Picking up the key themes for marketers from SXSW

Jason Davey highlights the game-changing trends of this year's South by Southwest event for marketers

The long plane ride home from Austin to Australia gives ample time to reflect and consolidate thoughts from SXSW.

Or so you’d think, but it’s not an easy job - the variety of topics, points of view, innovations, new technologies (and vapourware) make it hard to boil down into digestible chunks. That’s the beauty of SXSW - it’s a full-on intellectual assault as the interactive, music, film, technology and media industries come together to digest and discuss the future.

There are a few clear themes for marketers:

Customer experience is getting connected

As technology in wireless connectivity, sensors, and interfaces mature (and become smaller and more discreet), everything will be connected through the Internet of Things (IoT). This is presenting significant opportunities for marketers to anticipate a consumer need, and then meet it with a product solution in a frictionless purchase process.

This type of predictive experience is starting to truly deliver the ‘anywhere, anytime’ promise of the digital world. Or the world that is now digital, I should say.

One of the best (real) examples I saw of this was the Ocean Medallion wearable from Princess Cruises, which also operates Carnival Cruises in Australia. The Ocean Medallion is a payment system, location device, preference centre, access key and ordering system, all-in-one. Two years in the planning, it will revolutionise the experience ecosystem of a cruise ship.


The emphasis here for CMO's is not the technology itself, it’s the fact that the entire experience ecosystem has been redesigned. And it takes two years to hit the street. The opportunities that technology offers us are very exciting, but it takes some brass (and some coin) to drive the vision through the organisation across product, operations, sales, finance, IT and marketing.

This is challenging traditional organisational structures, as business vision in today’s integrated world needs integrated teams to collaborate and realise the vision. Chief marketing technologist, anyone?

Some would say it’s too hard and why bother? Well, if you reduce friction in the purchase process for a consumer, you increase consumption. 'Tap and Pay' has proven that for credit cards.

The humanisation of technology

Another clear trend is how much research and investment is going in to make technology become much more human. Conversational interfaces are providing more human-like interactions with technology. Chat bots are the first incarnation, but voice-driven technology is where it’s all heading.


Just think what that could do for your customer service operations. But still, there are challenges, as you can see here.


Technologies like Google Home or Amazon Echo (Alexa) present new sales channels for brands, but I think will also create a new wave of content-marketing strategies for savvy marketers. Imagine if your brand could talk with your consumers in real-time in their home and influence their decisions as they share their questions with you. Brands that can add value to the conversation with useful content will win in this race.

In addition to voice interactions, we are also seeing significant advancement in the ability for machines to ‘see’ the real-world and comprehend the meaning in order to provide instructions, provide alerts and conduct basic tasks. This is going to disrupt traditional labour markets such as professional drivers, machinery operators, customer service providers etc.


VR was one technology that bucks this trend. Instead of becoming more human, it transports the human into a virtual world. And this is why I’m predicting it won’t take off in its current form. Despite myriads of vendors touting VR solutions at SXSW, I still can’t get past the clunky experience with putting on the hardware. Still feels like a gimmick at the moment.

Artificial Intelligence is getting real

One company, Deep Knowledge Ventures, has appointed an AI software algorithm to work on its board of directors called "VITAL". This software has equal voting rights as any other director. How would you feel if your future boss was a software algorithm?

Fortunately for marketers, it’s a long way off before creative industries are under threat. Although I did see a music film clip that was completely scripted, cast and edited by Artificial Intelligence systems (the story sucked). But it looked convincing and ran at Cannes with 20 other films. No-one could pick which one was machine-made.

However, for all the benefits of artificial intelligence, there was a lot of discussion about some of the drawbacks. The ethical challenges in decision systems such as autonomous driving, the legal and equality issues presented by body/technology augmentation, and the opportunity for AI to become new “attack systems” for the unfriendly's. These issues are highlighting the need for governance models and industry bodies to create standards, however there are many challenges to overcome and consensus will not be easy to achieve.

However, there were also plenty of examples of AI being used for good, such as this system below for blind people.

These were the major themes for me at SXSW, however there were many other topics that often bubbled to the surface:

  • Blockchain, and its transformation of business models (especially if you are in the “middle man” business)
  • Smart Cities - improving the places where hope meets the street
  • Robots, lot of robots, but they are still very much learning from humans.

Until next year, SXSW over and out.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

4 creative skills that will be useful forever

In recent times, the clarion call from futurists, economists, marketers, educators and leaders the world over is one of slight panic, “The world is changing and you’re not ready for it!” And of course, they make a very good point.

Kieran Flanagan and Dan Gregory

Speakers, trainers, co-authors

Why defining brand strategy is vital to capitalising on quick wins

Big brands were once protected from small brands by high barriers to entry. Big brands had the resources to employ big agencies, to crack big ideas and to invest in big campaigns. They had the luxury of time to debate strategies and work on long-term innovation pipelines. Retailers used to partner with big brands.

Troy McKinnna

Co-founder, Agents of Spring, Calm & Stormy

3 ways to leverage the talents of your team to avoid disruption

​According to the World Economic Forum in its most recent The Future of Jobs report, the most important skills for the future are not technical, task-oriented skills, but higher-order skills such as creativity, social influence, active learning, and analytical thinking.

Gihan Perera

Futurist, leadership consultant

An interesting update considering that today is the easiest way it has ever been to measure contribution to the business as well as the h...

Frederic

State of the CMO 2019: Tenure shortens, pressure is on as marketers strive to demonstrate impact

Read more

I thought this was what Salesforce Audience Studio (formerly Salesforce DMP) was supposed to do. How are a CDP and a DMP different? I'm c...

Tony Ahn

Salesforce announces customer data platform

Read more

Well written Vanessa!! Agreed with your view that human experience is marketing's next frontier. Those businesses who are focused on the ...

Clyde Griffith

Forget customer experience, human experience is marketing's next frontier

Read more

Great tips for tops skills need to develop and stay competitive

Nick

The top skills needed to stay competitive in a rapidly changing workforce

Read more

The popularity of loyalty programs is diminishing, though I'd say it is because customers are savvy enough to recognise when a loyalty pr...

Heather

It’s time for marketers to rethink their approach to ‘loyalty’

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in