Day 2 SXSW 2013 Highlights: Peepculture, Digifrenia & Hacksessions

As I boarded the 26hr flight from Sydney to Austin on Thursday I promised my fellow Aussie SXSW’westers that I’d avoid reporting on buzzwords in my daily B&T posts. It’s Day 2 and I’m about to break that promise. Sorry guys.

SXSW really kicked into gear today, heavyweights like Al Gore hit the keynote stage, but it was actually the smaller presentations that were worth the painful queues.

OK, three thoughts to take out of today: Hacksessions are the new brainstorms, Peepculture not pop culture is where youth are at and brands needing to Design for Digifrenia. Bare with me as I explain.

Hacksessions are the new brainstorms

First off this morning was a fascinating panel talk called ‘Can u hack it’ by Big Spaceship, covering how digital agencies are now tapping into Hacker culture to come up with new ideas/services to business problems. It’s rapid real time prototyping of ideas that break the status quo system. The big question of the session was the difference between 24hr Hacksessions and brainstorms.  The key difference between a Hacksession and a brainstorm is that the former is absolutely focused on the ‘making of something real via rapid prototyping’, rather than abstract thinking on post it notes. Big Spaceship for one, are using Hacksessions as their chemistry sessions in new business pitches. Rather than spend $20k+ and loads of strategy/ creative time, they’ll go into a client for a day and run a Hacksession with a client, taking a team of multi discipline thinkers; coders, designers, strategists to crack a problem. Agencies running 24hr Hackathons for clients with low budgets has also been extremely valuable for making lean budgets work harder. Even Al Gore, in his ‘The Future’ speech said ‘Our (USA) democracy has been hacked’ referring to role of big business in hacking the system. Marketers bring The Hack into your business (it’s not just for geeks) for rapid business problem solving, banish the brainstorm.

From Pop Culture to Peep Culture

My passion for youth marketing and ways brands can connect with digital natives led me to the session on ‘How Peepculture hacked your brain’. Despite being viewed as the ‘Connected’ generation (or GenC as I like to call them), Gen Y and Millennial today are social beings living in a time of ridiculous alienation as ‘checking’ has replaced ‘connecting’. The social revolution has led a shift from pop culture to peep culture, where entertainment is far less scripted and young people are more obsessed with the everyday happenings of their friends entertaining them. Social media is selfish, youth share for themselves, whether it’s for self-expression or self-searching. Yes, it can be overbearing and narcisstic, but every generation has needed self-expression. This one just looks more inward. The other myth that was busted is the thought that young people act willy nilly when it comes to their privacy. Actually, in an era of digital freedom young people crave control of their digitally identities more than ever they just assess the social context very differently to Gen X’ers and Boomers. Brands wanting to connect in ‘Peep Culture’ need to determine the ‘what, how and why’ their audience share in the digital space in order to unlock ways to get their brand in that conversation.

Designing for Digifrenia

Digifrenia was a concept introduced by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff today. Digifrenia or as I Like to call it ‘digitally divided identities’ are being created by all of us. They’re the multiple virtual accounts (on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms) people are created to sustain anonymity and avoid being judged. It’s a phenom that has been rising to the surface these past months as the plethora of connected social platforms we all belong to, put pressure on how we connect with the world. Marketers need to design brand experiences with digifrenia in mind, ensuring they put special focus on content with  context so the social media selection adds value, not overwhelms.

Ok, enough buzzwords for today. Going to try my luck at one of the many SXSW blatantly brand funded parties here in Austin.




Principles of Transmedia Storytelling

Watched an interesting lecture by the ‘father’ of transmedia storytelling, Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture, who recently returned to MIT (he’s now at USC) to speak to students about the 7 principles of transmedia storytelling. You can find the full 50 minute lecture at his blog  here, but I’ve summarised some of the key points I took out of it.

