BY JEN VAUGHN Dawn broke over the town and I slept the hell right through it. The panels of SXSW Interactive did not start until the afternoon and like a true ol’ fogey, I spent the morning walk to the Austin Convention Center complaining about the businesses that had closed and what had been thrown up its place. Kerbey Lane with local art on the walls and pancakes of the day made the list of places to eat because the queso is an optional side like ketchup or chipotle mayo (I guess that one is rather new too).

My Kindergartner Markets Better Than You obviously popped me in the face with a fun title. I know of children, seen them in playgrounds, touched their sticky hands BUT I also know that they have minds untainted by the need to pay for shelter and clothes. Strategists from Bullfrog Media lead the talk but it was clearly a panel for people who had never had to market anything before. Their points were valid: get your audience to care about you and they will care about your products and goals. Instead of screaming ‘hey look at me, Mom’ a crafty child talks about how silly bandz are essential to their wardrobe and happiness.

Bullfrog clearly underestimated the audience of SXSW as attendees posed better scenarios and examples such as the difference between a trend and tradition. Silly Bandz are a trend but selling Girl Scout cookies (and buying them) are a tradition. The same way casual comics reader is more inclined to pick up Batman (a tradition) instead of Reaper Beavercorn (trend), although I’d love to see that as a comic. Although we all know that existing, enthusiastic customers of a good product, which we can assume Reaper Beavercorn is, will do an amazing amount of marketing for you.

Cartoonists Ross Nover of the System Comic and Craig Schwartz of Toonlet

Meanwhile, Fan to Fanatic! True Blood’s Marketing Hook panel was well-rehearsed and moved at a good clip. The marketing teams, Campfire and Digital Kitchen, that worked with HBO and Alan Ball all worked with the concept of hacking reality. Campfire’s job was to educate viewers about the show ahead of time so they could just right into the world Charlaine Hairris created (the Southern Vampire novels is still is a rather fearsomely awesome books series). From puzzles to sending out vials of blood (watermelon candy), they hooked people. Digital Kitchen managed to rope in many big brands like Gillette and Geico to run ads for the undead with the conceit in mind that vampires DO live amongst us and would probably like to know about good dental care.

When fans started to engage by starting Twitter accounts under the names of characters and only posting in the voice of Sookie Stackhouse for instance, HBO and the marketing teams sweat a bit but allowed it. Fans began to extend the world beyond the show iteself. What we can learn from this is the notion of respecting fans and that speaking to them in a consistent and organic voice will work in your favor. It is not about squelching the creativity of others wearing the faces of your characters but encouraging them because they are once again marketing for you.

And coming back full circle, the Interactive Comics: Techniques to Enhance Math Education run by John Baird (of the Create a Comic Project) completely schooled me. Non-fiction comics are one of my favorites, sincerely anything Ottaviani touches or the Cannon boys (not related) create I will probably papercut myself on in excitement. Baird proposes the use of comics to activate math learning by having geometry proofs discussed one step per panel. Depending on the activity, the students fill in blank word balloons of comics or create them from scratch. Baird finds the comics most useful as an exit ticket at the end of the week to see if if students understand math concepts. Any teacher or cartoonist interested in math comics or teaching with comics should contact Baird and get a real discussion going!

Four more amazing days to report on, endless panels and tons of companies givin’ me the hard sell.

Jen Vaughn is in love with SXSW.


  1. Go to Trudy’s if you want some good migas – they are better that Kerbey Lane’s by a long shot. Also try the breakfast tacos just about anywhere. Enjoy the town!

  2. @Jon_in_Austin Oh I know all about Trudy’s and their very dangerous Mexican Martinis but thank you for reminding me.

    @Torsten I cannot wait to read Feynman. The treatment Colleen AF Venable gave the cover at First Second is just TOO rockin’.