Once again, PepsiCo and its multiple brands dominated a sizable amount of floor space at the Austin Convention Center, and like last year, we enjoyed a conversation with one of its key execs. Instead of Bonin Bough, who split for Kraft a month ago, we had the opportunity to chat with Pepsi’s current director of digital media, Josh Karpf. This year, along with a real-time, “zeitgeist” data visualization board that you can see in the background in the pic above (that’s Karpf on the right in case you needed clarification), the food/bev giant was touting its “What If Unconference.”
According to Karpf, the event consists of “…a series of structured brainstorms, throwing out themes related to digital, like how to use digital talent to affect organizations, digital startups, [and] we’ll have digital thought leaders facilitate.” As far as “digital thought,” what’s intriguing Karpf seems to be how fellow giant brands are making their presence known in the space. “This SXSW, There are a lot of brands you wouldn’t expect that are here that are announcing technology-focused initiatives, like American Express’s Twitter project, Nike’s FuelBand. It supports our thesis on why we’re down here It shows where culture is going.
In addition to Interactive presence, PepsiCo is also delving into the Music portion via a partnership with Turntable.fm and is pulling double-duty in the Film realm via a Brisk bodega pop-up store that ties into the soft drink’s promotion of the Star Wars : Episode 1 IMAX release.
We recall that last year’s hot trend/tool was GroupMe, which somewhat faded into obscurity. So what’s the item gaining all the buzz at this year’s festival? Karpf says, “Looking at the coverage, people are taking about apps like Highlight and Hibachi. I think about it as analog meets digital. It makes your Faceook graph and presents it back to you in a way that’s useful to you right now. Taking all your information and presenting it in a way that’s useful as of right now in an elegant way.”