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Doodles at SXSW: NFTs meet Experiential Marketing

By Laura Kobylecky

The Doodles activation at the 2022 SXSW Conference and Festivals connects the intangible world of NFTs with the visceral world of experiential marketing.

Experiential marketing is an SXSW staple. Brands make grand spectacles to court the attention of conference-goers and sometimes the general public as well. SXSW 2022 is no exception. The Doodles SXSW activation occupies a large space across the street from the Austin Convention center. The pastel colors and charming, cartoonish, aesthetic entice crowds to gather at the entrance.

But what are Doodles? “Doodles are a collection of 10,000 NFTs (non-fungible tokens) that are made up of hundreds of exciting visual traits designed by Burnt Toast.” NFTs are a hot topic at SXSW this year. In short, NFTs allow people to claim ownership of a digital asset. This ownership is verified using the blockchain ledger. The ledger is a series of blocks that record transactions and can be used to verify ownership of digital assets.

This means that your digital asset belongs to you and you can prove it. Other people might copy the image or something, but you are the “official owner.” Some assets are one of a kind and others are part of a limited series. Some people collect digital assets for fun and some people buy in the hopes that their digital assets will gain value.

Burnt Toast, who is also known as Scott Martin, is a “Canadian–based illustrator, designer, animator and muralist.” Burnt made up hundred of “visual traits” that exist in the adorable Doodles. Drawn in a pastel-bright, simplistic and slightly cartoonish style, the Doodles include cartoon figures and things like  “ skellys, cats, aliens, apes and mascots” as well. The collections can include rare variations as well.

Owning a Doodle lets people participate in the Doodle community. Owners can “vote on community-driven features, products and events.” This experiential event was designed to bring some of that community feel to the “real world.” (https://doodles.app/)

Luca De Laurentiis, VTProDesign’s executive producer, has some things to share about this exciting event. Laurentiis explains that VTProDesign is an agency that creates experiences, usually with “an element about creative tech.” For this event, they wanted to “allow Doodle holders to actually get a real in-person experience.” They worked directly with Doodle and did all the creative ideation for the experience.

To make this happen, they created a world that is “Immersed in all the lore of Doodles, it’s all iconography of doodles.” The outside of the building is bright pastel and cartoonish. The inside space is brightly colored and filled with statues of Doodles and Doodle images printed on the wall.

There are “different touchpoints around the experience.” At these touchpoints, you can interact with your Doodle in the real world (through a digital screen)

The event has many elements to keep people immersed in the world of Doodles. Laurentiis says that they used a “custom score and sound design” to round out the experience. As you “walk through the space it has a narrative feel through it.” The building is impeccably transformed with bright floors and walls that create a kind of pastel, cavern, experience. The outside world is entirely blocked out.

They have a variety of other fun elements in the activation. Like the Doodle noodle station and coffee cart. It is the classic SXSW siren call of free food and drink. There are other, more specialized, experiences as well. Laurentiis explains that you can “get your nails done here with your Doodle on them.” There is also a shop where people can purchase Doodle merch.

After the missed SXSW of 2020, and the Online SXSW of 2021, Laurentiis seems excited to be back in person for SXSW 2022. He says that “It’s great to be back in the immersive real space with people.” He says they are getting great “buzz” from word-of-mouth sharing and on Sunday some “2,500” may have gone through the experience.

Laurentiis explains that he has “a love for SXSW.” He met his wife at SXSW, a couple of years ago. He is fond of the “randomness” of SXSW that allows people to meet and connect in different ways (such as marriage).

At SXSW, you meet certain people, your “SXSW family,” and you may only see them at this one event, but you remember each other and you find ways to reconnect every time you meet.  Laurentiis seems to see a beauty in that synchronicity.

The Doodles activation at SXSW is a fun experience that gives people tangible memories of their in-tangible, and non-fungible, tokens. This marriage of the “real” world and the world of NFT collections, all taking place in a vividly transformed event space, is a classic SXSW experience.