TechCrunch50 – Nearly 50 Ways to Build Your Brand

TechCrunch50, for the uninitiated, is the popular tech/web startup blog’s conference during which 50 companies, handpicked by a veritable who’s-who list of web luminaries, launch new products, competing for a $50K grand prize (and, of course, the attention of prominent VCs and their bulging bank accounts).

Despite the growing controversy surrounding the TechCrunch50 winnerYammer, a business messaging application that, depending upon which camp you’re in, is either a beneficial application with a genius business model or a blatant Twitter knock off funded by one of TechCrunch’s major advertisers – this year’s conference launched some interesting products.

I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight just a few (and, not to be crass, but also illustrate some potential opportunities for companies to advertise online):

Hangout.net

Geared toward 16-24 year olds, this social network/3D environment “combin[es] the casual web with immersive 3D” and provides yet another opportunity for the obesity epidemic to increase its flabby reach. If MySpace and Second Life had a baby far more interesting than either, it might be hangout.net.

The demographic involved is obviously key (lots of disposable income combined with a burning need to fit in), and even the “About” page says you’ll be able to “interact with the brands you love,” like Monster Energy and SkullCandy. However, much like MySpace, chances are if you’re not already a brand members love and with which (whom?) they want to interact, tread carefully. Another key characteristic of this demo is that their BS meters are set to kill – don’t try to trick them, or you’ll likely find yourself watching your avatar (or “hangout.net Object”) die a horrible yet shockingly creative death.

Bojam

Despite the crunchy, kind of dumb-sounding name (at least, thank God, they didn’t call it “Brojam”), this is actually a very cool service that allows musicians of all skill levels and from all points of the globe to mass-collaborate, to record, mix and produce either original or popular music in a manner geographically agnostic (i.e., your drummer will never not show up because he got fired from the Quickie-Mart and his car’s out of gas).

While Bojam, like many of the TechCrunch50, is still in beta, they’re looking for kick-ass musicians to start building the community, so put down that fake Rock Band microphone and make some real music. While it’s still a bit early to gauge advertising opportunities, I can’t imagine there wouldn’t be a place for, just for example, indie labels to connect with folks. And, if a solid band does coalesce, they’re going to need merch. If you rock, someone’s going to want your t-shirt.

Closet Couture

Geared toward fashion-oriented women, this social network is dedicated exclusively to fashion. It allows one to manage one’s wardrobe while interacting with stylists and retailers who can provide advice and recommendations.

While, admittedly, transactions in this network will occur in a language I can’t even fake (managing my wardrobe too often entails digging through piles of clothes on the floor to find the least repulsive item), the opportunity to connect your brand and get cozy with those willing to purchase seems almost natural. Were I either a stylist or a retailer, I’d find Closet Couture an irresistible way to expand my clientele.

Again, these are but three of fifty (also, don’t forget about the “DemoPit” – start-ups that attended the conference but were not part of the TechCrunch50). While none of last year’s TechCrunch40 are, as of yet, household names, and some are assuredly gone, you just never know. Any one of these could not only be the next billion-dollar baby, but could provide a fantastic way to connect with your target customers in a place where they want to be, to grow your brand with a receptive audience.

Or, in other words, to sell your stuff to someone who wants to buy it.