SXSW Bites: The Best of SXSW 2014 Made Easy to Digest

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With so much information overload, we put together our most relevant takeaways and bits of inspiration for brands. If you'd like to know more, contact us at Thanks for reading!


  • 1.SXSWBitesThe best of SXSW 2014 made easy to digest

2. 2 Well, another year has passed and the crazy (and often overwhelming) world of SXSW has continued to exponentially fill our brains with the latest and greatest in technology and human behavior. However, unlike past years that focused on the latest, coolest app launch, this years big theme centered on our response to all the recent technological innovations that have come into our lives. The big keynote speakers this year were Julian Assange and whistleblower Edward Snowden, rather than the CEOs of tech companies as in years past. Some might even say the pendulum swung to give people respite in the face of technological overload, as this was the first year weve seen ample yoga and meditation classes, offering festival-goers a break from it all! 3. 3 TAKE A LOOK INSIDE AT SOME OF OUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS AND WHAT THEY MEAN FOR BRANDS. Of course, everyone leaves SXSW thinking, so where is this all going to take us? What does the (not so far) future hold? For starters, we can all expect technology to become more intuitive and multifaceted, with more reasoning capabilities to enhance our lives and our experiences. Think intuitive suggestions, predictions, auto learning, and human-like senses. With embeddable technology evolving by the minute, were already seeing sensors being embedded in the body and our sense tracks, reducing the distance between our skin and the external world. With transcending devices, people can bring their cloud with them from their phone to car and other smart devices, meaning their expectations for seamless (and often non-linear) brand experiences will continue to grow. ON THE HORIZON: THE NEXT EVOLUTION OF TECHNOLOGY This year we saw robots, live space talks with astronauts, and connected cars with predictive analytics that can warn drivers about potholes, the speed to take corners, and even begin personalized driving recommendations. And with prototypes of cars that will drive themselves, maybe, just maybe, were not so far off from the future of the Jetsons and Marty McFly after all 4. theBIG themes 5. 5 We all have a human desire to make our lives easier, simpler and better, and technology and digital innovation continues to address many of these needs. To utilize these innovations and reap the benefits, weve become walking data generators, either knowingly or unknowingly handing over our data to companies and brands. In the best case scenarios, our data is used to help create more engaging experiences, motivate our action and create better, more personalized relationships to drive loyalty. However, rather than focus on these benefits, this year countless talks focused on the dark side of data and concerns over its security. On one hand, we as users need to hand over data and information about ourselves to help create better experiences. Advertisers and platforms look to use this to create better targeting, relevant THEME #1: LURKING IN THE SHADOWS: THE DARK SIDE OF TECHNOLOGY, FROM SNOWDEN TO SECURITY What does this mean for brands? As people are becoming more wary of their data and how its being used, brands need to do everything they can to make people feel secure by being open and transparent. Let them know you have their data and do everything you can to make them feel comfortable, secure as well as valued and acknowledged. After all, theyre humans, not numbers, and when you remember to treat them as such; you build the necessary foundation of any relationship trust, which is the only thing that can save us in the face of doubt. messaging and predictive solutions to make sure theyre top of mind at the most opportune moments However, as weve seen, in the wrong hands, misuse of data can be extremely problematic (just think about Targets recent massive data security breach). Unfortunately, as Snowden and others discussed, the tools were using arent designed with security in mind first, creating conflicting models and leaving people to question how much is too much, and is handing over my data really worth it? One company, DataCoup, is actually putting individuals directly in charge of their data, helping people sell it directly to companies for something in return with the goal of creating an open, transparent and mutually beneficial relationship. 6. 