Back a week, I’ve have had a bit of time to reflect on SXSW, here are the things that stood out for me from this years interactive festival.
Creative Entrepreneurship vs. Marketing
While it is hard to sum up a festival as rich and intricately complex as SXSWi, one thing stood out for me more than anything else this year – the presence of so many marketers and brand folks vs. the excitement of entrepreneurial ideas, content and platforms from previous years. Mind you, all of us who were advocates and supporters of new technology and platform invention from past years all wondered, at the time, when brands and marketers where going to show up and take advantage of the opportunity to build relationships with the digital and social platforms of the future. After all, SXSW is to digital marketing what media relationship building is to PR. But the pendulum seems to have swung the other direction this year. I hope interest and presence of brand marketers continues, but I hope that the entrepreneurial nature of invention returns next year now that we have everyone’s attention.
Living in the material world…the focus is now on the hardware
Whether we are all fed up of living a virtual life online or not, the entrepreneurial focus this year was on ‘The Internet of Things’. The invention of both new and everyday objects connected to the web in order to help us record and integrate our collective experience and how we interact with the world around us. Dennis Crowley from FourSquare painted a good picture when he talked about how location combined with integrated intelligence with his fitness devices (Nike Fuelband or scale similar to Smart Scale), all work together to give him a larger view of what he really needs to do to stay healthy – too many bar nights in a row compared to his prescheduled gym visits perhaps? Nike’s connected shoe project looks really promising and I have been personally very interested in the flexibility of Twine given it allows consumers to connect any object and customize the hardware and software.
GoogleGlass was the connected device that stole the show. The most anticipated device since Apple got into the music or phone business, GoogleGlass launches an entire category and may change the way we connect to the world in the future. There was a lot of backlash coming out of SXSW around Glass, given how Google is rolling this out. For a company that has been very open, many folks have started to feel that this is very exclusive vs. inclusive – even from the developer side. For a first version, what Google has is pretty amazing. If this is adopted, we may find this embedded into our contact lenses in the future, but for now Google needs to better manage the backlash and be as inclusive as they can be.
The power of Real Time Marketing (marketing in the moment)
Fueled by engagement from the team at Oreo during the SuperBowl, this power panel discussed the importance of making the best of moments as they are happening. Moderated by David Teicher, Associate Editor, Ad Age, included a fun debate between Bonin Bough, VP of Global Media and Consumer Engagement, Mondelez International; Steve Doan, Senior Associate Brand Manager, Oreo (a Mondelez International brand) and the infamous Gary Vaynerchuk, Co-founder, VaynerMedia. Here is a video of the panel if you missed it – it was quite a hoot!
Elon Musk gave one of the most inspired talks at SXSW. Talked about as the ‘Tony Stark’ of our age, Elon is quite soft spoken and when he is not busy leading development of the world’s most advanced battery operated automobile, Tesla, he is focusing his energy on getting humanity back into the space race. I could not find a video of his full keynote but SaulPaul posted a great rap recap.
Disruptive Platforms and Technology are still important
Despite my grumblings over the de-emphasis of technology innovation this year, SXSW still hosts a fabulous interactive awards ceremony. Rather than just focus on the winners, the entire list of nominees this year are listed here. Definitely worth a browse through.
At first I thought I heard it wrong, but rumor had it that because of the increasing size of the conference and the lack of capacity in Austin, the organizers are potentially looking to move the interactive portion to Vegas? The V2V site (V2V short for Visionaries to Vegas), looks like it may be a dry run. I also heard that badge holders of this past festival in Austin may be able to attend for free or get a discount but I did not see that mentioned on the site at all. I don’t know about you, but the idea of separating interactive from music and film, given that content is driving everything these days seems like a mistake to me. Vegas also seems like an odd fit for a conference with a very un-Vegas like culture. What do you think? I am personally bummed out about this, but at least they picked the best hotel – The Cosmopolitan (full disclosure as I worked on the launch).
…and then there was Grumpy Cat – a star of SXSW. If you don’t know who Grumpy Cat is, the CNN report sums it up. Seriously, overall a testament to the power of popular culture.
See you next year or in Vegas baby…