounged on comfy couches. In the footprint’s expansive outdoor space, attendees could play cornhole or Connect Four, chill at picnic tables, or hit up a wall of copious free merch, from buttons to key chains to can coolers to PopSockets.



At Lush House, “All are welcome. Always.” The cosmetic brand took advantage of Idle Hands’ indoor/outdoor footprint, shaded by plenty of trees on the week’s sunniest days, March 10-13. In front, attendees enjoyed a wide-open space to relax and chat at standing tables and patio chairs, surrounded by hanging disco balls and large screens projecting Lush messaging and videos. Moving inside, a bathroom-esque counter displaying the brand’s signature bath bombs and other skincare products greeted attendees, all available for purchase, as well as a neatly arranged backlit wall presenting a rainbow variety of bath bombs.

Green was the theme for the entire activation, from the bright color of the signage encouraging downloads of the Lush app for drink tokens and party info to the brand’s sustainability fun facts and video imagery projected onto a table surface. A room bathed in purple light debuted Lush’s Bath Bot, a digital bath bomb that pairs with the Lush app to create a multisensory bath experience through lights and audio. Attendees could see the Bath Bot in action at two tanks full of water.

The brand’s first foray into tech was a hot topic for the pop-up, as it also highlighted findings from a report by Lush x The Future Laboratory, “Digital Engagement: A Social Future.” On two screens with rotating report statistics and emerging tech trends, attendees could read research results like “38 percent of consumers are looking for small ways to change their digital behavior in order to create a wider global shift.” Out back, Lush hosted five or six panels each day on the future of tech and skincare, with speakers positioned at a green-tiled table in front of a wall of greenery with an illuminated Lush logo.



As part of the SXSW Registrant Lounge, Mike’s Hard Lemonade set up a yellow and wood-paneled open-air booth to create a chill “backyard” space for attendees to enjoy a beverage. Designed to look like a bar patio with string lights hanging from yellow beams above, the two-level booth structure offered stools and countertops on the ground level and a spiral staircase leading to the top-floor viewing deck from which to watch artists perform on the SXSW Outdoor Stage. At the bar under the viewing deck, ambassadors in yellow cowboy hats and branded shirts passed out free Mike’s Hard Lemonades and yellow bandanas. On the side of the booth was a photo op area, where attendees could pose on a giant lemon seat under a branded arch adorned with cutouts of the fruit.

Mikes Hard Lemonade_SXSW 2023_yellow branded pop-up space



The goal of the sparkling beverage brand’s “Piazza Sanpellegrino” was to give attendees a taste of Italy via three days of unique—and at times whimsical—activities. Set upon the grounds of the French Legation State Historic Site, from March 16-18, the sprawling outdoor space offered bocce ball; beach chairs with blankets (for the unseasonably cold temperatures); free brick oven pizza; an espresso stand; a mercatino of local vendors; and a Spritz bar in the early evenings.

What set this activation apart, though, were some of its quirkier offerings: a build-your-own-bouquet cart; free caricatures drawn by an artist; a roaming magician doing magic tricks for guests in line; a wine tasting class; and—our personal favorite—free custom poems. After a brief conversation between guest and poetess about the topic of choice, a poem was crafted on the spot, typed up on an old-school typewriter, encased in plastic and then gifted as a keepsake. (Agencies: Revolver, Gluttonomy)



White Claw’s decision to activate during the music portion of the festival matched the brand’s ethos, given that the hard seltzer was “born out of culture,” according to Kevin Brady, vp-integrated marketing and creative. (Check out a Q&A with the exec here.) The brand showed up this year from March 16-18 via its “Shore Club” experiential platform, which showcased design, music, cutting-edge local artists, a surf culture theme and, of course, sampling to support product innovation—all within a chill, lounge space for festivalgoers to hang out, hear bands, grab some swag and sample the new goods.

The lounge heated up more toward the evenings, when the music crowd began to emerge from the night’s previous activities. Attendees scanned a QR code at registration to claim drink tickets for the bar, which offered two new products featuring vodka (gasp!) as the alcoholic ingredient: various fruity flavors of “Vodka + Soda” and White Claw’s first brand of straight vodka. The stage and its performances were a key focal point, but photo ops and a gif station offered some interactivity.

Festivalgoers made boomerangs with a backdrop of wavy lines and moving imagery, and posted them on social for a chance to win a custom White Claw-branded guitar, two of which were displayed on stage. Other photo ops and touchpoints included a wall of branded surfboards, glowing white logo projections and murals, and a swag table with White Claw trucker hats, can coolers and local art. The Club’s outdoor space offered free food from a pair of food trucks. (Agency: G7 Marketing)

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