SXSW Day 1: From pixels to people

Ogilvy's head of digital, Jason Davey, shares his first impressions as South by Southwest kicks off

South by Southwest (SXSW), the much-anticipated interactive, film and music festival kicks off today. Which means 80,000 boffins, bass players and bounty hunters will flock to Austin, Texas to stare into the crystal ball of convergence and hear from hundreds of speakers across a variety of future-focused topics. 

But one thing stands out. 

It’s clear technology is evolving to be much, much closer to humanity than ever before. Voice, touch, connection, emotion, intelligence - these are all innately human characteristics, yet these are the themes being discussed at the hundreds of technology sessions to be held over the next seven days. 

Humans are sensory beings, and have survived (and thrived?) throughout history by utilising the combination of physical senses, emotions and collective intelligence for thousands of years. It’s no wonder advancements in technology have reflected their makers.   

Brands exist to help consumers navigate product and service choices, yet they are built through creating an emotional connection. Think about it: In the supermarket, one brand of toothpaste is 10cm away from the next five brands. What makes the consumer move their hand slightly to the left and choose your brand?  

Product innovation is one way to build a brand but it's replicable and short-lived. Brand salience is built through a variety of methods, but they are all rooted in uniquely human characteristics that reflect the way our brains are wired (visual recall, memory structures, emotive connections, rationality, and so on). Digital technology is providing new ways to create brand salience.  

However, technology is not a strategy, it’s an enabler. Brand owners need to have a crystal clear understanding of the emotive tissue connecting them to their customers, and seek out technologies that can support and deliver that connection. That offers opportunities way beyond advertising.    

This further compounds my frustration of the lack of brands in Australia investing in voice technology. I can’t believe brand marketers are turning away the opportunity to talk to their customers, using technology to deliver the conversation efficiently and at-scale. Voice is not going to go away, so why not get the jump on your competition and start now?   

While new technology is exciting and attractive, brands are built through ideas, stories and emotion built into the entire product experience, including awareness. Humans seek out stories to assist them make sense of the world. Brands are a proxy for busy consumers, providing a convenient way to minimise decision fatigue. Technology is becoming more and more human, providing new ways to infuse emotion into digital experiences. It’s exciting stuff. 

It’s the end of day one, and while at SXSW I’ll be hunting out examples where new technologies present opportunities for brands to create emotive connections. I’ll share some of those with you here at CMO, and my clients will get a deeper glimpse.  

- Jason Davey is the head of digital for Ogilvy Australia.

 

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