sxsw 2016 themes

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  • SXSW 2016: EIGHT THEMES* *As I witnessed. This is not exhaustive.



    1. VR: Enter the age of transformationVR was an inescapable topic at this years SXSW. But beneath the click bait titles there were a few key themes I heard over again

    VR is coming this time next year it will be considerably more present in retail outlets and at event spaces. Brands need to stat thinking about it now and how they are going to invest in it + apply it.

    Those brands that have experimented with VR most successfully to me so far, were those that offer (luxury) experiences. o Lufthansa had a great example of allowing people to take a trip to SFO from the comfort of their trade show. They not only got to enjoy the

    in flight experience, interact with the flight attendant and simulate drinking the onboard orange juice, but they also got to sit on a beach in SFO and write a postcard.

    o Mercedes meanwhile allowed you to experience the feeling of driving a S Class, making the journey all the more memorable by allowing you to change the windows of your car to represent different cities and scenery.

    Transferring VR to sales: this was an oft asked question and while the future scenario where we have a virtual supermarket that is moved from 2D 3D is a little way off, the best application of VR today was those brands using it to up-sell.

    o Lufthansa has brought VR to the gate at JFK to enable people to experience what flying first / Premium Economy would be like. o Fashion brands are using VR to simulate what owning that trench coat would be like in the real world.

    Another element that was fascinating was people + VR interacting with people in VR and then in real life seemed to really manipulate the brain into thinking you had a relationship with them already, encouraging trust and affinity in remarkable ways.

    The main point (for now): For experience based brands, get ahead of VR now. Even it is just to bring your brand experience to trade shows in 2017 - you need to get in on this technology.

    Speaker of interest: Torsten Wingenter, HEAD OF DIGITAL INNOVATIONS, Lufthansa German Airlines


    2. Technology, innovation + the environmentWhether geo engineering, cellular agriculture or smart farming, tech + bioengineering was nearly as prevalent as VR.

    Key themes: Technology is the most realistic answer to climate change and global growth perhaps there is a reason why these massive leaps in

    tech are coming when they are: This is our only realistic solution to the epic geo/bio changes we are going to be encountering over the next 40 years,

    Solar energy is where the future lies (vs. fossil fuels) but the technology is not quite there yet in terms of making energy efficient panels. Currently you would expend more energy making the insane number of panels we need to capture all the solar energy the sun provides, then you would recouping it.

    Smart tech has to be applied to farming and micro farming at that. Tech that can predict weather changes and soil trends on a micro-local level, not just on a national level are possible but need to be expedited

    Meat agriculture is not sustainable in its current form, taking up as it does a ridiculously disproportionate amount of our resources, as all the food + space requited to farm cows, chickens pigs etc is a lot less efficient then it would be to farm plants that we can directly eat. Cellular agriculture was one proposed solution: create the nutritional value of meat via growing the cells vs the animals. But the bigger call to action was that we need to eat less meat.

    Tech + Water there is a reason why Michael Burry from The Big Short was investing in water: it is literally disappearing before our eyes. The best thing about water though is you can remove basically anything from it with the right filter processes. Investment needs to be applied and focused on those areas of tech that can do this at speed + at scale: imagine if everyone could filter their rainwater, into drinking water at home, at the press of a button.

    The main point: forget the self driving car for one minute. Refocus on the tech that is going to save us from ourselves.

    Speakers of interest: Seth Darling, NANOSCIENTIST, Argonne National Laboratory; Liane Young, ASSOC PROF PSYCHOLOGY, Boston College; Rachel Laudan, WRITER & SPEAKER, The University of Texas at Austin (MEAT EXPERT)


    3. Gen Z: Identity + branding

    Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with social. The implications on this in terms of their identity + relationship with brands is yet to be fully realized but there are some early indications that their behaviors are going to dramatically shift.

    Key themes: Gen Z is used to cultivating and maintaining their personal brand. They see their identity as this multi-dimensional experience,

    that takes on varying forms and guises depending on their audience. Many are used to curating different facets of their personal brand depending on their social media channel. To some degree

    they see themselves as an enterprise not just a person. What am I making, how am I curating myself. Identity development is about output not just input.

    The role of brands is changing in that they see our products and services as a means to an end: tools to help them shape their own enterprises, vs. simply ways of expressing themselves. Brands that win (at least today) are those that give them artifacts, content and skills that help them curate and grow their personal kingdoms. Anything from emojis and filters to makerbots and content tutorials can be seen in this light.

    Think about ways your brands IP can help drive their personal IP.

    The main point: brand is a means to an end not the end goal. It is not about saving up to buy the label, but using the type-font to create their own version of your $400 sweater. Make sure you have iconic IP elements. (Think: Coca Cola, Maison LaBiche)

    Speakers of interest: Jaclyn Suzuki, CREATIVE DIR, Ziba Design; Anna Fieler, EVP MKTG, POPSUGAR Inc


    4. Dynamic technology everything

    There is a possible future where everything is alive. Cars that change their external nature based on the environment, temporary housing that can take on multiple forms, furniture that automatically moves based on where you are in a room. But in the short term this trend can also be applied to much more granular experiences, not least pricing:

    To some degree the likes of Uber and Lyft are already implementing dynamic pricing, as is Disneyland via the magicband. This adaptive approach to pricing is likely to scale to other experiences in the future that run the gamut of basic everyday object interactions to entire

    digital landscapes - imagine dynamic pricing brought to life for Amazon across their entire portfolio.

    The digital world is also going to become increasingly dynamic- as sites change in real time, with real time input from consumers, and brands appreciate the benefits of having sites perpetually in beta. Life of Pablo is an early example of this, while Wiki will soon seem seriously outdated: the new wiki updates in real time.

    Three triggers for adaptive experiences to bear in mind: o Device based triggers the form most frequently seen to today, via smart homes and wearables. Collective interaction with devices enables

    companies to understand basic commercial elements like supply and demand at scale, while payment through wearables + mobile tech enable you to adjust pricing in real time as needed.

    o Environment based triggers technology reacting dynamically to environment changes. Most visible in the future via cars + transport in general (trains, planes) - fluid robotics promise in the future to allow physical objects to adapt to their environment seamlessly based on changing inputs.

    o Touch based triggers a.k.a. bringing objects to life. The example seen here was cables + chords. No one cares about cables they are dead wood but what if you could stop your music by holding your headphone chord, or switch off your computer by pressing the cable. Making more elements of physical objects alive enables us to create more shortcuts and smart tech experiences.

    The main point: Adaptive is not just a tech interface. It is an economic behavior that utilizes technology to maximize efficiencies.

    Speakers of Interest: Sang-won Leigh, Research Assistant, MIT; Katie Dill, HEAD OF EXPERIENCE DESIGN, Airbnb


    5. Racism in advertising

    This was a indirect as well as active theme. Key points that I thought were interesting:

    The fear of saying something wrong is stifling progress we are all so afraid of saying the wrong thing that we have inadvertently shut down the conversation. Cultural Misappropriation is just the latest example of this, but we need to move on or we will never improve. Almost need an embargo on judging people based on innocent terminology misuse.

    The change happens from within 13% of America is African American but less than 1% of people working in advertising are African American. Until we change who we are on one side of the camera, we will not change who is on the other.

    The conversation needs to evolve away from homage towards hero. Having a mixed race family to make a statement in a Honeymaid commercial is not enough. Why cant the whole brands communication center around a wealthy African American family?

    The problem starts with the brief- phrases like we need to