American Greetings wasn't the only brand hoping to disrupt South by Southwest's tech focus. As part of an effort to relaunch its Take 5 candy bar, Hershey's took the brand to Austin, Texas, with an activation from creative shop Barkley. Called the Swag Exchange, the activation allowed SXSW attendees to exchange, well, swag they didn't want for something they actually did.
"When we think about the Take 5 bar, it's all about what we like to call the 'ultimate remix creation,'" said Margo McIlvaine, senior associate brand manager for Take 5. "In our activations, we try to create remixed experiences that take a fresh perspective for our millennial audience."
And that's exactly what the brand wanted to do with its Swag Exchange. By "remixing" the SXSW swag experience, Take 5 gave consumers a "gamified" version of that experience, as well as a taste of the brand's identity.
You might assume the Swag Exchange was a place consumers returned stuff only to get Take 5 swag instead, but that wasn't the case. SXSW attendees were able to swap branded merchandise for things they might actually want like ponchos (it rained the first few days of SXSW), flasks, portable iPhone projectors, reservations at impossible-to-reserve restaurants and a $250 gift card for a meal.
Plus, the Swag Exchange had its own algorithm and functioned as if it were a SXSW stock exchange, applying value to items based on supply and demand, according to Barkley.
"We knew we weren't going to launch anything tech-related at SXSW, so the way we approached it was, 'What is a consumer problem we can solve in order to be relevant in that space?'" said Katy Hornaday, vp and creative director at Barkley. "When we looked at the problems at SXSW, swag was really one of the juiciest ones. And based on the foot traffic and the amount of buzz we've had since we've been here, it's proven that we were right about that."
The Swag Exchange was, in fact, a hit, according to Hershey and Barkley's data. It scored more than 18.5 million total impressions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the five days the brand hosted the activation, and 5,661 unwanted items were exchanged. (The unwanted items, when appropriate, were sent to Austin-based charities.)