SXSW 2019: Take A Sip From The Fire Hydrant Of The Future

SXSW 2019: Take A Sip From The Fire Hydrant Of The Future

Dan Machen (pictured below) is head of strategy for Channelzero and is presently basking in all things SXSW in Austen, Texas. Here’s the first of his reports exclusively for B&T

Day one at SXSW – the world’s largest tech and innovation conference in Austin Texas – has been an absolute ripper.


The day began on a real high – with an epic talk from Dr Brene´ Brown, creator of one of the most viewed TED talks globally. Her session The Only Unfollow That Broke My Heart  talked about the importance of being really present and being true to your authentic self. She said the unfollow that broke her heart is when she stopped posting due to negative social comments.

Lots of lessons for brands here in terms of authenticity and being sure of who you are. The key concept from the talk was the sense of belonging. Dr Brown said ‘fitting in’ was you want to be somewhere, belonging is when others want you to be somewhere. How resonant for brands ‘fitting in’ on social media platforms.

Screen shot 2019-03-11 at 7.08.15 AM

The image above really captures the sense of this year, which is something I saw walking around Austin. A great mural, ‘These walls bring us together,’ being whitewashed over. This is a great visual metaphor for SXSW and what we are doing with technology globally. Technology has the power to bring us together, but currently, we are abusing it for commercial and political agendas. This was a thread picked up by Rohit Bhargava in an excellent keynote on ‘Seven Non-Obvious trends actually changing the future in 2019’.

Rohit talked about a ‘believability crisis’ where he is seeing the same story told so many different ways that is almost completely erodes trust. He talked about Evian saying, “is it really bottled in the Alps? Or is Evian just naïve spelled backwards?” The solution according to Bhargava was a curation of concepts ‘the haystack method’. If we know the ‘hay’ in terms of understanding the relevant information, we can consciously stick the needle in the middle. An interesting concept – albeit with a practicality challenge for people who don’t have time to filter.

Overall, I think the key concept this year will be to try and stop the bad practice with technology and get back to what it was meant for. The two choices for humanity are to use technology to manipulate or elevate; the latter is clearly what we need. Sir Tim Berners Lee – inventor of the worldwide web – said he built it to bring us together. To solve big problems. In 2019, the rallying call of SXSW is to stop abusing technology to peddle falsehoods, get back to authenticity and lean into the challenges caused by bad actors, fake news and the whitewashing of programmatic advertising. Interesting – if from a brand and marketing point of view, we think about ‘belonging’ instead of ‘fitting in.’

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Dan Machen SXSW

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