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.

50 Trends – Part 1 Social Innovation

50 Innovation Trends from Mobile Youth

A nice presentation from Graham Brown and the crew at highlighting some of the key trends which will impact youth marketers moving forward.

Nothing amazingly new here, but the deck does highlight the ever growing importance of ‘youthsourcing’ or social driven innovation. This is very much built on one of my key youth marketing pillars  around ‘treating youth as partners in production, not the destination point for your ideas’.

Brands need to stop thinking of youth as ‘targets’ with a bullseye on their back, but rather treat them as ‘collaborators’ in the quest to help them co-create amazing ideas and brands


The Future is Retro – guest post by Allison Cenna

I love how some retro brands have totally reinvented themselves, like Converse, Mini even brands like Adidas and Puma tapping into the old school. A colleague of mine, Allison Cenna at DDB Chicago has done loads of work into how brands are reconnecting with their retro roots. She’s written a great paper on it here and she agreed to do a little post for me.

The global success of Transformers movie franchise, proves retro is a money spinner for brands

The global success of Transformers movie franchise, proves retro is a money spinner for brands

Hi, I’m Allison Cenna from Chicago. Thanks for the guest post, Dan.

Over the past year I’ve spent a lot of time studying retro brands and developing a research paper about their youth appeal. In the States, brands like PBR, Transformers, Rubik’s Cube, and the Street Fighter video game series have been resurrected and met success.

The big question I kept asking as I researched these brand stories: What makes certain retro brands attractive to Millennials? And how can marketers revive others for lasting appeal? My paper outlines a set of rules to help retro brands connect with today’s youth:

Allow for Rediscovery:

 Retro brands offer old-school cool and authenticity that’s hard to replicate. But in-your-face marketing tactics can be a tough sell with savvy Millennials. Figure out how to let them find and embrace your brand themselves – discover and adopt it in their own way.

Connect with Timeless Values:  

Simplicity, identity, membership, independence, authenticity, and fun are increasingly important—especially today.

Stay true, but contemporize:

Successful retro brands modernize. But they stay true to heart of what made them popular. Classic appeal, contemporary features.

Create a community:

Successful retro brands give fans something to share with each other. This creates a swarm of advocates that propels the brand.

There’s some really insightful stuff in the paper, so check it out. I particularly believe in the areas of REDISCOVERY as I genuinely believe brands these days wanting to connect with youth have to be unexpected, surprising, spontaneous and let them discover your brand narratives across different media touchpoints, as opposed to slamming it down your face.

6th Sense Wearable technology- the future of social interaction

This is amazing. 6th Sense wearable technology was introduced to the world at TED in Early 09 and will completely revolutionise how we all interact with information around us. It’s from MIT’s Media Lab of course. This first brand to bring this technology to Australia will own the market. Think Minority Report but in the real world. It’s technology which allows you to seamlessly interact with all the information you come across via your hands and simple gestures. And it will be available for $350 US. This technology will be the must have technology for youth over the next 5 years. Youth will upload their images and videos to all the social media platforms and be able to share their creativity with the friends in real time. It also will completely revolutionise how young people interact with products at shelf, being able to access the ‘backstory’ to any product or thing in real time to help their decision making. If I was Sony, Nokia, Samsung etc, I’d be shitting myself. This technology is amazing.