Long before we landed our first big client, we lived for music and design. The trick was to find the intersection between the big brands and our art. From a ramshackle garage near Western Kentucky University, we spent countless nights pulling prints. After distributing our first gig posters, we realized just how powerful the medium could be. We immersed ourselves in the music and found ways to create new and authentic connections between sounds and personas, musicians and fans. Our team began looking at bands and brands through the same cultural lens. We earned the attention of both camps—and their fans.
Every spring since 2006, we’ve made the pilgrimage down to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. It’s the site of Flatstock, a colorful and inspiring exhibition of rock posters where we show and sell fresh-pulled prints. As our capabilities have expanded, so too has our presence. This year, we sent down a whole crew of business developers, event marketing pros, and word-of-mouth specialists. It was part of a grander effort culminating in our two-day open door music showcase: BAM! The Future of Rock and Roll. Check out the video below of our SXSW experience and read more after the jump.
We Saw, We Showed, We Played
We organized BAM! The Future of Rock and Roll using the same Say and Do model we apply to bands and brands. There was no separation between stage and crowd—they jammed as equals. When we landed a venue at 6th and Trinity, we knew our showcase would compete on a national scale. But we sidestepped massive budgets and big money sponsorships to weave our brand seamlessly into the experience. We didn’t want it to feel like parasites latching on to a culture.
Our theme was The Future of Rock and Roll, a nod to 97X (WOXY) FM, a legendary Ohio-bred underground alternative rock station. It was an independently-owned company, much like Powerhouse. And the station was a titan of the underground indie rock movement, in both Austin and Cincinnati. We booked bands that embodied the theme: up-and-comers with room to grow and national headliners with underground appeal.
We designed and distributed the gig posters, booked the bands and set the stage. Our music supervisor, Sebastien Schultz, even played a set with his band. At one point, Kevin Devine led a chant of Zombie that would have made the Cranberries proud.
It felt like a unique, authentic experience by music lovers, for music lovers. And just like our open-door holiday party back in Cincinnati, everyone was welcome. We didn’t sell anything at the shows—we simply came to create a meaningful experience. Kevin Devine, Royal Teeth, Mother Falcon, and Nothern Faces were just four of over 20 bands that gave it all they had—even when it rained.
What It All Means to Your Brand
Throughout the 2-week Music, Interactive, and Film festival, we soaked up a little rain and a lot of experience. Our expanding involvement with SXSW parallels our evolution from scrappy print shop to brand enculturation agency. Like the bands and musicians we love, we embed ourselves in culture because it’s inherent to us—and it’s where our clients want to be. SXSW allows us to practice our passions on a big brand stage and learn new tricks along the way.
This year, we had a unique opportunity to expand our involvement. We were artists at Flatstock, Powerhouse ambassadors at BAM! and marketers analyzing the social-era landscape every minute in between. Our findings at SXSW confirm what we strive to live every day: the best brands are integrated into our cultures and communities. They don’t tell us what we should want; they unlock what we already want. Music fans seek integrity, authenticity and value—and consumers demand the same things from brands.
The best bands have beliefs, values and products that align with those of their fans. Brands seek to achieve the same with consumers. By living the music culture and contributing to the music industry, we’ve seamlessly embedded our brand in the music community. That passion and understanding is fundamental to how we successfully enculturate our clients’ brands in the communities they serve.