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Esri House


Making mapping cool at SXSW


Engaging developers through fun and education

Industry: Technology

Attracting developers to use their technology is a key component of Esri’s growth strategy. Known for developing high-level global mapping software for urban planners and other professionals, the Esri technical product portfolio was known by scientists, not consumers.

Esri wanted developers to touch and feel its solutions, download apps, and participate in the process to demonstrate how Esri has created opportunities for developers. To build awareness, affinity, and buzz with the developer community, we created a multi-faceted experience for Esri at SXSW.

Starting with strategy, we facilitated brainstorming sessions to help define program objectives, identify the right target audiences, and ultimately create ways to achieve the greatest impact. While the SXSW conference drew the right developer community, it also attracted tens of thousands of others who weren’t relevant to the Esri growth strategy.

Pinpointing the message and the audience

We advised Esri to cut through the clutter and target core developers by creating its own unique space at SXSW. Together, we created the “Esri House" — a cool and comfortable setting with a laid-back atmosphere to encourage play and learning under the Esri banner. Our creative and logistical masterminds scoured Austin, Texas, for an eclectic property with the right vibe, discovering a grand refurbished firehouse with a vintage feel.

To attract crowds to the Esri House, our team suggested Esri host several events, including hacker happy hours, a developers’ hackathon and a hangover brunch. And how better to help folks to get there than to use the Esri products? Our team helped arrange for a branded Esri-wrapped trolley with an easy-to-use app to track the trolley’s whereabouts and get developers to the house on time.

Play they did

The Esri house was a popular respite for developers at SXSW. All events were either sold out or filled to capacity, with a steady flow of hackers and developers (more than double what they expected!) heading to the house to relax and play with Esri’s technology.

And play they did. The Open Data Hackathon, a co-effort with the city of Austin, challenged developers to create a civic app using Esri APIs and data. In under five hours, developers created an app that identifies Austin’s most dangerous dog (the Chihuahua) and actually barks when the app user was within striking distance of the ferocious fur ball.

Organic social buzz and media coverage

The events also prompted hundreds of tweets from participants and admirers alike, while popular bloggers and tech-focused media outlets, like TechCrunch, covered their Esri experience in their top SXSW write-ups.

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