Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

SXSW 2015 snapshots – brands, Snark By Snarkwest, grocery shopping

The brands take over Austin, putting the snark in SXSW 2015 and the future of grocery shopping

Room at the inn: Bates Motel open for business in Austin at SXSW 2015

Mon, Mar 16, 2015, 12:41


Like Enda Kenny, we’re hanging out in Austin, Texas at South By South West. Unlike Enda Kenny, we’re actually doing more than repeating the mantra of the-best-little-country-in-the-world-to-do-business and we’re on our bike checking out what’s going on up and down and all around the city. Expect a range of snapshots in the coming days about what’s happening at SXSW 2015.

The brands

There are more brands in Austin, TX at the moment than in any other place on earth. This is definitely something we’ll come back to again in weeks to come – as you know, bands and brands are one of the favourite topics at OTR – but I’ve never come across an event where the brands dominate the discourse in this way. From McDonalds setting up shop to woo hipsters with Big Macs (not so sure if it was Ronald McDonald or someone else who completely messed things up by asking bands like Ex-Cops to play for free) to Samsung paying D’Angelo a lot of dosh to play five songs on the roof of their pop-up venue last night, the brands are out in force in Austin. Here’s a rundown from Brand Channel about who is doing what in Austin this week. I ran out of room on the back of an envelope for all the zeros when calculating the bill for all of this.

Snark By Snarkwest

There have always been naysayers who’ve had a pop at the event. Hell, I’m sure there were people giving out and fuming about SXSW back in March 1987 while the first one was going on. That always happens, that’s human nature. But the level of snark and bitching around this year’s event seems louder and more pronounced than in previous years. For the locals, chalk it down to that profusion of branded activity listed above or the sheer craziness of having 300,000 extra punters in town (all of them hoping to catch a secret show by Kanye West on Thursday out the back of the Mean Eyed Cat – ooops, that slipped out). For everyone else further afield, it’s the fact that SXSW now dominates the news agenda like no other event of its kind – you don’t get this spread of coverage around CES, for instance. Expect a lot of the snark to feed into post-event (and some pre-event) coverage too.

The future of groceries

SXSW now covers more ground than ever before and proof of that is in the fascinating SouthBites strand of food talks and discussions, which debuted in 2014 but returns much embellished and emboldened this year. Phil Lempert, AKA the Supermarket Guru, had many splendid points and predictions to make about how we’ll buy groceries in the future and what our supermarkets will look like, many of them outlined in the photo above. He had the trends and stats to back all of this up, such as increased sales of home smokers and BBQs, and the Generation Z fondness for such simple foods as chicken and hot dogs. At a time when there are food festivals popping up left, right and centre, SouthBites and this panel in particular showed that really great ideas and conversations are another way to skin the cat. Just don’t smoke the cat.