Here’s a brand innovation challenge: you’re a fast-food company sponsoring THE high-tech destination event for influencers worldwide. You’re also not, shall we say, highly regarded by this demographic. Acceptance would require McDonald’s to show it understood the culture of SXSW, Austin’s sense of place, and an organic embracing of technology. While seemingly reductive, we realized that demonstrating savviness without telling people how savvy we were would serve to draw people into the space and rely on word-of-mouth. This isn’t to say that we were totally passive.
McDonald’s had rented one of the closest and highest-trafficked areas in Austin, as well as a dedicated conference room.
If everyone knows McDonald’s as a brand behemoth, how much could we rely on this knowledge to do little-to-no branding? To subvert visual expectations entirely? To rely on attributes that SXSW goers appreciate (charging, shareable tech experiences, music, food, exclusivity)
Building off of the architecture and purpose of both spaces and Austin, we designed cohesive sister experiences that would allow for users to experience each space differently on their own terms.
We also wanted to make sure we messaged what McDonald’s stands for: The idea of creating your own taste. We expanded on this, and allowed multi-user interactions with physical space to become part of the message: Interactive color-shifting LED sculptures and integrated VR showcases as part of our visual framework. Additionally, custom patterns, illustrations and branding materials called back to SXSW and Austin. The result: people loved it.