What Marketers Can Learn from This Year’s SXSW QR Stunt

Mitch Tor Picture

by Mitch Tor | Last Updated: Apr 12, 2022

Futuristic technology is no longer bound to the confines of an episode of Westworld or in the popular video game series Halo. At SXSW this year we saw some technology that would make you believe you were a part of a science-fiction movie, as 400 drones choreographed into a QR code above downtown Austin. When scanned, users were transported to a trailer for the new television series based on the game Halo which features a 26th-century soldier fighting off an alien invasion. 

This unique marketing tactic has clearly left an impression and received some buzz at the cost of making some Austin patrons pretty upset. Many had positive reviews around the high-tech promotional stunt; they felt that the 600-foot display was a cool way to stay engaged with SXSW without having to travel downtown. 

So Paramount just blew my mind - they put a QR code in the sky to promote the launch of Halo. I LOVE THIS. Taking two things and combining them to cut through the noise. Brilliant. #SXSW pic.twitter.com/bXRrh2EdH1

— Emily Ross (@emilyjaneross) March 14, 2022

Others were left with a much more negative taste in their mouths. Some felt that the drones were more dystopian than a lighthearted ad campaign. Other skeptics thought the ad could be used for more sinister purposes like getting scanners to download malware directly from the QR code.

Grotesque

Drones form giant QR code to promote 'Halo 'over Austin for SXSWhttps://t.co/zCF4AzVQVH

— Waterpenny (@WaterpennyW) March 15, 2022

So what do marketers have to learn from this viral stunt? 

The first takeaway is that your marketing can’t be for everyone. You need to cater your messaging to your target audience and then stick to your (futuristic) guns. In this example, the stunt is clearly catered to the younger generation who grew up playing the Halo games and more likely to feel that this high-tech exhibition was a cool tie back to the nostalgic game. As Justin Keller said on the Real Marketers podcast, "You shouldn’t piss everyone off (with your marketing) to be clear. If you’re not pissing off 10% of people, then you’re not edgy enough." 

Which leads us to our second takeaway, with how noisy traditional marketing channels can be these days, it is important to stand out in whatever ways you can. Regardless of those who didn’t like the promotion, this was a stunning display of cutting through the noise and delivering your message to your audience. 

So what do you think? A cool way to attract attention? Or way too far with tech? Tweet us your reaction @Lumavate!

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