About danpankraz

I'm a Youth Marketing Strategist working as Regional Strategy Director, APAC at Iris Worldwide- based in Sydney. I've spent my whole career working on youth brands including Adidas, Axe, Smirnoff, Lonely Planet & many others

Great Nike Free Run participation idea: #runviking

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Even though I work with the great folk at adidas, respect to the guys over at Nike for creating another compelling participation program. Am loving the simplicity of this Nike Free run program and how they’ve cleverly leverage to Nike + community to drive engagement. Well done Nike and agency. Thanks to Iris NYC for picking this one up for us.

Capitalizing on a trend that’s basically running selfies and the hashtag #fromwhereirun, Nike launched a contest to promote it’s Run Free line, encouraging users to submit the most awesome place they’d like to go on a running adventure, for free.  They picked 10 finalists, and then smartly leveraged the Nike+ community by allowing users to vote by donating their miles logged – with top contributors to the winning run able to join the run’s creator.  See the winning run here #RUNVIKING.

This contest was rooted in existing consumer behaviors – it did not ask users to do something different than they were already doing – which means people are MUCH more likely to participate.  It leveraged the existing community and social currency of Nike+ by using miles as the voting mechanism, and smartly, encouraged people to up their usage occasion of Nike+ products by giving top contributors a vested interest in the winning run.

Audience as Characters: the new frontier of #interactivestorytelling

I just wrote an opinion piece for B&T magazine here in Australia on the evolving role consumers are playing in interactive stories. Hope you find it interesting.

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The best brands have always told great stories.  But in the world of real-time social connections, multiple screens and a culture of immediacy, the concept of the brand story is changing.  They’re no longer linear; and they’re no longer told in one sitting. Welcome to the era of interactive storytelling – where audiences become characters influencing the story.

The best brand stories now encourage different levels of participation to achieve maximum impact and scale.  This means designing interactive stories for skimmers (those exposed to the story), dippers (those sharing the story) and divers (those immersing, influencing and advocating the story) is a must for marketers.  Whilst it’s easier to entertain or engage ‘skimmers’, what is interesting is how brands are developing interactive brand stories for the ‘dipper and diver’ audiences –  as these are the most influential groups.

Many brands have experimented with interactive storytelling where the audience becomes the narrator (i.e, Chrysler ‘Steer the Script’, Coke’s ‘Share a Coke’, and many Alternate Reality Games such  ilovebees ARG, The Dark Knight ARG). The other popular strategy has been crowdsourcing the story, where the audience becomes the creator of the whole story. While some brands have done this well (i.e our latest MINI #notnormal campaign in the UK,  Arvo Beers ‘Perfect Lager Project’, Fanta Flavour Lab, The VW People’s Car Project in China, our own digitally customisable London Olympic Mascots) others have missed the mark, (the Raymond Weil’s ‘help design a new watch’ Facebook competition springs to mind) .

But the new frontier for participation branding is putting the audience into the story, as an actual character influencing other characters and the outcome. That is, it’snot just about giving a few people aunique experience (such as the “Best job in the world” campaign) anymore and relying on the online amplification of that (does anyone even remember who won Best Job?), but actually creating multiple stories for the many, democratising the experience so to speak.

To understand this we look to narrative theory – that’s the idea that in any story there are typical characters we identify with – the protagonist, antagonist, foil, mentor, threshold guardian, trickster, minion etc.   If you think about what’s been hot in popular culture, TV dramas such as the Wire, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad (and more recently The Fall, Luther and Game of Thrones) play around with who’s the hero and who’s the villain. While if we look to gaming, we can see evolving storytelling arcs and different role-playing in games such as Bioshock Infinite, Last of Us, Diablo, World of Warcraft, Heavy Rain, Skyrim and Final Fantasy. Narrative theory has even transcended into the music space, with pop band IO ECHO launching an interactive music video ‘Ministry of Love’ that allows audience to control the band through a series of rooms.

So what’s happening at the more ‘creative’ end of interactive storytelling in terms of the role of the audience?

