Thought Leadership

SXSW 2023 Recap: Fandom is Driving the Transformation of Marketing



Our biggest takeaway from SXSW 2023? Brand fandom is driving the transformation of marketing. And marketers can’t move fast enough to maximize the potential of community engagement to drive long-term loyalty. Here are our top three learnings from the fandom conversation in Austin this year. 


Throughout 2023, we’ve been talking about the convergence of “community, content, and commerce”. At SXSW, the first C in that clause was on full display as brands built physical communities to connect attendees to their favorite brand elements. Take Roku City; introduced as a dynamic screensaver in 2017, it drives Twitter mentions once every 12 minutes. Roku finally created the city in real life in Austin in partnership with Best Buy, driving attendees through a whimsical entertainment and commerce metropolis.  

In Austin, Reddit loomed as the unspoken champion of consumer communities; in a cheeky session, the brand acknowledged that while ChatGPT and its peers are quickly transforming the internet, they won’t usurp community information any time soon. ” “Where do you think they get their answers from?” quipped Reddit’s COO.  

So What? Community is an accelerant for brand fandom. Tap into your consumers’ key communities, or otherwise deliver it via your product and services, and you have a long-term platform of ambassadors.


Brands traded talk of the metaverse for discussion of “immersive experiences” at SXSW this year. They’re excited what’s possible with personalization in immersive marketing; as well as how brands can use shared moments of interactivity between consumers to build fandom. 

Marketers should tap into a toolbox spanning V.R., AR, and interactive activations to build brand ecosystems that empower consumers to customize their interactions with the brand — while being part of a larger community of passionate fans. And don’t discount the power of A.I. to aid here; for example, new features from our partners at Infinite Reality, unveiled at SXSW, make shopping and viewing interactions in the Metaverse more intuitive and personalized for participants.  

So What? Shared Experiences + Personal Touches = Fuel for Fandom-Driving Experiences


Brands are in problem-solving mode, bending tech and media to tackle sustainability, hunger, disease, and socioeconomic ails. For brands like Dexcom, which brought a dynamic panel featuring Nick Jonas to life at SXSW with our colleagues at Allison+Partners on the lived experiences of patients with diabetes, becoming a trusted source of safety and support for a consumer set can drive dividends for years to come. Dexcom’s emphasis on improving access and affordability and its marketing efforts at the Super Bowl over recent years allow it to make inroads with massive addressable consumer sets, with 1 in 5 Americans being diagnosed with diabetes. 

Consumers reward brands that show a penchant for problem-solving; in our research on brand fandom, consumers ranked innovation as the top driver of fandom, followed by the brand’s ability to create a sense of belonging.  

So What? Fandom isn’t all about creating exciting stunts – sometimes it’s about cracking the code on the maximum value your brand can offer to consumers. 

The Power of Brand Fandom

Fan culture is what elevates a brand into relevance, power, and popularity. 

Our research shows that the value of brand fandom extends beyond the traditional metrics of loyalty and relevance. It creates a fan ecosystem where everyone benefits – brands become core to a consumer’s identity, and fans show up with deep commitment and a desire to advocate for the brand. 

Download National Research Group’s report for five things you need to know about brand fandom. 




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