Key Takeaways from 2017 #SXSW

It’s 2017 and President Trump is wrapping up his first 2 months in office. Texas, a longstanding and notoriously Republican state, is hosting the most forward-thinking meeting of the minds, South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival. Some of the smartest people in the world gather to share ideas and set the foundation for the rest of the year’s innovations. The key topics from the event provided signals for how we can all approach reaching audiences in innovative ways. My colleague, Johanna Moonan, and I had the opportunity to attend this inspiring conference and below are a few of our key takeaways:

Diversity: How Can Innovations Power People, Places & Perspectives?

Diversity was a prominent theme throughout the event with many inspiring presentations on how we need more of it in our workplaces. How do we welcome more third-world tech entrepreneurs, support women in leadership and represent marginalized groups in the work that we do? The answer lies in market understanding, mentorship, flexibility and financial support for new and varying voices.

Throughout the week-long event we heard leaders stress that diversity is good business. Businesses need diverse perspectives when creating technologies and communications so that they reflect humanity and resonate with real people. I walked away from SXSW optimistic that diversity not only inspires innovation, but it also just makes good business sense.

The Socialization of Food

Austin is a foodie’s paradise. Whether enjoying a perfect slice of brisket at Franklin Barbecue, salivating over a plate of artfully prepared sushi at Uchi or crushing a bacon-and-maple-syrup doughnut at Gordough’s, the culinary options are endless.

Having attended SXSW over the past 3 years, food finally entered the discussion during the interactive portion. In an “always on” digital world, we crave connection offline. This desire plays out particularly in our cultural obsession with food—part of our cultural glue. As online behavior informs more and more of our real-life choices, food culture acts as one of the biggest influencers of our offline activities.

Many of the food related sessions I attended at SXSW explored the ways online food discovery shapes real world behavior, with an emphasis on the millennial obsession with food and how it influences their offline habits and experiences. To better understand this food revolution and to read a few case studies on how food manufacturers have figured out how to profit from these trends, check out our white paper: The Future of Food: Are You Ready for the Millennials?

Virtual Reality (VR): What will VR Revolutionize Next?

My first encounter with VR was last year at SXSW with Samsung’s roller coaster experience. Fast forward 12-months and VR is table stakes at this year’s conference with numerous tech companies showcasing their credentials. Hearing from some of the most well-known tech gurus, VR headsets will soon become the most popular consumer technology product on the market. However, there are still issues around privacy and security that may stand in the way of this growing phenomenon. VR’s location services, ability to continuously record data, and issues around privacy and security could result in consumer uncertainty and slow adoption.

A panel discussion lead by Facebook’s Oculus, Google, R Institute and the Consumer Technology Association stressed that brands need to address safety and privacy issues impacting VR and ensure that user data is not being misused to build trust among consumers.

To learn more about how VR will change your business going forward download our free white paper: 12 Ways Virtual Reality will Change the World for the Better.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) + Human Intelligence (HI): The Real Future of Intelligence

With the line between what’s a tool and what’s a talent blurring, the future of intelligence is being deeply contested.

There is a barrage of articles citing that up to 47% of Americans are at risk of losing their jobs due to technological advancements and automation – is human intelligence (HI) and artificial intelligence (AI) in direct competition? Can we co-evolve brain and machine learning to lead to unimaginable productivity?

A panel featuring thought leaders in HI and AI set out to answer and energetically debate technology’s role in our lives. The one big theme that the panel agreed on is that the brain is the master of it all. It creates everything. Having listened to this brilliant panel of speakers, I walked away feeling that the convergence of biology and technology will lead to many new beneficial technological paradigms. Technology provides the tools and biology the ability to solve problems, so the two should enjoy a happy marriage.

Social Good at Scale

A number of speakers aimed to debunk the myth that purpose-driven companies cannot also be scalable and profit-driven. Sustainable brands can scale rapidly without compromising their core values. How? By focusing on great stories that resonate; stories that center on people and leverage the right channels.

Surprisingly, these sessions made the task seem simpler than it can sometimes seem, with the core message being that people buy for people. People work for people. This principal can effectively be applied to anything and it is something we practice at Maru/Matchbox.

One example that was pointed to was ANZ Australia Bank’s #EqualFuture campaign by agency TBWA. The campaign brings the financial gender inequality conversation to a personal, everyday level by paying daughters less than sons for chores around the house.

The adorable but thought-provoking campaign videos were shared across ANZ’s social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram – with the #EqualFuture hashtag around International Women’s Day and were a big success.

Sweetgreens’ CEO also showed us how his fast, healthy food chain has scaled to over 60 stores since opening just ten years go by tracking ethical standards that people love, not just revenue.

We look forward to next year’s event and we’ll be sure to report back then!

next post thumbnail