Time changes and high temperatures be damned… from cover models to Cadillacs we heard from some of the best today and compiled the notes for you below. Enjoy!
- My first session of the day spoke to me on almost every level – as a woman, a mom, a mentor, a professional… “Acceptance Revolution: Fashion’s New Body” featured body activist and model Ashley Graham. Outside of having been featured as the first-ever full-figured model on the cover of Sports Illustrated, I didn’t know much about Ashley. I quickly learned that even though she’s only 28-years-old, she’s embraced who she is – inside and out – and she’s using that positive body image to reach and inspire others. How is she doing that? Obviously through working hard to secure modeling brands that bring awareness to the beauty of ALL women, but she’s also aspiring to share insights into her real life via social media such as Instagram and Twitter. She shared an incredible story resulting from her TED Talk, in which a young viewer sent Ashley an email after viewing the talk saying she had been bulimic but decided to seek help that day because she was inspired by Ashley’s confidence and strength. A theme I’m hearing over and over at SXSWi is the importance of understanding and embracing your brand – and Ashley has done this perfectly.
- The perfect follow on to the very real session with Ashley was titled “How to Stop Speaking in Bullshit.” Speakers Nell Scovell, Jon Jones and Jon Favreau were a hilarious trio who I honestly hope don’t actually read this post because I haven’t had enough time to think about it and will surely include some jargony, bullshit language (like authentic, or white space, or bandwidth or something…)! Moving too fast and trying to create easy shortcuts are two reasons they cited for communicators using too much BS in our content. They also pointed out that being afraid to do something new or potentially exposing yourself or your brand by being too raw or real is another reason for sticking to BS. But they shared so many good examples of people and brands getting real (like Nike’s Better For It campaign, and this clip of President Obama making a statement/joke about getting a drink with Mitch McConnell), and reminded us that there’s value in the risk – and potentially even more risk if you don’t just get real. As PR people we want to be as prepared as possible with messages and messaging and training so the message comes off just as we wish – but my favorite takeaway from today’s session was “If you wouldn’t say it in a bar, don’t say it in a speech.” Let’s get real, people!
- In “Niche to Movement to Mainstream: How Cultures Grow,” Chris Barth from Contagious and Diego Figueroa from Lapiz previewed a paper they’ll be releasing next week about how hip-hop and food trucks have navigated their way from niche to movement to mainstream (totally evident here at SXSWi with food trucks especially!) They were adamant that despite their research there is no prediction tool for how something gets to mainstream, but there are some takeaways that are worth exploring along the way:
- The first part of a trend to go mainstream is often an outlier to the culture
- Look for multiple catalysts, rather than a single tipping point
- Forget about the media gatekeepers – this is especially true when you analyze food trucks. Thanks to social, they don’t need any gatekeepers to help publicize where they’ll be at any given time. It’s direct to consumer and that’s awesome.
- Niche cultures face initial resistance – this might be uncomfortable for brands, but it’s probably a lot more interesting than what’s accepted as the norm.
- Place small bets instead of waiting on the big, perfect one – this caught my attention specifically related to social. Diversify a little and see what sings – then run with it!
- No precious mentality. Collaboration makes things grow! I couldn’t love this one more… it’s a theme I’ve been hearing throughout the conference, but collaboration and partnerships makes things better.
- My final session of the day was a very strong panel consisting of Erin Ruberry from the Peace Corps, Nicole Holler from the State Department and Jason Townsend from NASA talking about “How to Cultivate Online Brand Ambassadors.” Each had very good tips, many of which we implement on behalf of clients at GFM, but the most exciting takeaway I got was learning about NASA Social. This program is designed to bring NASA’s social media fans and followers together in real life to give them a behind the scenes peek into NASA and provide them with tools to elevate their support of the agency into true ambassador status. It’s everything I’ve wanted to do on behalf of a few clients for awhile, and you can be sure I’ll be looking closely at how they harness the passion of their fans to do good for the agency.
- I had been looking forward to “Heads and Hearts: Consumer Engagement Where it Counts” since I first glanced at the SXSW schedule a few weeks ago. I love neuroscience, especially how it relates to brands and our relationships with them. Reach customers emotionally in a positive way and you have a customer for life. Show them products that engages emotional thought instead of rational, and things like price, need and comparison lose importance. It was really interesting to hear how Cadillac is completely changing their marketing strategy to reach customers emotionally instead of rationally (even against protests of the car designers who think the features in a car will “sell itself”). Compare this commercial from a few years ago to the “Dare Greatly” campaign that aired this spring for a look at how the car company is attempting to become a true luxury brand.
- This afternoon I headed back over to the Four Seasons (seriously, it’s easily the best venue on the SXSWi circuit with free beer and televised games in between sessions) to take in panels on internet etiquette and how to deal with trolls and how professional sports franchises are using data to deliver exceptional, tailored experiences to their fans. In “Sports and MarTech: Converting Fans Into Fanatics”, leaders from Marketo, E15 and the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trailblazers shared examples on how they are moving away from the days of blasting an email message to every single record in their database to building tools that allow them to truly build a relationship with their customers, lessons that brands in any business should learn from. What’s important is that building a data-first organization takes time but can be built over time as long as you start now. As a Pirates fan in Colorado I long for the day that the Rockies will build specific messaging and promotions around the fact that they know I’m interested in a Pittsburgh home stand and will spend exponentially more money when they are in town. Know your customers, reap the rewards.
- Just when marketers think they might be getting a hang of this whole “millennial thing” along comes Generation Z to shake everything up again. Defined as anyone born after 1995, Generation Z takes the term “digital native” to a whole new level. In Gen Z: The Most Influential Consumer, the panelists talked about the differences that brands must start integrating into their marketing plans. This generation shies away from the public broadcast style of communication that became omnipresent for Millennials, preferring instead to share in private channels like messaging apps and Snapchat. Additionally, they shop almost exclusively on mobile, have attention spans that top off at about seven seconds and define celebrities as YouTube, Instagram and Vine stars.
~ Carissa and Jon