SXSW Interactive is over for another year and thousands of marketers, clients, and tech geeks from around the world have had our brains filled with the latest and greatest in technology and human behavior. SXSW has become less about the latest start up tech (i.e: Twitter launching) and more about how marketers can influence behavior today and tomorrow through innovation.
So, here are 5 things I found most interesting at SXSW this year:
1. Shadow Marketing: Data, security and privacy goes mainstream
As expected there was a big focus on data and privacy as we live in an era of technological transparency and big data in every marketing presentation. Interestingly, keynotes by Julian Assange and whistleblower Ed Snowden were the big attractions of the festival, not the CEO’s of tech companies. Rather than the tech side of things, the conversations were around the shadows behind the technology and how we can use the immense data stream, tracking info to actually benefit mankind. Let’s call it ‘Shadow marketing’. People are acutely aware of the data being stored about their lives, so marketers need to be transparent about what info they have on people, making them feel secure about it whilst also adding genuine value to their lives, not flogging endless cross sells.
2. 4D Virtual Reality: The future of brand experiences
The big tech hit of SXSW this year was 4D Virtual reality software from Oculus Rift. Whilst, VR is not new, we may be finally coming to the point where marketers can genuinely use it to deliver hyper real brand experiences and interactive stories. HBO created a ‘Game of Thrones’ 4D Exhibit using Oculus Rift to showcase the new series, letting cast member Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) experience the mind blowing reality of it. Watch it here:
3. Ssshhh: Secret social the antidote to the selfie obsessed
Finally, we may be seeing a counter trend against to the selfie-obsessed trend as people become more protective of their digital footprint. Perhaps we’ll be seeing a backlash to the selfie saturated social platforms and a growth in ‘secret social’ apps like Whisper and Secret. Their goal is to bring anonymity back to social. They’re both offering the ability to connect to anyone, anywhere, about anything without the fear of being judged. The big debate was around trolling and the impact that had on the overall welfare on the digiverse. Whisper CEO, Michael Heyward suggested ‘Whisper is the safest place on the web, we have a strict policy here anonymity is used to protect yourself, not hurt others’. Time will tell on this one.
4. Hacking for Humanity: emerging markets embracing hacking culture
Last year hacking was a key part of SXSW conversation and this year it popped up again but in a different guise. This year the conversation was around ‘Humanity hacking’ – tacking something and rewiring/rebuilding it to push us forward as a species. Interestingly, the best examples of this were not out of the USA or Europe but out of developing markets in Asia. Oxfam’s Pink Phone project in Cambodia was a shining example, whereby rural women were given old mobile phones providing them with access to farming information to help their livelihoods. We’re also seen phone hacking for good, as textbooks are delivered on phones in African nations.
5. Intrapreneurs the key to engaging Millennial workers
My favourite keynote was Pete Cashmore from Mashable talking about how to motivate Millennials in his ‘Y bother’ forum. By 2025, 80% of western workforces will be Gen Y, this is relevant for us all. We all know and have heard the discourse around Millennial expectations of management positions within 2 years of leaving uni, well here’s why. Millennials have grown up in a world where the tech has changed at warp speed, this is the real time generation. Social media platforms have democratised virtually every industry, giving everyone an equal voice. The key to maximising Millennial performance in the workforce is to empower them as INTRAPRENEURS – where they can be entrepreneurial within the business, making change in real time within flatter organisations structures. Millenials have become wired to expect real time feedback. Annual Reviews are dead. Work and play is seen as one, Intrapreneurs want to go hard at both. Which is a great metaphor for the vibe at SXSW – a healthy dose of sucking up knowledge during the day and partying hard at night.
Perhaps the coolest thing at SXSW, was all the geeky gamers talking about the documentary series ‘Dumping The Alien: Unearthing The Atari Graveyard’ where filmmakers are going to Area 51 in Mexico to try and find the 3million allegedly buried copies of the Atari Game ET ‘Extra Terrestrial’ – widely known as the worst video game ever.
Another SXSW done, as people in Austin say: Stay Weird.
Dan Pankraz, regional strategy director APAC, Iris Worldwide