SXSW 2018: Matt West’s top picks from a week of new ideas and creative technologies

Four of us from EightyOne and Dot Loves Data headed to SXSW in Austin to take in “new ideas and creative technologies” according to the marketing blurb on the website. Thankfully the week didn’t disappoint. We’re on the cusp of a new industrial revolution in the tech space apparently, which is pretty exciting. Here’s our top fives across the board. Thank you Austin, we’ll be back for more of your Texan BBQ next year. 

On the rise

Technology advancement as your brand platform. The more disruptive brands are defining themselves using visionary leaps in technology. And that’s making them cool. For example, Uber has partnered with American Commercial Aviation company Embraer and aim to be test flying electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft by 2020.

The digital backlash – finding meaning outside the screen. We humans are complex and contradictory creatures. We’re simultaneously seeking opportunities for real analog connection, relationship and good old fashioned fun as well as demanding more “calm technology” to continue to enhance our lives.

Integrated agency and client strategy. Client focus on data-driven thinking and optimisation will change the way agencies and clients have historically worked together.

Acknowledging Generation Z. They are fast nipping on the heels of the Millennials and have very different attitudes and behaviours to anything we have seen before. 

Social Responsibility. We are rapidly approaching what many regard as the next industrial revolution (tech). We will need to consider our responsibilities (as designers/marketers/thought leaders etc) to society as a whole with regard to our assumptions and bias (intentional or otherwise), the distribution of wealth and balance of voices.

What impressed us

The Prime Minister of Ireland. Young, progressive and part of the new wave of international leaders. Has both a desire to improve the lives of people who need help and the economy at the same time. 

Smart city technologies. Such as the introduction of Li-Fi connectivity, smart paint for safer accessibility, eVOTL networks and so forth.

Human-centric innovation. The sheer volume of user-centric digitally leads entrepreneurial solutions. 

Machine learning. This is a prevalent discussion. But there is also an acknowledgement that human emotion and empathy are key in the development and success of any applications in the future.

Empowered female leadership. But not at the expense of our fellow man.

Up for debate

Ignoring the red! “Noisy” app notifications distract even the most disciplined of minds and encourage us to run on autopilot. Reclaim a sense of purpose by asking “What do I really want in this moment?” before clicking.

Marketers as analysts. Trying to turn marketers into data analysts. There’s a big ground swell to have these people integrated with the marketing team, but they’re different from marketers and should work alongside each other. 

Talking about being authentic. If you are, you know it, your customers know it, talking about it doesn’t make it so.

Emoji overdose. imagine if you had to put your feelings into, like, actual words?

AI. Talking about AI and machine learning as the way of the future. The future is happening already baby. 

New Zealand marketers could start doing more of

Change our mindset. “If it’s already good, make it better” not “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Be cautious of best practice, by definition it ties you to the past and can put a choke-hold on innovation.

Understanding what engagement really means. Clicks alone tell a limited story about what’s in someone’s head. We need high-value data not just big data to find out what’s really resonating with our customers and whether we’re moving the needle against the objectives.

Integrating creative, data and media strategy.

Structure teams for fluidity. Create inquisitive teams for the “10 percent rule of change” who implement incrementally and refine on the fly rather than waiting till the quarterly/annual review to assess effectiveness.

Have a little fun with the brand. Have a go, take some risks, you may find fans in unexpected places. 

The free stuff

University of Texas scarf. Go the Longhorns!

Drumstick novelty pens.

A hangover. Note, Bud “Light” is to do with calories, not alcohol content.

Robot made coffee. It was actually pretty damn good!

Shared moments with strangers. Smiles, giggles, note-passing and food chat.

  • Matt West is partner and business director at EightyOne.

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