Tuesday 24 April 2018

Six Trends Australian Brands Need to Know From SXSW 2014

SXSWi is the world’s largest conference for interactive and emerging technology, which has just wrapped up its 20th year in Austin, Texas. The program is made up of more than 800 sessions including keynotes from the people behind some of the world’s best-known interactive brands, panel sessions covering every imaginable topic (career lessons from the Walking Dead anyone?) and trade stands pedalling every possible new technology.

Below represents just a small number of the fascinating trends to appear with many more due to come out once the dust has settled and people have caught up with sleep and washed the smell of BBQ out of their hair!

1. Wearable Tech

“The shift in wearable tech: from “connected body” to “engaged humans” – start to understand what motivate users.” Francois Grouiller, Fred & Farid

Wearable tech was by far the most hyped trend this year with a huge number of attendees wearing Samsung* Smart Watches, Google Glass, Fitbit and even smart helmets comparing notes and tracking their steps.  All areas of wearable tech were discussed from how to use the data to privacy to design – here are just three key points raised:

  • Quantifiable Self: Consumers are able to use biometric date collected by devices such as Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike Fuel band etc. to self-hack their lives, not just losing weight but improving sleep and tracking other ailments like blood sugar levels and calorie intake
  • The need to improve design: there was a lot of discussion around what it will take to make wearable tech mainstream – at his keynote, former basketball superstar and self-confessed geek Shaq raised the point: “we need to make wearable tech in sizes XL and above – they are the ones that need it most”
  • The ultimate connection:  wearable tech such as the Nymi being developed by Bionym measure your heart beat and learn its patterns.  By using this unique piece of data to authenticate your identity you are able to wirelessly take control of your computer, your smartphone, your car and even house.

The implications for the health industry are the most obvious, for example a health insurance provider could ask policy holders to share their data and then offer floating premiums based on the wearer’s data. 

2. Privacy and security aka ‘The Fugitive Talks’

“One of the best ways to achieve justice is to expose injustice”. Julian Assange

The two largest names in privacy and security, Edward Snowdon and Julian Assange both spoke at this year’s conference about security and the World Wide Web in an increasingly hostile word.  Snowdon even went so far as to issue a ‘geek call to arms’ to encourage everyone to use tools and applications such as Ghostry or Omlet (the hot app launch of the year) in order to maintain their privacy online.

Google’s Eric Schmidt continued the theme with some interesting commentary around what he calls ‘Data permanence’ – the fact that once it’s online, it’s online for ever, much like a terrible tattoo.  He went as far to see that one day parents will be forced to have a ‘data permanence’ conversation before the dreaded sex talk…

Other talks spoke about the data that has been gathered by brands and how they can use this most effectively without impinging on privacy.  As more of our daily lives go online and the data we share is used in new and innovative ways, privacy and security have become important trust and reputation issues. For businesses, the growing volume and sensitivity of information being shared, stored and used is driving demand for greater transparency about how such information is being protected (security) and managed (privacy) – as @AnnMack summed up:  ‘Brands are grappling with privacy. They’re figuring out what’s cool vs. what’s creepy and how to not cross that line.’ 

3. #culturejacking and disposable content

“Real time marketing is the new viral marketing – and not in a good way” Whole Foods

Since the Oreo moment at the 2013 Super Bowl brands have increasingly been jumping on the real-time band wagon and subsequently, there was a huge emphasis on the role that real time content can play in community management.  A common thread in all the conversations was that few brands have really done it well. Arby’s, with their joke around the Pharrell hat have really caught the attention of consumers and marketers alike and was by far the most referenced case study.

The key pieces of advice were:

  • Not the hot conversation, but the right conversation – don’t jump on the bandwagon for the sake of it, do it because it reflects your brand values, business objectives and because it aligns with what your consumers want. Actually dust off your corporate values and mission/vision statement – a great place to start identifying the type of conversations you should be involved in
  • Remember to connect back to the product or brand – it’s too easy to jump on the brand wagon with something witty and creative but if it doesn’t build to the brand it is arguably a wasted piece of content, and subsequently your resources
  • Do it 365 days a year – if you only target the big events it is easier to get lost in the noise of other brands trying to do the same.  Make it part of your community management culture and the big plays will come easily, the small acts can have as much impact as the big acts if well timed and good content
  • Plan for spontaneity – Whilst the Orea Super Bowl moment was a key point in the history of #culturejacking, it was part of 100 days of planned content that covered off everything from LGBT rights through to Elvis week and the Mars rover landing.  Know what is on the horizon and plan for that. 

4. Drone tech

‘Chaotic Moons taser drone delivers 80,000 volts of paralyzing power.’ @Mashable

Non-military drones such as the ones used by Amazon to deliver Christmas presents last year were another hot topic at SXSW for many reasons.  The primary source of this buzz was down to Chaotic Moon tasering a member of its staff to demonstrate the capabilities of their drones.

The relative low cost (prices range from $500 – $2,000) and the ease of use (either pre-programmed via GPS or via camera and radio controls) means that theoretically we could start to see drones delivering mail in city centres, monitoring for traffic, or even being used by emergency services to tackle violent criminals or monitor bush fires without the need to risk human life.

From a brand use this really opens up the possibility to take surprise and delight to a new level – a user could be tweeting about a low battering in their mobile phone and a local phone shop could send a drone via GPS to their exact location with a new battery, pay with PayPass and then return back – all at the touch of a couple of buttons.

5. Connected automotive

“By 2020 connected cars will see an 81% decrease in the number of basic road accidents”

Connected cars played a key role in the automotive trend space this year with talks about how cars will not only talk to each other (V2V) but also to infrastructure such as traffic lights and road signs (V2I).  The implications from a public health point of view are astonishing, with a predicted 81% reduction in accidents where driver error (e.g. driving into the back of someone or when a car is in your blind spot) was the primary cause, saving billions of dollars in repair costs, health costs and lost time.

In addition, with many car brands beginning to integrate android or iOS into their entertainment systems there will be the opportunity for brands to create applications that allow the car to communicate with physical locations such as billboards and have relevant offers sent directly to them. 

6. Cookies and milk – the new cronut

Any finally – words cannot describe the latest food phenomenon of SXSW so here is a picture: 

If you’d like to hear more please get in touch:

Alex Lefley




*Edelman Australia client