Audience as the protagonist is still the most common approach (e.g. the character ‘Alex’ in Toshiba/Intel’s “The Beauty Inside”), however brands are now playing with more unusual roles – the most famous of those being the audience as foil in Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ and Old Spice’s ‘Man your man could smell like’. The role of audience as mentors to the community is also becoming a useful tool, some interesting examples being ‘Curators of Sweden’ (where Swedes get to manage the countries Twitter account) and Google’s Build with Chrome collaboration with LEGO (disclaimer: I worked on this one).

At Iris, we’ve experimented alot by thinking about audience as threshold guardians of the story, where fans work with each other to inspire or help the protagonist achieve greatness. For example, our recent adidas #hitthewinner Wimbledon Twitter game inspired Andy Murray fans to predict where he would hit a winner during his Wimbledon matches in real time. Fans won prizes if they predicted correctly, but what they were also doing was playing the role of guardians motivating him to Wimbledon glory.

So where’s the white space for brands looking to experiment with new interactive stories? Thinking about audience as sidekick rather than protagonist is an interesting place to start. Imagine audiences feeling like they are working alongside the brand. Also thinking about ‘groups of heroes’ rather than relying on one main protagonist to engage. We know people seek brands that help them belong, so brands with big advocate communities should explore this approach. The real visionary brands will involve audiences as an antagonist or anti hero as they look to create provocative ways for characters to interact and compete with each other.

So yes, the brands with the best stories will always win, however, if you neglect to think about what role your audience plays in influencing the story outcome, you’re missing a massive engagement opportunity.

Digital platform overview: Facebook = ‘Who I am’ VS Instagram = ‘How I see the world’

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There are many points of view online on the different roles of social platforms to consider when developing your social strategy. Clearly there also hundreds of different social & digital platforms, but I thought i’d share a snapshot on consumer uses of some of the main ones, plus mobile & search. Here’s a quick visual to give you a perspective on some of the consumer uses of the major digital platforms, hopefully helping you define how you’d like to use those social platform to create a meaningful relationship with consumers. This was created/built off some work my great colleagues at Iris NYC (thanks Esty :). The key takeout is to ensure you understand different consumer drivers for use of those channels and employ KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) when engaging in these channels. eg: Facebook is primarily about identity creation for the individual (sharing their life, engaging in conversations which build their real and digital identity) whereas Instagram is really about self expression. Different motivations, different brand uses.

20 quick tips on Community Management for brands

 I’m often asked by clients for tips on Community Guidelines for social platforms – particularly how brands can best manage their Facebook communities. Clearly, you’ve got to have an overarching social strategy, which then comes to life specifically for Facebook and other social platforms you choose to leverage. My biggest piece of advice is thinking about how brands can create meaningful interactions that genuinely add value to the community members daily life. There’s nothing worse than a brand trying to ‘be your best mate’ everyday. Anyway,  here are some quick tips on things Community Managers should think about when managing Facebook communities as the conversation hubs for their brands:

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  1.  Ensure you have a clear SOCIAL PURPOSE driving all conversations (Why would someone want to belong to this community?)
  2. Have a clear & consistent SOCIAL VOICE – are you an entertainer, host, deal distributor, enabler, coach etc..)
  3. Build around the HUM (daily conversation off content pillars), SING (capitalize on relevant brand/cultural events) , SHOUT (create max noise, engagement with launches/campaign activity) model
  4. Vary the posts – open ended stuff works best (questions, polls, competitions
  5. Have a maximum of 3 content buckets (i.e: Heineken has beer, music and design as the passion points they generate conversation around)
  6. Employ the ‘Why would I care, why should I share’ test to every post
  7. Influence, don’t try and control the conversation
  8. Stick to the 40/40/20 rule – 40% something about brand, 40% nothing about brand, 20% all about brand)
  9. Focus on Visual content (more prominence in Facebook’s news feed)
  10. Don’t stretch too far from your communities passion points or your product’s sphere on influence
  11. It’s not a product catalogue, don’t push too much product info
  12. Always listen and respond
  13. Treat everyone equally
  14. Act as an educator/ guide on product issues
  15. Provide facts and benefits at the moments that count
  16. Don’t plan too far ahead, allow for spontaneity, topicality & seasonality
  17. Don’t delete negative comments (unless they are personally offensive)
  18. Measure the best days/time of day to post – monitor engagement continuously and report regularly
  19. Always give FB community access to new products/competitions first
  20. Ensure your Risk management process is clear and you can pick up negative comments quickly and deal with them

