SXSW: Has It Jumped the Shark?

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Before you think about planning for SXSW 2017, read these takeaways from John McCarus, Chief Strategy Officer, at Federated Media.

Q: What were some of the biggest trends at SXSW Interactive this year?

A: VR is actually here! Samsung drew major lines and encouraging reviews for their new entry-level headsets starting at $100 per pair. Combined with the launch of the Oculus “professional grade” console with over 30 games already developed, this is now a bonafide commercial medium and Sony is set to launch later this year.

Twitter is still loved but is on life support. With the ascension of Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook’s global dominance, even Twitter’s loyalists, the journalist community, are now concerned about the platform’s relevance as “it’s becoming journalists broadcasting to other journalists.” PS – turns out the death of 140 characters was premature. Twitter has now confirmed they’re sticking with it.

The future of media is personal. From “one to one,” to “one to the ones you care about.” Brands will be able to facilitate relationships that matter in the data powered global social community we are all building together. For example, Delta Airlines brought this to life with a Twitter powered image ID display that paired people randomly based on their visual interests.

Q: What are some tips for SXSW attendees?

A: SXSW is increasingly hard for first-time attendees to navigate as the energy of the event spreads beyond the convention halls and into private venues all over Austin. Plus the panel names have become oh-so-clever in an attempt to game the “panel pickers.”

Tip: Don’t pay attention to the panel title, focus instead on the speakers themselves. I would stick to academics, researchers and journalists. Better chance for original thinking free of commercial agenda.

Q: This year, speakers talked about “connected everything” from wearables to IoT devices. How is this trend influencing the marketing industry?

A: This trend will continue as more and more companies try to hop on the IoT bandwagon. To prepare for this continued movement, marketers must work even harder to ask themselves “what value can we provide to this connectivity?” The answer is staying focused on consumer value to remain relevant.

Q: There was a heavy brand presence at SXSW this year. In light of the IoT, VR, etc., what will brand-to-consumer interactions look like in the very near future?

A: Content and services that solve actual problems. Marketers must approach their creative briefs as if they are startups identifying a new market value proposition.

Q: Any other key takeaways from SXSW Interactive 2016 that you’d like to highlight?

A: I think it was a great year for SXSW. If you are creative in your agenda and don’t follow the pack, you’ll get a lot out of it. Put yourself first!

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