If you were one of the main sponsors of SXSW Interactive and had the entrance to the conference center dedicated as your engagement area, wouldn't you want to do more than just show cars? (Disclosure: I work on a competitive auto account)
But this all reads too much like a 101 on social media for dummies. The use of QR codes seem like an outdated concept (by about 5 years) at an event that's so focused on innovation. Gowalla badges seem more tactical rather than a longer term approach.
I guess these partnerships were chosen because both are official sponsors of SXSW interactive. How predictable.
When you have some of the brightest technical minds at an event, wouldn't you want to engage them more? What about throwing out a challenge to the community or asking them to help design a feature of the vehicle?
So, just how successful were some of their efforts? Judging by buzz.... somewhat, but not very.
Looking at the attached graphs and taking into consideration SXSW interactive started on the 12th of March (with some people arriving on the 11th), photos on flickr (in pink) grew very little.
Twitter mentions jumped a bit, but it looked like "Prius" mentions jumped way more than "Chevy Volt". Interesting, especially since Prius had no presence at SXSW interactive.
Random screen pulling in Chevy tweets
QR codes on vehicles
Making you work to get more information about the vehicle (soz the focus).
Why would I do this?
The coolest thing they did was to provide power strips inside the conference center. Nothing more pleases geeks than power for their laptops :)