Hansel & Gretel Effect: the hidden trail of digital breadcrumbs #m360 presentation

Yesterday I spoke at the Mumbrella 360 #m360 conference in Sydney and I thought I’d share the speaker notes. The topic was social media and youth and I decided to talk about the concept of ‘digital breadcrumbs’ and how youth are expressing themselves and evading parents using social media tools……

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Brands have and will always be playing catch up with youth culture. They’re always trying to stay on the trail.

As we all know, we’re all leaving traces of our presence across the internet, whether that be through social posts, sharing pictures and videos, or just surfing the web whilst signed in with Google. Think of these as ‘digital breadcrumbs’. So how are digital breadcrumbs affecting the social media behavior of the Internet’s most prolific sharers.. youth (specifically 16-24yr olds)?

I call it the Hansel & Gretel effect, the ways youth are both expressing themselves on social media platforms but also evading parents, marketers when leaving their digital breadcrumbs.

Today’s teens are constantly crafting and curating their online identity. This isn’t a new concept, but the explosion of new visual social platforms like Instagram has turbocharged this behaviour.

Our (Iris Worldwide’s)  recent Planet Hyperconnected study looked at the digital breadcrumbs of 6,000 18-24yr olds across 6 countries including Australia. Amongst other things, we found the average teen is consuming, creating and sharing content for up to 13hrs a day. Yes more than half the day. So they’re creating and leaving a hell of a lot of digital breadcrumbs.

So what are some of the digital breadcrumb themes (both good and bad) we are picking up on right now?

Firstly, we’re seeing the onset of Selfie Obsessed Syndrome – teens spending hours posing for the perfect selfie, or altering it on one of the many free photo editing aps. This is a behaviour that’s celebrity fuelled but also has permeated from youth subcultures driven by fashion and also sports for boys.

Whilst brands have moved away from a focus on image to reality/transparency over the past 5 years, teens are going the other way.

They are trying to create an idealised version of themselves to boost self esteem.

It’s not all fun and games though, there is a real INSTAGRAM- PRESSURE to look your best all the time and have a ‘perfect life’. We’re seeing many teens talk about ‘faking’ checkins at parties or festivals, as they feel the pressure to be seen in the right place.

They’re seeking approval by asking their friends to rate them #hotornot and #rateme on their posts as well as uploading selfies to judgement sites.

Their self esteem and confidence are increasingly being defined by how many likes and comments they get. When you’re a LIKEAHOLIC it’s a constant contest putting an amazing amount of pressure on your appearance.

This girl who we spoke to loves the fact that she gets up to 100 likes when she posts a selfie..for her it’s clearly a sense of validation and confidence.

However, the flipside of the positive validation is that there is an undercurrent of teens with body image issues as their selfies or pics are not perceived to be making the grade.

A week doesn’t go by when we don’t hear another story of a teen committing suicide following a relentless Facebook Bullying campaign by her classmates.

 INSTAGRAM PARTIES

A little cultural trend born in Australia (to my knowledge)

Forget hanging at the local Macca’s or skatepark. We’re seeing Pop Up social media takeovers in the form of Instagram Parties.

Teens getting together, having a party and trying to post enough content to effectively take over Instagram for a couple of hours… Their plan is to #ownthenight

In an era where everything is shared, do teens really give a shit about privacy and do they worry about the ramifications?

Well a global study by Device Research for the Young People’s Consumer Confidence Index found that 68% of 16-24yr olds are not concerned that their social media behaviour could harm future job prospects.

However they are only really concerned with the NOW and those with immediate power over them.

Think about when we were growing up, teens have always wanted privacy – in our day it was our bedrooms with  “no parents allowed” hanging on the door.

