Five Years and Still in Love: SXSW 2019

This was my fifth SXSW and I have to say, I’m still in love. Every year, thousands of techies, marketers, and change agents descend upon the city of Austin to unearth the latest trends, establish new connections, and rate the best activation.

From ACLU100 to the inspiring Brené Brown, Team Brllnt was in the presence of all the greatest.

CLIENT FIRST

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) welcomed more than 11,000 festival goers and residents to ACLU100, a multi-city immersive experience connecting our country to our rights and freedoms.

Brllnt worked with the team to create a high-energy, impactful activation, which included engaging exhibits and talks with ACLU’s Executive Director, Anthony Romero and celebrities such as Padma Lakshmi, Amber Heard, and Ike Barinholtz. To wrap up the entire experience, ACLU hosted a free concert with Questlove and Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine.

SXSW was the best place to kick-off the experience. ACLU100 is currently traveling around the country and is coming to a city near you. Find your city>>

BRENÉ BROWN — “YOU CAN’T HATE PEOPLE UP CLOSE”

One of Brllnt’s braintrust members is Brené Brown. She doesn’t know it (yet), but we frequently turn to her and ask “What would Brené do?” Her work to expose the harmful effects of shame in leadership, in self, and in family has been life-changing for Brllnt leaders and team members. This was her second time speaking since Brllnt started attending SX and missing her keynote this time was not an option.

Her talk reminded us that while we often disagree with people, we must resist the urge to create echo chambers and only stick to those who sound like us. While we in the field talk about diversity from a gender and race perspective [more on that next], we don’t address diversity of perspectives and opinions. We are, at the end of the day, in this together. And as Brené said from the stage — you can’t hate people up close.

So get in there and build relationships, rather than divide from folks just because we can’t see eye to eye.

DIVERSITY CAN’T JUST BE A BUZZWORD

Brllnt is a huge advocate for intentional inclusivity. Just this year, Julie Weber, partner at Brllnt, wrote a piece discussing her frustration with the lack of women and people of color on stage at a number of conferences she attended this past year. In order to push authenticity, there needs to be a diverse set of voices at the table whether it’s on stage, at a conference, or within the boardroom.

From past conversations to sessions focused on inclusion, there has been a push from varying minority groups for SXSW to do a better job of elevating marginalized groups. This year I saw a larger presence of black and brown people and women being acknowledged and celebrated. From the #SXSW Community Conversation, which included founders, celebrities, and media outlets discussing the successes and challenges of entrepreneurship to #Culturehouse19. Nestled in the hills overlooking the city of Austin, #Culturehouse19 was a true celebration of diversity. I, sadly, missed seeing my early 20’s crush, rapper T.I. (he spoke on a panel), but met a few amazing individuals that are breaking barriers within their respective industries.

AND THE AWARD GOES TO…

Tons of brands hit SXSW each year but there is always one that stands out.

Whether I wanted to ignore or run from it, Amazon’s new series, Good Omens was everywhere. Their activation introduced us to the end of the world with angels, demons, and nuns canvassing the streets of Austin, directing conference and festival goers to Rainey Street. Once I arrived to the Good Omens garden, I was surrounded by a bevy of instagrammable moments, entertainment, food, and even a manicure and massage station. This pop-up experience was the talk of the town. Amazon Prime used every marketing tactic to ensure that anyone who was attending SXSW experienced a Good Omens moment.

BRLLNT LEADERS

To wrap up our SXSW19 journey, we launched Brllnt Leaders, an invite-only event series built to remove “What do you do?” from the conversation and create a space for exciting dialogues and connections that will lead to inspiration.

Our guests included leaders from Comcast, Southwest Airlines, Consumer Technology Association, city officials, founders, and entrepreneurs.

We look forward to hosting our next event in Washington, DC this summer.