We had roughly 115 clients; partners and agency friends join us on Tuesday morning for our fourth South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) Denver Download event. A huge thank you to Infinite Monkey Theorem for hosting and providing cold brewed coffee and breakfast cocktails, Boulder’s Upstart Kombucha for powering us through the morning with samples, and 34 Degrees for sending everyone home with the tastiest crackers on earth.
Our esteemed panelists discussed the overarching concepts, themes and new technologies from SXSWi 2015, and in case you missed the event, or if you were there and want to compare notes, below is a high-level recap of the panel discussion – from content to influencers to trends in technology.
Jennifer Margoles – executive vice president, 34 Degrees
Matt Farrell – chief marketing officer, USA Swimming
Eli Mishkin – senior strategist, BrandJuice
Jon Woods, senior director of digital strategy, GroundFloor Media
This was a year where the discussion at SXSW finally progressed from simply “content is king” to more strategic conversations about personalizing brand content to specific segments of your audiences. It has never been more important to customize your content with a specific audience in mind – even if that means modifying the same video to reach four separate audiences and resisting the urge to share an awesome piece of content blindly across all channels. Similarly, brands should have a specific audience in mind for each social media channel they use. Jon shared an example of NBC Sports that resonated. For the Super Bowl Twitter was the real-time feed, Vine showcased behind-the-scene happenings, and Pinterest highlighted content to help plan the perfect Super Bowl party.
You can’t be everything to everyone, and as one SXSW panelist stated, “Don’t be amazing, be useful.”
For some, the data available from digital channels is an endless opportunity to be more pinpointed with their marketing efforts. For others, the infinite amount of data means analysis paralysis, or never getting anything done because the data is consistently over-analyzed. Our panelists discussed picking metrics that work best for you and your organization, and then a/b testing options accordingly. In today’s business world brands need to continue moving forward while learning from their efforts in real time. The more you analyze and wait, the greater the chances of watching your competition take over.
Word of Mouth and The Human Connection
From Virgin America using word of mouth to get in with Dallas Love Field to meaningful conversations/connections in BBQ lines and during morning runs, its clear that even at a conference built on a tech foundation, the human connection has equal, and many times greater, value. Goods and services that are referred by people we know have a 37 percent higher retention rate, and consumers spend twice as much as the average consumer when a brand comes as a referral from a friend. Technology and social networks may be the most efficient “foot in the door,” but building networks and having meaningful conversations with partners and consumers cannot be replaced – it’s a one-two punch in today’s marketing landscape.
Influencers and Advocates
Whether it’s paying influencers to promote a product or relying on organic influencer relations to bring a brand story to life, utilizing influencers to help tell your story and brand advocates to be champions of your brand was another common theme from SXSW 2015. But as our panelists discussed, while this channel may be a new tool, the marketing fundamentals still apply. Make sure the influencers you are considering fit within your strategy rather than making them the strategy. They should align with your brand, and be allowed to tell their own stories using the brand as a channel, not necessarily “controlled” by your brand or company.
From Meerkat to the implantable pharmaceutical chips, new technologies were alive and well at SXSW 2015. The one common takeaway from our panelists, however, is that any new technology needs to have utility. It needs to solve a problem and not be tech for tech’s sake. Just as Uber and Lyft are changing the face of transportation, the future of social networks, apps, software and “disruptive” companies will be those that look and a problem and find a solution first and foremost. The technology serves to make that solution simpler or more applicable for individuals.
The final theme our panelists covered was really the blanket concept that today’s consumer – particularly the younger demographic – not only enjoys, but expects companies the have a higher purpose than profit. Today’s consumer needs that “Social Good” connection with the products she/he consumes, and once brands open that door, they have to be transparent and stay true to the mission. It can’t be a “one-and-done” marketing tactic. Social good has to be a part of the overall brand. As Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario put it, “With transparent companies, the brand and its company values are not separate.”
~ Jim Licko