For todays youth– the motivations are the same – they still want a place to express themselves away from Mum and Dad, but now it’s a digital hideout instead. They want a place they can call their own and talk their own language.

Comparing todays youth with older generations;

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Their photo albums are now on Instagram

Their MTV are YouTube playlists

Their tapes and CDs are now spotify playlists

Their loveletters are now short sharp Snapchats

Their diaries are Tumblr pages

Their posters are now Pinterest pins

Their playground gossiping happens on facebook…  or at least it did…

Teens still crave privacy, but now Mum and Dad and unwanted friends are now on Facebook following their breadcrumbs.

It’s no surprise that today’s youth are spending less and less time on Facebook. I’ll go so far as to say there’s a movement off the platform by Aussie youth, following the trend from American youth.

There are simply too many chaperones at the party. The average age of a new user is now 47. So teens are getting out of there

So where are they going? Places Mum and Dad won’t find them like Instagram and Tumblr and places where they’re leaving fewer breadcrumbs.

Snapchat is the mobile app of the moment for youth … posts, pics and videos are sent and then selfdestruct within 10 seconds. They use it for meaningless fleeting interactions. It’s either silly selfies or sexting. Youth see it as failsafe way to share, communicate and interact without ever getting stung by mum and dad. As one teen said

‘It’s a way to connect with friends when you don’t really have anything to say.” Anonymous teen

However literally this week sites such as Snapchat Leaked and Snapchat Exposed  have popped up where people are screen grabbing naughty Snapchat pics and sharing them.

 CODED BREADCRUMBS

Another new behavior we’re seeing is youth leaving “coded breadcrumbs” online.

Teens are doing this by creating and sharing Cryptic Content as a form of privacy protection in the digital age. Academics call it social steganography where they control the meaning of content.

This is content that has layers of meaning, and hidden messages. To the untrained eye it can look like an innocent, vague facebook post, insta pic or vine video, but to those that know the inside language, it has pointed meaning.

Pew’s recent study on teens social media habits found that 64% of teens admit to using inside jokes and subtle cultural references to hide what they’re really saying.

As Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd states, ‘The more they share in public, the more they are hiding in plain sight

A recent example of a brand that’s tapped into cryptic content by creating a new language with hidden meaning is Puma with their Dance Dictionary.

So marketers today must be highly perceptive and agile, able to quickly spot and act upon the digital breadcrumbs the Hansels and Gretels of today are leaving behind them.

I think there are several types of brand action to consider when engaging youth in the social space:

CURRENCY

Start with what will give teens social currency in the digiverse, conversation is king. It requires shifting the participation focus from message to cultural relevance that will get people talking.

Brands need to act at the speed of culture, real time marketing is an imperative  – think like a newsjacker,  being able to tap into relevant cultural memes or events and respond with social ideas at speed. At Iris we call it Urgent Genius and creating conversational currency must be a key tenet of your marketing program.

CURATE

Trying to navigate through 13hrs of content a day is hardwork, at a minimum brands need to play the role of curators. Think less about what content you can create (remembering Youtube cops 72hrs of new content every minute) and how you cab make their life easier by being a curator.

Aggregating, organising and sharing ‘best of content’ created by others to add context, narrative and meaning to it.

Coke’s doing this really well at the moment.

 CHALLENGE

Todays youth get a kick out of discovering the underlying meaning, and knowing what others don’t. Challenging youth to discover the hidden meanings and mechanics through gamification. Motivating and then rewarding them for deciphering ideas.

Our Iris team in London recently launched Adidas NEO fashion label using Justin Beiber, our ‘Find my gold shoes Adidas NEO’ idea generated participation by hundreds of thousands of Beliebers, with reach social reach to over 300m people on Facebook. If the reward ‘Bringing Justin the gold shoes you found online’ is motivating enough, people will participate in droves.

 COLLUDE

Finally and most importantly we need to continue to look at ways in which we can collude with youth. I purposely use the word collude over collaborate as I think collaboration is the most overused word in marketing. Collusion is much more about giving youth something special, making them feel like they have the inside track, letting them put their fingerprints on ideas so they can share as their own…in secret without broadcasting to their parents..just to their friends that will give them cred. It’s a word shift, but one I think is critical.

