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.
Brands: Real time is here
This is the year that real time was the subject of a lot of talks and having attended a few I thought I would share some principles I have gleaned:
- Digital and physical space – feedback in shop space informs social
- Make sure activity is authentic to the brand's DNA – consumers are too savvy and know when taking advantage e.g. Brand involved in the women's march recently had to ensure their message is aligned to brand
- Make it personal wherever possible – reference people or make it interactive
- Make sure it adds value to go live – ask yourself why are you producing this and why should anyone care?
- Make sure you are disciplined with content. Use the lens of 'does it personify the brand?'
- Ensure balance of pre-planning and reaction to real time feedback. Keep options open so you can pivot – QVC was used as a great example of using live properly. They used real time updates in ear as they were selling.
- Remember that audiences don't expect it to be polished so there is permission to test quickly and easily
- People see live as less expensive but this is not the case – you are just spending the budget differently. Think about where the spend is directed carefully
- Learn from Hollywood space – learnt that it is all about trust in terms of who you use – how well do they know your brand to ensure authenticity?
Who is doing it right?
I found the final piece of advice the best and perhaps it applies to lots of other social channels and developments: Avoid shiny toy syndrome. Think carefully about live – where is it helpful and where does it add value and unlock something?
Tech: New types of discovery
The success of Pokémon GO appears to have spawned a whole raft of discovery apps that reward players for various tasks, whether that be based on finding boxes and keeping them hidden, being the first to find them or literally fighting for them with other players – it is the new gaming.
This might sound like one of the many faddish apps that come and go but based on the data I have seen here and the numbers of people signing up and playing, it could be a huge opportunity for brands. Unilever have recently invested heavily in Snatch, a free to play, virtual treasure hunt. Using augmented reality, it involves 'grabbing' parcels hidden around you virtually, then protecting them from others who are trying to snatch from you. Prizes range from a free holiday, tickets to a gig, rewards and even hard cash. I met the founder Jo at a Tech event and he talked of how he has raised a huge VC investment within a month for the app. Another example of this type of game is Seek. Whether it is a fad or not it is here right now and a great opportunity for brands to get involved in. Anecdotally I heard that a woman spent three hours and walked the equivalent of a half marathon collecting enough rewards to get a $100 Amazon voucher – I guess the biggest challenge is to make it relevant and not just a compers paradise!
Culture: Be original
Adam Grant is a fellow at Wharton and a hugely charismatic speaker; anyone who can get 3,000 people trying to clap their favorite song to their seated neighbor has the ability to inspire people!
His talk focused on how organisations can build a culture that encourages the originality that ultimately leads to success. He shared six great principles that we can all learn from (I have already thought about how some can be applied to business and life):
Originals aren't risk seekers
Some of the founders of most original recent ideas – Spanx, Google, Nike, eBay, Selma, Minecraft – all carried on jobs whilst developing these companies. Adam shared that companies are 33% less likely to fail than those who quit and go all in.
Originals avoid false negatives
Violate the expected, see things with different perspectives and don't just judge it yourself – get others to judge. He suggested it is best to take leaders and managers out of the decision making process to get true objectivity.
Originals make the unfamiliar familiar
Adam shared a story that Lion King was originally pitched as Bambi in Africa with lions and failed but when reframed to “Hamlet with lions” you immediately get the plot and characters. He suggested that we should always know what is going on outside of industry core field and ideas e.g. Warby Parker – the Netflix for glasses.
Originals admit their weaknesses
They told a story of the founder of Babel who included a strange element in his pitch – he presented the three reasons why you shouldn't invest.
Originals hire differently
Culture fit approach works best – 200 starts ups had 0% failure when used culture fit but as grow the odds of success go down as culture fit becomes proxy for group think. Solution – hire on cultural contribution.
Originals fight groupthink
Leaders silence people without realizing it, e.g. don't bring me problems bring me solutions = culture of advocacy not enquiry. Companies should welcome problems. He suggested we start a Google doc with a problem log and undertake a kill the company exercise twice a year as it makes people and organizations far more resilient
Wild card: Mr Baloo
We were invited to a huge agency party on Monday evening hosted by GSDM. With over 1k people in attendance, six food trucks, free cocktails and beer and a live band, the party stretched across a huge lawn in front of their office. We got talking to a few locals and experienced true Texan character and hospitality in the form of Matt Balloo. Matt is an ex employee of the agency and his wife now works there; he shared some hilarious agency stories. Within 30 minutes we were invited to play golf, go shooting and eat BBQ at Matt’s house – he even said we could stay at his ranch next year!
See you on Day 5...
Andrew Roberts is managing partner at Gravity Thinking.