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SXSW 2013: A Strategist’s Perspective

Posted @ 11:20 am by D.D. Johnice | Category: Copy & Content, Strategy, Technology | 0 Comments

Full disclosure: I’m in love with the very idea of SXSW. It’s a veritable buffet for my brain. I look forward to my annual trek to Austin as if it were a rite of passage, a pilgrimage to a land I’ve adopted as my homeland. Its nomadic inhabitants are all uber—uber ambitious, uber imaginative, uber social, uber committed to standing in long lines for a little insight, oh and Uber, the app + service that claims to be the future of transportation.

I approached SXSW 2013 with the same fervor with which I’ve approached previous SXSW festivals—with the mind, eyes, and heart of a strategist. I’m always on the hunt for not just emerging platforms and memes, hot shops, new apps, and business opportunities but also for a smidgen of insight into what’s next, at least in the collective mind of SX’ers. This year can be summed up in 5 themes:

#1 – There’s a bit for that.

Data was certainly the darling of SXSW 2013. Journalists told us how they’re using data to identify stories, predict movements, and identify sources a world away. Government, nonprofits, and health care providers showed us how they’re using it to improve efficiency, reach the hard-to-reach, grow participation in programs, raise money and awareness, and improve lives. The big social networks unveiled new features to capitalize on user social data—likes, check-ins, hashtags, and graph searches—to help businesses sell more stuff. Upstart social networks socialized the idea of building community around corresponding and correlated data (communities of context). Brand and resellers showed off their new data-enabled capabilities, showing us offers based on location, friend purchases, and prior transactions and delivering personalized experiences that border on “you-oughta-be-on-an-offender-registry” creepy. And every company and its parent ponied up an API or a new way to visualize or make data more accessible for all. Expect more of the same as we all work through the hairy privacy issues (or come to terms with the fact that we have none). Expect to see more apps that connect to social networks or use databases provided by credit card companies, consumer and government databases to deliver us all to a world where we no longer need to search for anything—it’ll all just be magically served up to us via our mobile and other connected devices.

#2 – Content marketing is the new social media marketing.

Though we’ve not quite mastered the art of social media marketing, it would appear we’ve moved on—for now—to content marketing. SX’ers were treated to dozens of sessions designed to help brands and marketers answer the BIG, nagging question—What content should we create? It’s a hard question and one we all need to answer before we drown in social listening and marketing automation platforms. I do believe that brands need to understand what their audiences are already talking about before you try to join the conversation, and I do love a good bit of automation as much as the next marketer. But, listen too long and every subject seems like a fertile one. And, marketing automation software will syndicate junk as fast and as far as it will insightful jewels. So where does that leave us? Expect to see more SaaS offerings that claim to automate the creation of relevant content and more content producers and agencies offering to serve as the premium production and publishing arm to brands.

#3 – It’s a SaaS world but it wouldn’t be nothing without hardware in it.

SXSW 2013 treated us to 3D printers, Google Glass, open source hardware meet ups, real books, an Internet of Things, smartphone attachments that control biometric devices, a new generation of grocery stores, and companies building cars and launching rockets. Expect to see old school companies and new school startups go beyond novel installations or simple transactions and combine hardware and software to create truly immersive experiences that blur the physical and virtual worlds.

#4 – Laws are generating demand for a new supply of business models.

I attended workshops and sessions that covered a variety of subjects, from entrepreneurship and startup funding to DIY health and social networks, and there was nary a one where someone didn’t mention new JOBS Act or Health Care for America (HCA). The JOBS Act promises to avail small businesses and startups of new funding sources—without the red tape. I listened to 4 pitches for new crowd funding sites and a dozen ideas for capitalizing on what’s working on KickStarter and other successful platforms. Entrepreneurs, brands, and marketers flocked to sessions led by a new breed of government and healthcare leaders—all trying to make sense of the new opportunities and pitfalls HCA will bring. Expect to see the JOBS Act drive the creation of more niche crowd funding sites, e.g. KickStarter for local businesses or KickStarter for high-growth non-tech businesses. Expect to see HCA drive the creation of more telemedicine and DIY healthcare apps, new medical practice models using alternative healthcare providers, and a bigger push for consumers owning their own medical data.

#5 – Carpe d’um…optimism.

And finally, and most “SXSWest-y”.The big takeaway from SXSW 2013: The money’s back. The laws are leaning in our favor. Data’s cheap. Everybody wants to gift you an API. Facebook might buy you. And all the cool stuff is happening out here in the Land of App. So, quit your job and start pitching the crowd! Oh and don’t forget to ask them to fund your next SXSW trip. It’s getting pricey.



Author: D.D. Johnice is Creative Director, Strategy at SolutionSet. She leads a cross-disciplinary team to define and develop clients’ verbal and visual identity, design branding, marketing, and content strategies that position clients to meet their goals, and develop content that engages, informs, and converts consumers while bringing brands and products to life.

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