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So yeah it’s harder than ever to keep up with youth culture, but understanding the digital breadcrumbs and the needstates is the key to engaging youth in the social age.

Tech girls are chic: interview with Dr Jenine #girlsindigital

I recently presented at a youth marketing conference in Sydney on ‘Marketing to Kids, Tweens & Teens’ and i was lucky enough to sit next to Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen who is doing some awesome work encouraging young women here in Australia to get into IT and digital careers. She’s written a great book, ‘Tech girls are chic’ definitely worth reading. 

Here’s a short interview with her:

I’m Dr Jenine (I have a PhD) and I’m an entrepreneur – well that’s what some people call me. I’m CEO of my own research consulting business Adroit Research which I just launched in the past 3 months, I lecture in IT to undergraduates at Griffith University, and I’m a book editor (Tech girls are chic!). Basically I’m a researcher interested in how people use technology, and how it can make our lives better.Image

Why did you start ‘Tech girls are chic’?

To raise awareness that Information Technology is a great career for girls. At the time I was running Technology Takes You Anywhere and volunteering at Go Girl, which are events for girls to learn about tech careers, and I wanted something the girls could take home at the end of the day to show their parents, teachers and friends. I also wanted to have something for girls that couldn’t make it to any events, I didn’t want them to miss out on learning about technology careers and how great they are. I love my job working in Information Technology. Every day is different; my work is interesting and challenging, I travel and get paid very well!

 Why don’t you think young women in Australia have gone into IT/digital careers?

They don’t understand the awesome opportunities that working in technology careers have. That is not their fault, I find it hard to understand what people in IT do as it so varied. We need  more role models to show us what they do in their jobs, and to share what they love and what challenges they face (this article agrees). One problem is that many girls particularly do not seem to make the connection between using technology and building technology. Think of all the technologies, websites, apps, devices etc. you use every single day, these are created by people in Information Technology. We need you to join us in creating the technology of the future! :)

Do you think women bring different thinking to the industry?

Yes. Diversity is important in many aspects of our lives. Think of how many diverse people use all of that technology that you use every day. It makes sense that those diverse people are represented in the development of technology. This doesn’t just apply to women, but people of all ages from all backgrounds including minorities and people with disabilities.

 What’s happening right now in terms of getting young girls into IT/digital careers? Any big success stories you’ve seen?

I’m proud to say I’ve been behind a success story! Tech girls are chic is a book that I developed to show young girls what is an IT career all about, and to provide 16 different role models of chic women who work in the industry. The message is that we are just like you, we love hanging out with friends, travelling and reading books, we also happen to work in Information Technology. We love our jobs, and we want you to see what we do and we also want to show that we have other skills – story writing. Each tech girl in the book wrote a short fun fiction story about technology. 

 In the past 5 years I’ve distributed nearly 20 000 books and I need more as people keep ordering them! So I’m in the process of looking for funding and sponsorship money so that I can produce the next version of the pink book. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact me. But how do I really know that the book has been successful? Well I recently met a girl called Anna who is studying IT at university because she read my book when she was in high school. It was so exciting to meet her and to hear that I had an impact on the career she has chosen. Gives me goosebumps! So I’m going to work on a crowdsourcing campaign to find out “where in the world is the pink book?

 

What’s the future looking like for women in IT/digital careers?

I think is very positive and full of opportunities. We are using more technology all the time and have a greater reliance on it every single day. Therefore we need a highly expert workforce to continue to innovate into the future. How could you not want to be part of this fun, challenging, rewarding and exciting career, and why should the boys get all the good stuff?

BOYS vs GIRLS: the gender differences of #inbeTWEENers

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Tweens are often termed the ‘inbetweeners’, caught between the kiddie world that’s focused on fantasy/play and the fledgling world of teenagerdom that’s about self expression within the group. Marketers looking to engage with tweens in todays digital environment need to understand that there are huge gender differences between boys and girls aged 8-12. I wrote about these gender differences in a previous post here, but this visual above is a snapshot I created with my fellow planner Paul Gage on the tween gender differences.

