Amidst the circus of brand launches and startups, for IBM at SXSW Interactive 2016, showing up meant taking their rightful place as the power behind some of the legendary tech disruptors today.

What’s more, this investment had to unite and authentically represent 25 IBM business units in a destination that rejuvenated attendee perception of the brand. IBM Chairman Ginni Rometty named cognitive “the most disruptive transformative trend,” and GPJ’s mission was to demonstrate how IBM’s cognitive solutions are impacting everyday lives, especially for the coveted millennial, developer, start-up and company leader audiences.

To create an immersive cognitive, agile and social world of IBM at SXSW, GPJ completely transformed a 5,000-square-foot restaurant just steps from the Austin Convention Center into a custom venue with nine key engagement areas.

Guests were surprised and delighted as their journey was personalized through RFID bracelets, while demonstrating IBM solutions through everyday experiences. A cognitive cocktail bar served personalized drinks from Watson. A virtual reality cycling experience recommended one of three custom ride routes. An interactive Watson touchscreen experience, live Chef Watson cook-off, app lounge, developer playground, arcade and mind controlled BB8 Droids all drove home the value proposition of the cognitive story.

With lines that sometimes went around the block, an amazing 9,210 attendees came through the door, over 50% of which were the targeted millennial demographic. 6,497 cognitive cocktails were served, 3,484 people experienced virtual reality cycling, and 3,292 people engaged with the custom Watson interface.

IBM was one of three top trending brands at SXSW, with social media buzz expressing audience surprise and delight at the 360 degree IBM experience.

“2016 will be remembered as the year IBM called the ball on cognitive computing, and its marketing activation at SXSW, which rechristened a 5,000-square foot restaurant as the IBM Cognitive Studio, was pretty much pitch-perfect.” – John Battelle (Wired, The Industry Standard)

IBM is capitalizing on the momentum from SXSW to continue rolling out their Cognitive Era platform, with SXSW as the benchmark on how to engage audiences by bringing their message, solutions and products to life.