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Last March, Land O’Lakes created an immersive experience in a 6,000-foot space at SXSW to teach attendees about how their food is produced. This year, the brand returned to continue its mission to help festivalgoers understand “the importance of the system of food,” explained CMO Tim Scott, specifically that humans are not actually at the center of it.

“We are truly farm-to-fork on a massive scale,” said Scott. “Our purpose is about feeding human progress, and if we want to be champions of that as we are internally as well as externally, we need to tell that story in big, influential ways.”

The activation, called The Copernicus Project, was inspired by Nicolaus Copernicus, “who in 1532 cracked the foundations of contemporary science with a powerful paradigm shift: Earth is not the center of the universe,” according to a representative for the brand. The project was meant to “challenge long-held beliefs about humans as the center of the modern food system.” 

For this year’s activation, which is the third consecutive year Land O’Lakes has used SXSW to tell people something related to food or water, the company again worked with agencies Colle McVoy and Civic.

“We really want to be talking to a much broader audience than our traditional agricultural audience about the world of agriculture,” said Scott. “The activation part is to get people in the door and have them start thinking differently about agriculture, about technology, about the food system.”

By using an interactive experience—including a slide that drops you into an avocado ball pit—Land O’Lakes can subtly teach festivalgoers about the truth of the lack of diversity in the modern diet, like how much of what we eat is made up of very few plants, and that the food system is not a chain but a web.

“Feeding human progress is our purpose,” said Scott. “We have got to drive that home every day in everything we do and understand how … how people all fit in this crazy system that we’re part of it. Everything you buy or every choice you make has an effect on the system because it’s all so intertwined.”

After last year’s activation where Land O’Lakes got hundreds of millions of impressions, per Scott, the company believes it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

“Last year, as far as the numbers, we saw about a five or six point lift,” noted Scott. “As far as awareness, [Land O’Lakes] is about 90 percent because of the butter brand. So when we talk going up three, four, five, six points, that’s a big job on an already high base.”

After three years of activating in some capacity at SXSW, the company understands its importance.

“SXSW is a place where 75,000–100,000 people gather who are what we call the curious learners,” said Scott. “This is the perfect place to be able to tell that story not only for Land O’Lakes but all the other marketers who are here doing this because it’s almost like an open network of people wanting to learn.”

For other marketers interested in pulling off experiences at SXSW, Scott cautions that marketers will need to deeply engage consumers as soon as they enter the space.

“As people come in the door, they want to learn, learn and learn every step of the way, and when I’ve gone to the other activations around town, sometimes I don’t find them all that interesting,” said Scott. “You have to engage them right from the get-go as they walk in the door, give them something to talk about, something to take a photograph of, something to share with their friends. That’s critical because if you lose them at the door, then you’ve lost them.”



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