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Sunday at SXSW
Sunday at SXSW

From futurists to pigs on a leash…that pretty much sums up Sunday at South by Southwest.

On Sunday we heard from the likes of Ad Week,, TOMS, Chevy and Southwest Airlines…and the content was varied. Here are our top takeaways:

Jon’s Take: 

  • The first session of my day talked about how some of the hottest new media companies are managing their growth and dealing with the realities of big business. Vox Media (The Verge, SB Nation, Vox Eater, Racked, Curbed), Mashable, and Refinery29 are dealing with advertising, revenue growth (or lack thereof) and hiring while maintaining the edge and culture that made these properties so hot in the first place. All three talked about the importance of video and the number of distribution channels for their content but most interesting was a sly admittance that they are all having conversations with Facebook about publishing some content solely on the platform and splitting the advertising rates with the social giant.

  • We’re big fans of companies that believe in social giving here and as such we are big fans of TOMS. In “Raving Fans: How Social Impact Activates Customers,” Chief Digital Officer Zita Cassizi talked about the importance of building a brand that has “advocates” instead of “customers.” Consumers today own our brands and instead of fighting that concept we must embrace it by empowering our advocates to spread the brand story and create & foster a sense of community and belonging both online and off.
  • Cassizi highlighted this story by discussing the history of the company’s wedding collection. By listening via social, marketers learned that some customers loved the brands values and products so much that they were actually wearing the shoes on their wedding day. Instead of ignoring the posts or quickly sharing via social, they instead began creating new products specifically for brides, grooms and attendees and added a section to the website specifically highlighting the new product line.

Jim’s Take:

  • My first session of the day included a panel with representatives from Chevy, Oracle, Digiday and Southwest Airlines, and the concept was how brands interact with advocates, and how do they handle agitators. Jamie Babour talked to the #TechnologyAndStuff campaign from Chevy that came out of a nervous-natured trophy presentation after the World Series this past fall. Had they not had systems in place to assess the situation, and then turn it into an opportunity, #TechnologyAndStuff would have been one of the biggest laughs of the year rather than one of the most impressive brand social media pivots of 2014.
  • In that same session, Southwest Airlines’ Alice Wilson talked to their social care team that monitors and follows up with customer complaints, with personal touches. Just a few years ago, that team only consisted of three people, and today it is a 22 person staff. Additionally, they work with a hub-and-spoke model that pulls in team members from different departments (legal, HR, PR, etc.) to address social strategy, tactics and crises. Definitely look at Southwest if you’re interested in using social media as a customer service function.
  • VP of Consumer Marketing Joanna Lord spoke to how brands have to adapt or die. In her 15 minutes, there were a ton of great quips, including: “Brands consist of three things: product, team and community,” “customers grant us the right to market to them in todays world. If you receive that right, don’t screw it up,” and “invest in your ‘only’ statement. Nordstrom’s is their no-questions-asked return policy…you have to hang your ‘brand hat’ on that one thing.”
  • And since Laura and Ramonna are presenting on Monday about Corporate Culture, Ramonna attended a session today titled, “Right-Brained Leadership” where one of the panelists stated, “Corporate values are non-negotiable. You need to articulate those values and hold people accountable accordingly.” If you’re starting or growing your business, those are some powerful words.

Finally, if we’ve learned anything from SXSW, it’s that any time you get to hear from a high-profile “futurist,” you should listen and enjoy. Jon and I both attended a session titled “Learning to Work in the Future.” There was so much interesting information about who we are and where we’re headed in the future, it’s hard to boil it all down. From turning Danish streets into playgrounds to creating “Walkshed” communities based on a car-less society, its clear that sound solutions take into account engineering and design, metrics and creative…just like the marketing communications industry.

~ Jim and Jon

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