South by Southwest is officially, aggressively normcore

Pretty mainstream these days.
Pretty mainstream these days.
Image: Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP
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South by Southwest has officially gone normcore.

The annual festival in Austin, Texas, has served as a springboard for high-profile technology startups including Twitter and Foursquare. But this year, the brands featured at the Interactive festival—”an incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity,” according to its website—seem aggressively mainstream.

Friskies is on site for the fourth time, with a Cat Concoctions storefront featuring worldwide celebrity Grumpy Cat. McDonald’s has a huge nightclub venue branded as a minimalistic loft. Kodak is pushing its new Moments social app hard. American Greetings is even in the house. It feels less like SXSW and more like putting on some khakis and watching Friends.

But perhaps this is the future of SXSW. Here are some rumors I’ve heard about hot brand activations for next year:

  • The United States Postal Service Pop-Up: This pop-up post office will feature broken pens and stamp-sized hors d’oeuvres served by the nation’s surliest counter staff, plus daily DJ sets by erstwhile indie band the Postal Service. Place your complimentary drink order at the self-service kiosk. Delivery confirmation is 95 cents.
  • Saturday Evening Post: Everybody is getting into the VR game, and the Saturday Evening Post is on it. Note that by VR, they mean “video recorders.” Stop by the soda shop to tape a video of yourself slurping a malt, just like you’re in a life-size Norman Rockwell painting. (Cassettes only available in Betamax.)
  • Fuller House: An episode for season two of the Netflix reboot will be recorded before a live audience at the SXSW Film Festival. But that’s not all. We all know how expensive hotels in Austin are this time of year, so Netflix will put up 11 badge-holders in the original Full House set. (Disclaimer: One guest must share a room with Dave Coulier, and he will not cut it out.)
  • Gerber: Millennials are growing up, settling down and having kids—so Gerber is ready to meet the world of SXSW with a whimsical store run by actual babies on the corner of Congress and Third. Snap a photo of your favorite flavor combo on Snapchat for a chance to win a smart binky. Open to all badge-holders.
  • Dr. Scholl’s: Life moves pretty fast at SXSW. If you don’t wear sensible shoes, you could miss it. Stop by this 10-day pop-up shop for the chance to win a lifetime supply of foot powder.
  • TGI Fridays: For a chance to spend some time with IRL apps, stop by for mozzarella sticks and our new Braised BBQ Beef Tostadas. In the Palm Door on Sixth, it’s always Friday and we’re making it rain TGIFunCash! (No cash value, void where prohibited.)