PayPal Delivers Memorable Experience at SXSW 2014

I have a couple wrap-up posts that I still need to complete for SXSW 2014. However, I need to first share one of the most pleasant surprises of this year’s conference, the PayPal Social Media Lounge.

I, along with every other (smart) SXSW attendee, RSVPed for each lounge that appeared in my overflowing inbox. I don’t remember how I first hear about the PayPal Lounge — regardless, I signed up. On the first day of SXSW, I eagerly vetted my lounge list, for the first win of the day. Luckily, PayPal popped up first on my calendar (Hmm, to be completely honest, the lounge was located in the ACC… and I was in the ACC…Get it?).

To be frank, quality food and beverages usually drive my lounge choices. But, PayPal’s efforts to create an engaging brand experience is what solidified my return each day. Here are three learnings from my week with PayPal.

1. Gather Participation

A brand looking to maximize their event marketing must learn how to gather participation.

Before walking into the lounge, each person is given a wear a PayPal pin to display on their SXSW lanyard. By wearing the pin, you are granted daily walk-through access to the lounge. I gladly pinned PayPal to my Platinum badge, and kept that shiny pin where everyone could see it, throughout the week. A simple, but successful idea. For those without, the pin served as a constant visual reminder, driving curiosity about PayPal’s offerings.

2. Micro-Retail: Be Unique to You

It should go without saying that at the heart of event marketing should be memorable experiences. But at the heart of this is creating an experience that integrates with your brand identity.

PayPal could’ve only offered food and drinks like every other SXSW lounge, but instead they saw and leveraged an opportunity to create a memorable experience. How so? Of course the room was appropriately branded with the PayPal look and feel…but, walking in you were surprised by the micro-retail experience. PayPal used the lounge to create an opportunity for people to engage and use an app feature, PayPal wallet. Using your PayPal app to check-in, each lounge participant was given $1.00 (one dollar) to spend at the store. Charging only $.10 per item, the “store” was chocked full of needed SXSW items that everyone needs (an umbrella anyone?). Not only did they offer SXSW survival necessities i.e. USB chargers and “hangover kits,” but you could also order as many espressos and lattes to your heart’s desire!

3. Unbelievably Amazing Content

Here is where it comes in. My tie-in to content marketing.

Each day, I left increasingly curious as to who the next day’s line up would be. Part of the digital superstars that graced the stage, hosted by Guy Kawasaki and Sarah Evans (love you!) included: Gary Vaynerchuck, VaynerMedia; Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s Chief Brand Officer, Atif Fariq, SVP and Global Digital Officer; Robert Scoble, Rackspace. There was invaluable nuggets of truth nestled in each fireside chat, but it would take too long to share each one. Just know that the content was relevant, engaging, and often accompanied by a free gift!


Here’s the PayPal wrap-up video produced (by Phil Reid of Runengund) for Gary Vee’s visit. Catch me at :19 seconds. 🙂