SXSW 2018: Top 5 Takeaways

  • Categories:

    Industry Trends

  • Date:

    April 03, 2018

SXSW 2018: Top 5 Takeaways



Industry Trends

South by Southwest (SXSW) is an amalgamation of festivals and conferences highlighting music, films, culture and technology. It’s filled with new ideas from people, organizations and brands pushing boundaries across sectors, platforms and time. This year, I went with Wray Ward president and chief creative officer, Jennifer Appleby, to explore this event that takes over downtown Austin annually.

Here are my top five takeaways from SXSW.

  1. Ideas come from different places. Why would two marketing agency executives go to SXSW? Because SXSW highlights the intersection of creativity and inspiration. Surprises hide around every corner, from streets filled with music of every imaginable genre to premieres of small, independent films and big studio productions. It was powerful to be immersed in that energy for four days.
  2. There is a global thirst for information and insights. This event is HUGE. Let me reiterate, huge. In 2017, for example, more than 420,000 people from 95 countries participated in SXSW in 10 days. SXSW isn’t a bubble — it’s an international stage. Some countries even set up brand experiences to highlight their nation and its culture. For example, Jennifer and I experienced Peruvian culture through art and food.
  3. A brand with purpose can excel. Purpose-driven marketing makes brands feel more authentic. It helps them connect with an audience and differentiate themselves from the pack. Empathy also breaks down silos. Brands that support causes consumers care about have a higher chance of gaining their business, especially if they target millennials — 80 percent of whom are belief-driven buyers. Determine if it is appropriate to build an empathic perspective into your brand marketing strategies.
  4. Social media platforms can drive consumer spending. Social channels are a great foundation to connect brands and people, but to harness that power, you have to understand your consumer flow state. For example, in the home space, social channels such as Pinterest are facilitators for purchase. Millennials, in particular, use social media channels to represent their personal brand, and they won’t post anything that doesn’t fit that brand. Social media is also a great way to gain insights. It’s important to listen to what your consumer is saying or not saying, because this information can help your brand participate in meaningful, authentic conversations.
  5. Interactive audio and technologies are changing the way brands operate. People spend five times longer watching video content than reading written content, and one in five Google searches is done by voice. It’s important to consider how interactive audio platforms like Alexa and Google Home will impact your plans, too. Technology can make or break a brand. Don’t fall behind.

SXSW offers something for everyone. Want to catch a 45-minute music set on your way to an interactive technology session? You can do it at SXSW. Want to pet a baby goat? This could be your chance. In a way, a lot of SXSW venues are like Instagram Stories — extremely valuable despite a short shelf life. If you want to check out a venue, don’t wait, because it could be gone tomorrow.

If you work in marketing and haven’t been to SXSW, consider buying a plane ticket to Austin next year. Regardless of what draws you to this event, one thing is for sure — you will never get bored.