6 While data security was one major theme, privacy proved to be just as important. However, this theme was less about the misuse of data and more about peoples response to data permanence, understanding its implications regarding judgement and consequences if seen by unintended audiences. Given data permanence on social networks like Facebook, we saw a radical rise in platforms like Snapchat, Whisper, Secret, Confide and Wicker which let people engage with others without fears of content following them around forever. These What does this mean for brands? Brands cant (and shouldnt!) force themselves into private conversations. However, if brands are able to find ways to be invited by being more creative and relevant without coming off as intrusive, there is potential to stand out and gain their attention. iris found a clever way for Dominos to engage with people on the dating app, Tinder, by encouraging them to swipe right on Tinder for tasty deals on Valentines Day. The key is, if you only have 6 seconds (or less!) to communicate, they better be worth it! THEME #2: ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA apps clearly address peoples desire to limit their sharing, or better yet, provide complete anonymity. After all, not every selfie needs to live on forever. Cloak is the latest to come on the scene, actually helping people avoid friends in the real world based on their social media interactions, talk about anti-social media! 7. 7 Wearable and embeddable technology (either ingested or as a tattoo with a chip smaller than a penny that can communicate with objects) both made big appearances this year, not only with those donning Google Glass. We saw brain sensors, sensors on clothing, embedded in skin and even pills that take photos throughout your body or better yet, release doses of medicine when your body senses that its needed. While its just a matter of time before our entire bodies become an interactive canvas, despite the cool factor, it felt to us that this was more hype than immediate reality. Cool in theory, however they still have a long way to go before becoming mass. Case in point: Google Glass is heavy with a clumsy user interface, therefore we can expect it to take another 3-5 years before its really useful. Until we see a more seamless integration we have a bit of a way to go before it really starts to gain any true traction. One that we do have on our radar however is Ring, a much less intrusive device that recognizes finger gestures, allowing the wearer to write text messages by simply drawing in the air. The same dynamic allows the wearer to access apps by drawing designated shapes in the air. For example, drawing a music note could access your music player, while drawing an envelope shape would allow you to access your email. On the other hand, we have a feeling that (despite the potential creepy factor) embeddables may take off sooner, since theyre less visually intrusive. Flexible Sensor Tattoos are already being used by athletes to help prevent injury and provide recommendations on how to reach optimal performance levels. Theyll be available by 2015 with the ability to put valuable data directly onto a mobile phone and on the cloud. What does this mean for brands? While not at the tipping point of the bell curve just yet, there are quite a few brands starting to enter this space right now. For example, Adidass company NuMetrex is already making bras that track your heart rate and can submit information directly to their MiCoach app. Our take? Keep it simple; even the best intentions can fail if too many steps are in the way. With so much potential, the brands that are able to put the experience in the foreground and make the technology feel seamless to peoples lives are the ones that people will gravitate to. THEME #3: WEARABLES, EMBEDDABLES & EVEN EDIBLES! 8. 8 Former Google Wallet product lead, Mark Freed- Finnegan predicted a future where there will be fewer stores, smaller stores, and probably less inventory. To illustrate his point we can look to Williams Sonoma whose e-commerce sales increased by 50% this year, and are beginning to close stores. Instead of using their existing stores for merchandise, theyre using the space to focus more on the brand experience with classes and demos. There are lots of ways to enhance shoppers experiences, some not as difficult as others. For instance, what if payment cards could be used as personal shopper IDs instead of loyalty cards? Well, it turns out with his new startup, Index they can. Cako, a bakeshop in San Francisco is now taking credit card data to create accounts for shoppers, giving personalized recommendations based on past purchases. Of course the trend of data security may have some implications here; it will be up to the retailers to deliver this in a way that makes people feel comfortable. Bitcoin was also a hot theme this year, with people talking about its potential evolution as retailers begin to accept it as payment. However without any regulation and mass understanding to address security concerns, it may take a bit longer for widespread cultural acceptance. Inside brick and mortar stores, we saw lots of talk and rage about the possibilities of reaching consumers in more places with iBeacons (micro location based technology). However, while there is a lot of upside potential for brands and retailers to create contextually relevant messages, for savings, coupons, and reminder messages, we do have concerns over the number of necessary steps it will take for people to engage (download apps, accept permissions, etc.) as well as the potential for brands to over-spam. All it takes is one bad experi