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Austin City Limits (ACL to most of y’all) has become more than just a music festival. With such huge crowds gathering each year for this musical extravaganza, ACL has become a prime opportunity for brands to showcase their newest endeavors, differentiate themselves or generate buzz. Now that the encores have ended, the stages are packed up and the crowds have dissipated, let’s talk about the brands that stole the spotlight at ACL this year.

American Express

Think all credit cards are the same? Think again. American Express broke the rectangle-shaped mold at ACL this year by rewarding festival-goers and cardholders with some major perks. AMEX members were able to purchase their tickets early, skip the line through the AMEX entrance, received a five-dollar spending credit for utilizing the cashless spending feature on their festival wristbands and had access to an exclusive viewing deck and room in the VIP lounge. Other American Express experiences weren’t reserved for cardholders. Activities including merchandise embroidery, make-your-own flag and bandanna stations and a bat-themed photo booth where you could take some sweet boomerang videos were free and open to all ACL attendees.

AMEX went beyond the basic brand awareness approach and instead used this opportunity to create tangible, memorable value for their largely intangible service. They incentivized purchasing behaviors with their cashless system and spending credit and encouraged user-generated content with cool (free!) activities. Nearly every AMEX member that went to ACL is going to talk about how great it was to use their AMEX card, making AMEX standout in a sea of plastic sameness. That’s a lot of positive word-of-mouth, and when it comes to a new line of credit, what your friends say really matters.

Miller Lite

Ah, beer. The trusted fuel and confidence booster of flower-crowned fangirls and haphazard headbangers alike. Each year, ACL is sponsored by a single brand of beer, making it the only brand you can purchase within the festival fence. Just being that all-important sponsor is a big deal, but this year Miller Lite took it a step further. Not only were thousands of patrons drinking their product, they were also hanging out in Miller Lite’s own pop-up bar. Not your typical vinyl tent that barely provides inches of escape from the scorching Texas sun, but a full-blown, the-walls-are-solid, beer-on-tap bar, complete with both indoor and outdoor seating.

Pop-ups aren’t anything new, and many brands have utilized the concept, but Miller Lite took it to a new level. Miller Lite created a welcoming atmosphere for people to engage with the brand beyond just purchasing their product from a generic drink tent. Not to mention the hundreds of social posts, which led to hundreds of thousands of impressions, likes, comments, shares and even more buzz.

Honda and Ride|Austin

Peanut butter and chocolate, Mickey and Minnie, summer and lemonade. Some pairings were meant to be, and the partnership between Honda and Ride|Austin at this year’s ACL was one of those fateful matches. Together, these two brands offered free rides to the festival, killing two birds with one stone. Ride|Austin got a much-needed publicity boost after rivals Lyft and Uber returned to the city, and Honda got people to experience their newest vehicles for themselves.

There were a few things going on here that made it work so well. First, the audience: millennials. This generation is the main user of ride-sharing apps, and, as it so happens, they’re also getting to the age where they’ll likely need to buy their first real car. Next, the concept: seeing is believing. Honda leveraged this partnership as a way to skip the arduous step of luring millennials into a dealership, and instead put them right into their cars to experience them first-hand. Plus, with the too-good-to-refuse offer of free rides, people happily downloaded the Ride|Austin app to find that it is just as good (if not better) than Uber or Lyft. Like cookies and cream, it was a match made in heaven, and it worked oh so well.

How about you? Interested in elevating your brand to an experiential level? We’d love to talk. Reach out to us here.

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