Branding Without Bullshit: Building Social Media-Proof Brands

A session at SXSW Interactive 2012

Friday 9th March, 2012

2:00pm to 3:00pm (CST)

Consumers don’t believe marketing. We believe our experiences. Our friends’ experiences. Even complete strangers’ experiences. In an always-on, social media-enabled world, consumer experiences – and consumers’ willingness to share them in the moment – can make or break a brand. For brands, it’s not what you say but what you do. No longer can brands hide behind a façade of artifice. A big idea and a break-through campaign may generate buzz, but is it a big idea that could be slapped on to any other brand in the category? If so, the rewards will be fleeting.

Austin is an incubator for the quirky and creative. It’s also an epicenter for authenticity, with a culture not afraid to call bullshit. We’ll explore what it takes to build a brand with the authenticity to sustain and flourish in the cynical, exposed world of social media-empowered consumers: the rewards, but also the risks, and the challenges you can expect to confront along the way.

Panelists from some of Austin’s most beloved brands -- Alamo Drafthouse, Hotel San Jose, YETI coolers, and McGarrah Jessee, brand advisors to Shiner Beers, Whataburger, Costa sunglasses and Frost Bank –- will share their stories and discuss the paths they took to achieve success.

About the speakers

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Valerie Petrusson

COO, Beast

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Bobby Johns

N/A, Hotel San Jose

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Britton Upham

GM; Marketing & Integration, McGarrah Jessee

Britton Upham is the General Manager and Director of Integration for McGarrah Jessee, a full-service brand development agency located here in Austin. They are known for partnering deeply with clients like Shiner Beers, Frost Bank, Costa Del Mar Sunglasses and Guitar Center, for example, to push creative boundaries and shape all parts of the consumer experience. Britton has been with McGarrah Jessee for almost 10 years, helping drive that agency into all spaces, including of course, social media. In 2009, McGarrah Jessee was named Advertising Age's "Southwest Agency of the Year." And last year, they were recognized as a 'featured agency' in Communication Arts' prestigious design annual. But what Britton likes to tout is the great sales successes McGarrah Jessee has seen with each and every one of its clients. Their clients often outpace industry performance. Before McGarrah Jessee, Britton worked in the digital space launching broadband Internet experiences for companies like Prodigy and SBC (which is now AT&T).

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Rick Wittenbraker

VP Marketing, YETI Coolers

Rick Wittenbraker is the VP of Marketing for YETI Coolers, maker of ultra-durable, super-insulated premium coolers for serious outdoor enthusiasts. YETI Coolers are wildly stronger, keep ice longer and are certified grizzly bear proof. He is also co-founder of The SEAM, Society for the Encouragement of Authentic Marketing, and Stage One Capital, an early stage venture capital group focused on online brands and technologies.

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Henri Mazza

Chief Creative Officer, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Henri Mazza has served as the head of the creative department for the Alamo Drafthouse since 2003, back when the now legendary theater chain was still a one screen cinema located in the warehouse district of downtown Austin. Working directly under founder Tim League, Henri oversaw the growth of the brand image as they opened 10 locations around Texas and grew the empire to include the Rolling Roadshow, Badass Digest, Mondo Tees, Fantastic Fest and Drafthouse Films. He created many of the signature events the theater has become known for, including the interactive Action Pack screenings of Sing-Alongs and Quote-Alongs, but his biggest claim to fame came in the summer of 2011 when the "Angry Texter Voicemail" PSA he put together quickly received nearly 5 million views online and was featured in major media outlets from The View to Anderson Cooper.

Next session in Capital Ballroom A

3:30pm This New House: Featuring Bob Vila by Gretchen Grant, Bob Vila, Steven Masur, Stefanie Lemcke and Joseph Epstein

6 attendees

  • HenriMazza
  • Jonathan Kitchen
  • Bobby Johns
  • Britton Upham
  • Valerie Petrusson
  • Rick Wittenbraker

4 trackers

  • Alan Botvinick
  • axemansid2
  • Stephen R. Fox
  • Naledi Khabo

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Time 2:00pm3:00pm CST

Date Fri 9th March 2012


Capital Ballroom A, InterContinental Stephen F. Austin

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