As our SXSW adventure approaches a shift into its music series, the interactive and digital influence continues to thread throughout Austin.  Most industry insiders and consumers are aware of the various digital tools and platforms that are represented during the conference.  A majority of media and digital music technology brands such as Spotfiy, VEVO TV, Samsung, MTV, and BET are hosting last night RSVP only events that draw massive crowds and popular artists into the mix of Austin nightlife. One night of partying can find you hopping from shows featuring Kendrick Lamar, Chad Hugo of the Neptunes and Miguel.

If you’re gonna spend your nights enjoying your favorite performers amongst cool looking people and sipping complimentary cocktails, you have to take advantage of the sessions during the day.  Major brand directors, music legends, digital influencers, and major label heads fill the Austin Convention Center.  A chance run-in with the right person can garner a valuable contact in an informative setting versus trying to get their attention within a party environment. Here are two of the power players I managed to catch up with:

15 Minutes with Media Personality, Agency Owner and Venture Investor Dhani Jones

My SXSW experience offered chance opportunities to engage with what I call “Brand Fam” throughout the week. Among them: fellow University of Michigan alum, television host, and start up investor, Dhani Jones. Known for his television hosting spots and dynamic personality, we spoke about his agency businesses: VMG in New York City and Proclamation in Cincinnati.  “While VMG is more about collaborating with digital clients; Proclamation is an event experience agency utilizing cross cultural analytics in order to translate and deliver the best experiences for consumers,” he said.

When asked about why he would start something based out of the Midwest he shared a couple of items about that particular marketplace. “Cincinnati has hyper focused efforts of being the brand focus of America. Major CPG brands operate out of this area so it made sense to develop my business in this budding hub for corporate brands. This really came out of noticing how brands needs to learn about being authentic and humanizing experiences in order to obtain reach and impressions from consumers.” 

Demands of the agency world are quite high and being the owner of two required him to shift focus.  Instead of six television shows, Dhani cut it down to one, Playbook 360 on Spike TV.  When I asked why he would continue to juggle media appearances alongside his business venture he stated, “I'm using this as a platform for visibility.  My brand equity benefits my clients. Most importantly, I want to set an example by letting people know that opportunities exist out here in the digital and branding space for people that look like you and me. People of color.”

15 Minutes with Bozoma St. John, Cultural Branding Marketer for Pepsi Corporate

Most of Dhani's end goals run alongside some of the key factors to success mentioned by another “Brand Fam” colleague, Bozoma St. John. Bozoma spends her days and nights identifying the “cool” and “what’s next” in terms of creating the right partnerships and investments for brand driven multicultural marketing.  Our relationship goes back several years and her evolution into the mainstream as one of the “who’s who” in the industry is empowering to watch.  We sat down outside of a café on 4th Street, where she shared a few gems on how she made it in this business as an outspoken, proud, culturally aware, and strong African American woman.

Most of our conversation circled around how her image, cultural knowledge and influence works together while working for such a corporate brand she mentioned some key insights. “I’m very much aware that I am a tall, black, and very outspoken woman amongst my colleagues and peers.  My background was always rooted in pop culture.  My career experience with personalities such as Spike Lee; gave me a chance to really show and build upon my knowledge.  My role is important because I drive and create influencer packaging, budgeting and relationships with major music artists and brands. Regardless of my outspoken nature and blackness, what I know brings tremendous value and clearly I am here for a reason given that factor.”

If anyone is going to lead the brand vision for partnerships amongst artists like, Lil Wayne and Beyoncé, Bozoma’s work ethnic and dynamic personality delivers results that are very valuable and essential to growing Pepsi's brand influence. Her impact has built a respectable reputation outside of the branding world and it is empowering to see a fellow sister rise above the glass ceiling.