SwomFest Recap

I was in Austin, TX this week for SwomFest, an event put on by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba’s Society of Word of Mouth.  You probably know Ben and Jackie’s blog, Church of the Customer.

SwomFest was different than any other marketing conference I’ve attended.

  • They started off the day with a live dance troop performing the Thriller dance.  Zombie costumes and everything.  Click here for a video sample.
  • They kept everything fun.  Extended breaks to keep everyone fresh. A DJ spinning music to keep the atmosphere upbeat and BEER at lunch and in the afternoon. (Full disclosure, Flying Dog Brewery was a sponsor of SwomFest and provided the beer.)
  • The content flow was well thought out and made sense.  I’ve been to too many conferences where is was a hodge-podge of case studies without any flow.

The general flow of the day went like this:

  • Ben McConnell started off the day talking about WOM and why it’s more impactful than other forms of advertising.  Good presentation, but he was preaching to the choir.
  • Next, Haley Rushing of GSD&M (Austin Ad Agency) talked about discovering and developing your brand’s purpose.  Haley did a great job of articulating how a “mission statement” has been bastardized into something that isn’t meaningful to employees or consumers.  Her biggest example was Southwest Airlines (GSD&M client) and how their purpose is “Giving People the Freedom to Fly”.  Here is a video of Haley talking about a brand’s “purpose”.
  • The highlight of the day was Yaphet Smith.  Yaphet is an interesting guy: He’s a CPA and attorney, but makes a living as a screenwriter.  He gave example after example of how to tell great stories and how important it is for a brand to communicate its story to consumers for the purpose of building WOM.
  • In the afternoon, there were a variety of presentations, but the most interesting part to me was Dell’s Sean McDonald talking about WOM/Customer Response/Social Media in a big company.  My big takeaways from his talk were:
  1. Every conversation counts.  (Earlier in the day, we talked about how 1% of the consumers influence others to purchase)
  2. The responsibility of having on and offline conversations with your consumers goes all the way up the line of the organization.
  3. If social media isn’t understood or accepted in your organization – screw ’em and just start doing it.

I don’t know if there will be another SwomFest, but if there is, I would highly recommend attending.  Smart people, smart presentations and best of all, it’s fun.

I’ll be following up on SwomFest a little more later this week with some action items I came up with for my brand.


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