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Avoiding the shit and finding the magic at SXSW17: Day 3

By Andrew Roberts |

Gravity Thinking


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March 15, 2017 | 6 min read

As previously mentioned, it is so difficult to cut through the thousands of conferences, networking events and parties at SXSW. Over the past few years, I have seen the benefit in rambling 'off the beaten track' if you will, to discover the gems of insight into the media world there are to offer.

Brand: presuasion is now a thing

SXSW is always full of people pushing their new book with so called 'new' ideas. For this reason I went to a talk featuring Robert Cialdini being interviewed by Guy Kawasaki with a fair degree of healthy cynicism.


Sony's WOW Factory at SXSW17

Robert wrote the seminal book 'The psychology of presuasion' which featured six universal principles of social influence: persuasion.

1) Reciprocation – If you do something for someone they feel obligated to do something in return.

2) Liking – We say to people we like, like people who are like us, reduce negotiations that are deadlocked by sharing something they have in common.

3) Consistency – People want to say yes to things that are related to what they have already said or done e.g. in UK medical appointment – you receive a blank card and you write the next appointment making a commitment.

4) Authority – We say yes to people who are experts and try to channel the voice of expertise.

5) Social proof – Popular options in restaurants e.g. Apple white pods.

6) Scarcity – people want stuff they can have less of e.g. only three per customer.

Robert was, however, talking about his new idea presuasion – or rather, 'The process of arranging for recipients to be sympathetic to a message before they experience it'.

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He used the example of an online furniture store that sent half of its customers to a site that had fluffy clouds in the background (the other half had small coins as its background). The customers on the cloud side purchased more comfortable furniture – pennies bought cheaper items.

His idea is predicated that brands need to think about sending people down a psychological shoot; this means presuasion accelerates the persuasion message.

The best recent example he shared was how Trump has been presenting himself as a 'change' candidate. The camera turned on the audience and showed himself surrounded by a sea of faces that looked like the people watching (carefully curated) and always showing big crowds and social proof.

Snake oil or genuine neuroscience breakthrough? To be honest I am not sure, but like much you hear and see here it certainly gives food for thought when developing campaigns.

Technology: Sony go all in

Sony has been at SXSW for the last three years and its presence has slowly increased as it has more to share. This year was no exception with a hangar like space for the 'WOW Factory'. The experience certainly lived up to the name with at last 10 different experiential sections to see the future of technology. These varied from items will be available for retail in the next year, to experiments and thought starters from their engineers.

The best example of the former was a projector called the Xperia Touch that also works as a laptop and personal entertainment system, which will be available in summer 2017. It takes the concept of the 'world as your UI' to a whole new level. With PS4 as their mainstay as you can imagine the gaming section was huge with haptic gaming suits, VR experience and complete surround sound. But perhaps the best was a life size box that projected interactive experiences from all round the world as if you really were there.

The future is certainly here and Sony are all over it.

Wildcard: say hello to Benico

Last year I went to a fantastic talk by Michael Nieling called 'Fuck no, Shit yeh' where he espoused the benefits of a 'just focus and do it' approach to creativity. This year he was far more reserved but equally as open and enthralling. In the talk 'They're going to hate this and think I'm full of shit' he introduced us to Benicio. Benicio is the monkey on his shoulder that creates his Imposter complex that is based on the premise that we are our worst critic. His approach to life is based on the 'Charm hustle: principle' and that nothing comes from no – something else comes next. The downside of this is that panic, doubt, anxiety drives him as he does what many of us do which is to over practice, over work and over prepare.

For Michael, this meant he ended up having a nervous breakdown and having to re-think his life, something which struck a chord with many in the room. The solution (or cure)? There isn't an easy one – look after yourself and control your own life more and above all have empathy. The key it seems is to know who you are – stick to it – comfortable in your own skin.

See you on Day 4...

See my findings from Day 1

See my findings from Day 2

Andrew Roberts is managing partner at Gravity Thinking.

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