Put simply tween girls are all about the social context, playing in co-operation with their friends as they do things online. Once they hit 12-13yrs however, this co-operation turns into competition. We’re seeing the new digital trend of Instagram beauty pageants where girls post selfies and compete with each other as to who’s hot or not. Check out #beautycontest or #beautypageant on Instagram.

 They’re also looking for brands to provide deeper storytelling content online, they’re after detail, flourishes of pastel colours and the ability to create their own branded memories to share with friends.

On the flipside, unsurprisingly, tween boys are about adventure, action, gadgets. They’re visual rather than being verbal focused in their interaction. Their gaming world has trained them to focus on a hero character as the social context is less important. They want brands to be quick and to the point, bold colours and graphics and get excited by symbols of achievement as they compete with their friends in everything. Tween boy world is binary – yes or no and they are extremely single tasked focused. Good to see things don’t change as it’s true guys can’t do two things at once.

 Just a few tips and tricks to think about when looking to design brand experiences for tween boys or girls. Thanks Gagey for the shared insight.

Creating Brand MWE in a selfie obsessed world #brandMWE

I was asked to speak about teens and social media platforms last week at a youth marketing conference in Sydney and here are some of my notes.

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Essentially, my talk based around the fact that teens are not longer just creating BRAND ME (their online identity), they are carefully curating BRAND MWE where every Facebook update, Instagram pic, Vine vid, self destructing Snapchat selfie is seeking social approval from the crowd. They have selfie obsessed syndrome. Curating BRAND MWE is less about their own self confidence and more about fear of rejection and isolation in the digital world.

Like it or not, the rise and rise of ‘Selfie culture’ has created a need for teens today to live in a world where they are constantly competing for online validation. How many likes can I accumulate? Talking to a bunch of 15yr olds last week, they feel enormous pressure to post the right pic on Instagram. Fear of judgement? Yes. Fear of isolation? Yes. A Need for peer validation? Absolutely. Their self esteems are taking a massive hit at the moment as they are pressured into ‘joining’ in to the banter that’s happens online. They know that their real self offline is nowhere near as exciting as their online identity, but they’re pressured to often do ‘fake’ check ins to prove their worth.

Unsurprisingly, teens want to be on social platforms that are simple, relatively secret from their parents and super fun. It’s their new oxygen. They’re after self expression, creativity, entertainment, recognition, a place to build their identity and of course connect and chat.

Facebook, although the biggest is on the nose for many influential Aussie teens. It’s not surprising, why would they want to hang out on a place where their aunts, uncles, parents are commenting on every post. It’s become a busy school playground and the cool kids always want to go and hang out in the corner. By end of 2013 mainstream youth will start avoiding FB. 

Instagram parties the new meet up

Instagram is hot for obvious reasons, these kids are obsessed by taking selfies and sharing how hot, sexy, ripped, tough they are with the world. They also use it for entertainment. I recently heard of Instagram themed parties that teens are having so they can ‘own’ that night’s Instagram feed and make their other friends jealous.  Unfortunately this is a generation where many of them are becoming more and more focused on ‘posing’ rather than ‘doing’  stuff. 

Self destructing selfies mean less pressure

 SnapChat is the hottest new photo sharing app that teens are taking up. An app that lets users send quick, SMS-like messages, which can include candid photos or videos that (supposedly) disappear seconds later — “never to be seen again.” Unless you take a screenshot. Once again it’s simple, fun and most adults don’t know about it. They see it as a bit of fun spontaneity, instant gratification. You take a photo (selfie) share it, and once people view it disappears within 10 seconds. One of the reasons why teens love Snapchat is they don’t feel the need to spend hours ‘altering an image’ like they do on Facebook or Instagram. They feel they can be themselves. Many parents are freaking out about Snapchat and the impact it will have on the sexting epidemic.  

6 seconds of Vine Fame

Brand MWE is also built by ‘long photos’, and teens are starting to get into the new app Vine. Posting 6 second vids of them in action. This app taps more into the performing side of teens. It’s no longer 15 secs of fame, it’s been squashed down to 6 seconds of fame. Another example of bite sized nibble content these teens are after.