Essentially ‘transmedia storytelling’ is cross platform entertainment where each media touchpoint makes its own unique contribution to the story and the audience/community is encouraged to engage with the story and remix it to help influence the outcome of the story. In terms of brand communications, there has been quite a few famous ‘transmedia’ ideas, most notably the ARG’s (Alternate Reality Games) used to launch moves like The Dark Knight, or McDonald’s ‘The Lost Ring’ ARG associated with the Beijing Olympics. There’s also been Audie’s ‘Art of the Heist’ and numerous others. I’ve always been fascinated by ARG’s just because they generally ask people to play an active role in the outcome of the story, and what’s ‘on screen’ is only part of the story.

In a nutshell here are the 7 principles of transmedia storytelling which Henry spoke about:


With transmedia narratives it’s about ‘depth of engagement’  – you have to create a story arc that allows people to deep dive into it’s complexities and uncover nuances. This makes it far more engaging for the true fan as they have a reason to keep coming back.


Most traditional advertising communications speak about ‘continuity’, but in fact the success of transmedia storytelling comes down to ‘multiplicity’, where people are encouraged to have different perspectives on characters. A great example of this is Batman, in terms of all the comics, anime and cartoons, there are always slightly different perspectives on the character which make the franchise ever more appealing and contextual to youth.


For me, the most interesting part of great transmedia ideas are when elements are taken out of the story and put into the real world which enable deep immersion by the consumer. Brands that are driving digital scavenger hunts like for HALO 3 ODST are doing well at building extractability within their ideas so the consumer id engaged beyond their computer screen or mobile.


The story created is just the beginning, what really matters is what happens in ‘their world’ – how people interact and taken on what fans have gathered. Think Pokemon, which has over 200 characters to collect or the complex relationships between all the X-Men characters . In essence people want to map the stories of these characters and take joy when brands take them on a journey.

5.       SERIALITY

Sounds really obvious, but seriality is a critical component of a transmedia narrative. A series of instalments drive both anticipation and speculation of what will happen next with the idea, resulting in deeper engagement for the individual.


Transmedia ideas typically work best when people can uncover a ‘backstory’ or secondary characters within the mix who have or will influence the outcome of the story. So in the case of ARG’s, people want to know the lead in and reasoning behind what’s happening. It comes down to people’s fascination with mythology and a world where people are constantly interested in hearing different points of view and comparing them.


This principal should really be called REMIX, as it’s all about fans bring the content into their own world and putting a spin on it, it’s about crowdsourcing and reconstructing the narrative. The Hunt for Gollum story is a perfect example of fans creating this narrative as a prequel/backstory to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As a youth marketer, there’s alot we can learn here, first and foremost is that brands today need to think about how their brands story unfold over multiple touchpoints as well as how the colletive remixes that story along the way. Nothing should ever be set in stone, what we do as marketers is START SOMETHING..hopefully a conversational in culture that can then unfold and be remixed in culture.

The New Marketing Landscape

The New marketing LandscapeThe New Marketing Landscape By Dan Pankraz

View more presentations from guest7e5b6a.

A preso I wrote towards the end of last year on ‘The New Marketing Landscape’. Certainly not my best piece, but really a ‘mash’ of trends and different perspectives on social media and how the world has changed via digital technology. Some observations for brands wanting to interact with consumers in 2009 and beyond. Quite a few cool youth examples from 08.

The Importance of Brand Harmony

Integration was the buzz word of marketing for much of the naughties, but most of the time brands get it wrong. Rather than brand communication being about the same message littered across different media, brands should think about how they create ‘harmony’ in their media mixes. Faris Yakob talks about transmedia narratives building across different touchpoints where consumers get involved to recombine the message. Harmony based comms is not too dissimilar. Just like an orchestra has many different components working together, all building to belt out one great tune that people take in. The same principal applies for modern day comms. It’s about creating harmony between all the touchpoints, so different messages in different media build to create one in tune message. Some times it needs a solo artist to drive the orchestra, same applies with marketing, sometimes you need a standout piece of content to kick the harmony off. In addition sometimes you need an ‘amplifier’ to really reach the your community, in brands’ case, this is about how you amplify your message and seed it out the the right communities who will share an amplify it. Anyway, just a different way of thinking about the tired old integration word…