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The Biggest SXSurprise

By Brian Couch, Vice President, Client Services

SXSW Interactive was filled with surprising and disruptive activations. Everything from professional wrestlers sporting tights in 45-degree weather, to people surfing in a parking lot, to the 30-foot-tall buffalo that American Gods installed, watching over the entire spectacle.

While there were more than a few disruptive activations, a select group of brands pushed their execution beyond expectations. These activations demonstrated a desire to be seen as more than a product.

One such experience, The Mashable House, is known for consistently delivering great experiences, and it didn’t disappoint this year. Prior to opening this year’s incarnation of the Mashable house, the brand said, “This year, we dedicate the Mashable House to you: the super fans. The people who love to love what they love. The people who don’t simply partake in culture; they devour it. It is for people who are passionate, curious, and downright obsessive.”

The house contained interactives from The Bosco, Navdy, King Arthur, Jim Beam, and Hornitos, among others. The most interesting, however, came from Lennox (yes, the HVAC company) and their execution of Degrees of Perfect. The exhibit hosted two activities, one passive and one interactive experience.

The passive experience was a mural created with thermochromic paint, which changes colors when exposed to warm or cool air. The piece was designed by street artist Fluke from A’shop. When heated air is applied to the mural the thermochromic paint disappears, and another mural appears from underneath. Once cool air is blown on the mural the original image returns. The experience took place in a clear plexiglass room, and was as beautiful as it was unanticipated. The experience highlighted an artist’s creativity, a little bit of science, and well…HVAC, to create something beautiful and totally unexpected.

The interactive experience also gave people a chance to create their own custom art with a similar technology as the larger art display. Attendees were given a can of compressed air and instructed on how to create their own mural. Spraying the air on heated panels changed the thermochromic paint’s color. Attendees could jump right in with minimal explanation of how to engage with the experience. The experience was also highly shareable from attendees’ devices. Whether it was by design or just a fortunate coincidence, the engagement made a fantastic boomerang video.

Lennox branding was prominent but tasteful throughout the space. The brand allowed the art installation to be the hero throughout both parts of the activation. They even managed to avoid placing a sales rep in the space to sheepishly try and sell you on their benefits. You wouldn’t expect to see such an industrial product being demonstrated in such an elegant way.

Lennox exceeded any expectation of what an HVAC supplier would do to demonstrate their products. The activation was fun, technologically interesting, and most important, completely relevant to attendees.