 Be yourself on Tumblr

Tumblr is quickly becoming the de facto teen social network. It’s all about creativity and self expression without the prying eyes of parents.

They like it its celebrity and vertical (politics, music, etc.) outreach and varied post formats. Teens love it for its anonymity of and lighter emphasis on follower counts as compared with Twitter. “Even if your mum is on Tumblr, you don’t have to follow her, since there’s no requirement to use your real name. You don’t even have to know that she’s on the site,” They feel they can disguise themselves more than on Facebook or Instagram, without fear of being stalked.

 So that’s a quick look into the social platforms that teens are using to help curate BRAND MWE. They’ll be on to something new within 2-3 months so I’ll be updating this post. The latest self expression app is Pheed. Word not in on whether that will kick off.

SXSW Interactive 2013 Summary: 7 key themes that matter to marketers

SXSW Interactive 2013 Wordle

Trying to synthesise hundreds of SXSW sessions into a handful of key takeouts accurately reflecting the current digital zeitgeist is a little challenging. Based on my experiences I’ve pulled out what I believe are some of the most relevant themes for brands looking to leverage digital today and tomorrow.

1. Hardware is Hot

Hardware is hot right now. The innovation race is centred around how developers and brands can bring game changing hardware to market, cheaply. From affordable 3D printing like MakerBot’s 3D Digitizer, Ouya’s Android’s TV gaming console to Google’s Talking Shoe and Augment Reality Glass concept.

2. Physicalisation of Digital Experiences (Tangible Keepsakes)

In a world where digital innovation has rapidly been occurring over the past decade, dematerialisation has taken place as physical items have been movedinto the ever elusive cloud.  However, while we as humans appreciate the benefits and advancements of digital technology, we’re now beginning to see a return towards tangible goods using the very same digital technology that has helped remove them from our lives. There’s a big opportunity for brands who are able to converge the two if they’re able to create products that link the emotions we attach to items in the digital space to the physical forefront. Stitchtagram a perfect example of this trend.

3. Humans as the New Interface

The future of design will use the Human body as the ultimate interface. As we struggle to cram more stuff on our screens, the real innovation is happening in or around the human body. Whether it’s intuitive gesture based tech like Leap Motion, programmable clothing or embedded technology actually in our skins, brands gazing into the future will be designing brand experiences in or around the body.

4. Think Psychology before Technology

It’s an obvious one, but brands wanting to create circulation (‘viral’ has officially been blacklisted)of their ideas or content need to start with the psychology of why people use or share a service or idea, not with the platform or technology. It goes back to basic needstate driven marketing, but is so important in a world where we’re screening out non useful tech.

5. Hack your brand

Hacking your brand by opening up your API to crowdsourced development and iteration is not a new concept in the USA. But for Aussie marketers it may come across as a destructive concept, it’s actually extremely constructive if done well. It’s about opening up your brand. 2013 will be the year where 24hr Hacksessions and real time creativity become more mainstream and marketers look to agency partners to deliver solutions (particularly NPD) to big problems quickly.

6. Feedforward not feedback technology

In today’s world of big data, we have the ability to create immediate feedback based on real time data. Think RFID sensors, NFC.  When people understand what they’ve just done, it influences their next decision. Marketers need to leverage Feed Forward technology; guiding consumers to make better decisions by providing the right info at the right time in the right context, intuitively.

7. Always On = Always Now

In our latest global study, Planet Hyperconnected we saw an emerging cultural trend that the ability to be always on and digitally connected wasdriven by a desire to always be IN the moment.  Here at SXSW, this theory was proved further as speakers such as Chris Risdon’s “Behavioral Change as a Value Proposition” and eBay’s Steve Yankovich talked about how in this constant era of connectivity brands need to capitalise on people’s motivation in the moment.

That’s my wrap for SXSW 2013, looking forward to resting my brain after the last intense yet stimulating five days and seeing if 3D printing goes nuts in Australia.