Big brands often pave the way in marketing, and smaller companies try to ride the wave or emulate on a smaller scale. Recently there have been examples of marketing initiatives executed on by big brands that are easy for a small brand to replicate and build upon. The Gap campaign is a great example, as is Neiman Marcus’ outreach for a fashion photographer at SXSW.

Brands should be inventive and find a way to “fit in”

The SXSW festival is an annual music, film, and interactive conference and festival held in Austin and has become a preeminent event for social media, emerging trends, and the arts. With “indie-classical” bands like Mother Falcon, indie films and sponsors like IFC, it’s ripe for a brandscape that can live beyond the show itself. However, as a more traditional brand, Neiman Marcus had to invent a way to be relevant and provide value both at the show and beyond:

Calling all street-style photographers! You could join us at SXSW, in Austin, for a week of music and style. Check out our Facebook tab, NM@SXSW, to learn more details and enter!

Although SXSW is not about fashion traditionally, artists and filmmakers and many of those in attendance do have style. And when Neiman Marcus sends a photographer already well-versed in street photography to the event, they become tuned in to the audience and create an opportunity for making a statement without having to sponsor the show or invest huge dollars. NM also has built in a way to potentially reach a new audience.

Can a non-comic brand have relevance at Comic‑Con

Smaller brands can learn a lot from the NM@SXSW example. Comic-Con is one of those events that reaches a niche audience, and if your brand does not seem related to the comic industry, the event may not be considered for inclusion in marketing initiatives. However, Comic-Con is all about vibracy and color and individuality and fun, and certainly those values have wider applications.

Enter Superhero Chef

Chef Jason Santos, with his blue hair and his talents in molecular gastronomy, is a superhero in the kitchen. Sure, he’s been seen on Hell’s Kitchen, among other food-related shows and events, but he encompasses vibrancy and color and individuality.

Finding an expert who marries with the values of an event is a great way to find relevancy. Perhaps a food brand like Kitchen Aid with their line of colorful stand mixers wants to sponsor an event featuring Chef Jason Santos at Comic-Con. Chef can certainly make a superhero-worthy meal.

Enter Superhero Makeup

A big part of Comic-Con are the costumes and makeup. A fun, young, cutting-edge makeup company could benefit from having makeup artists on site, helping people get ready to enter the show. I don’t know anything about Sugarpill Cosmetics, but a brief look at their website reveals vibrant colors and an already established relationship with Hello Kitty.

Perhaps Sugarpill could come out with a line of makeup specifically for superhero chics who want to be bad-ass but look pretty while doing it. Who was better at doing that than Linda Carter?

Enter Superhero Paint

I came across Superhero paint splatter art, and I immediately thought that a paint company could set up a blank wall in a booth at Comic-Con and invite people to come in to do graphic and street art in their booth.

This is a fun and interactive way to integrate home decorating tips at an event not typically about home design at all. Bring in the paint splatter artist Arian Noveir and you’ve got a booth that will attract the most loyal comic fans.

With a little creativity, any brand can find a way to be relevant yet stand out with a niche audience.