It’s official, SXSW is now a cultural experience that our agency, our clients and any organization on the cutting edge of communications, marketing, technology, film or music cannot ignore.
Activating at SXSW
In 2014, we didn’t just go to SXSW to network, learn, and observe trends. This year, we brought a small army of Catalyst staff to activate across four clients – DICK’S Sporting Goods, SUBWAY Restaurants, Courtyard Marriott and Xbox.
From an event activation standpoint, brands need to understand an important lesson: with this crowd, the bar is set very high. Traditional event activation tactics just aren’t enough. To win, brands either need a powerfully innovative product or an activation that is so interesting you can’t not check it out. Ideally they have both. Victor Lee, the VP of digital for Hasbro said, “Be interesting and I’ll be interested.” That’s the challenge from the audience. Don’t come to SXSW unless you bring your “A” game.
The Next Big Thing
SXSW interactive offers four days, packed with keynotes and breakout panels from the best in the business, discussing top trends, best practices, and “the next big thing.” Without a doubt, the theme that dominated the conference this year was connectivity and big data.
Due to the drop in cost of smartphones, more consumers than ever are now empowered with mobile devices granting them access to a mostly free and open Internet.
People are breaking news, recording history, leaking government secrets, and documenting their experiences like never before. Social is being led by mobile-fueled visual content platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Vine. This is creating opportunities and challenges for brands to engage consumers not only through content creation, but also content curation.
While publishing and curating content continues to be important for brands, mobile empowerment has created a connected expectation among consumers. Consumers now want and expect these connected experiences from brands.
The most direct evidence of this expectation is an explosion in the demand for “smart” products – items that have an added level of perceived intelligence. This group includes everything from smart watches to Google Glass to connected cars. David Evans from Cisco predicts this will be a “$19 trillion global opportunity over the next decade.”
With connected cars, automobile manufacturers can not only know the type of car you purchased and where you drive, but also your music preferences, your social networks, where and when you buy your gas, and even talk to other vehicles on the road to prevent a crash. Google glass can literally change the game in medicine, informing surgeons with valuable patient feedback during a critical moment of care. In sports, athletes can leverage connected apparel to train more efficiently using data and biofeedback, creating a true competitive advantage; while fans can be closer to the game then ever before – with stats, replays, and data at their fingertips.
Opportunities for Brands
“Information is power,” is the mantra from Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The opportunity for brands within the connected environment is huge.
If marketers can get their hands on this information, these consumer insights can help reach customers with relevant messaging at the right time and place – the “holy grail” of a great campaign – while also improving product development and refining a supply chain in ways never before possible.
In social marketing, brands start taking advantage of public data by analyzing consumer social conversations and identifying those influential consumers that can help deliver brand messaging to their own networks. At SXSW, DICK’S Sporting Goods was able to engage influencers to increase awareness of their Sports Matter campaign launch. These earned impressions proved highly effective, leading to a spike in program applications and donations.
Big ideas for successful creative activations always start with consumer insights. Conversation measurement and analysis tools can identify trends and influencers and also can predict consumer actions within a purchase funnel using predictive analytics. This is a huge opportunity for brand marketers, especially in a world where consumers are willingly sharing content every day.
We expect 2014 to be a marquee year in social marketing and communications. With more access points through connected products, far greater intelligence opportunities from data, and an ever-increasing pressure by consumers for creativity and personalized experiences, we’re excited to see what’s in store.
See you next year in Austin.