SXSW14: What have we learned from the last five days?

Sam Noble, chief strategy officer at Iris
Sam Noble, chief strategy officer at Iris

It's been a packed five days of 'Prosumers', algorithmic design and space exploration, but what does it mean for marketers? Sam Noble, chief strategy officer at Iris, takes a look at what marketers can learn from SXSW interactive.

It’s been an illuminating few days in Austin.

The optimism, activism, appetite for learning and downright talent of the international Technorati on display here is infectious. Most evident is their ability to convert it all into real, tangible outputs and outcomes that are positively disrupting lifestyles, businesses, institutions, markets and even fundamental social and economic structures, at pace.

Nanotech precision cancer treatments; software enabled deep space exploration; network driven social activism; algorithmic design of radical new product innovations; ‘Prosumer’ platforms accelerating growth in the peer-to-peer economy. These are just a few examples of the significant conversations that have been going on over the last few days. And that’s before you even get to the interactive revolution in media and entertainment.

So what does it all mean for brands and the humble marketer? After all, we’ve got trainers, fizzy pop and credit cards to sell right? Well, yes - and no.

The more challenging play is to embrace the disruptive power of this world to more radically transform our own.

The easy play is to apply more learnings and skills from this world to the world of brands and marketing as per its current paradigm.

This is helpful for sure, because the more we do, the more we’ll make stickier websites, deliver better omni-channel customer experiences, produce better content, encourage customer behaviour. And we’ll create incremental business growth as a result. All good.

The more challenging play is to embrace the disruptive power of this world to more radically transform our own.

This means moving innovation from the sideline to the epicentre of businesses and establishing the creative force of marketing as the driver of internal and external collaboration to deliver it. The more we do this, the more we’ll create better products and services, play more meaningful roles in people’s lives and engineer new habits. This way, we’ll really accelerate business growth.

With that in mind, here are four thoughts on re-setting the "marketing" dials to "creative innovation" model.

Think participation, not just communication 

Make it your mission to radically enhance people’s participation with your category and with the interests and passion points outside of it that you can play a credible role in. In addition, find natural ways to harness the power of their participation with each other and your brand to create authentic, cultural momentum around it.

Look for lifestyle hacks

Step outside the current parameters of your category / consumer relationship. Identify the unmet needs and motivations in your audience’s lifestyle that are ripe for innovation. Fuse anthropological, design, and technological capabilities from outside your brand with the assets that exist inside your business – using your brand, distribution, people to create new ideas - for consumers to live by.

Develop elegant solutions

Unlock much greater levels of emotional involvement with your products and services by applying more of the thinking, skills and passion of the UX community. This is about the pursuit of beauty, seamless functionality and even a sense of serendipity in all the experiences and journeys that we are building for consumers.

Build a kick ass operating system

Overhaul your departmental and agency structures and methodologies, to avoid obsolescence. They must be much more like central hubs for internal and external collaboration, rather than the guys providing the wrapping service at the end of the aisle. Bringing marketers, designers and developers closer together around the big wins and doing it in more agile ways is key.


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