9 Key Takeaways from SXSW
Just Build It
New workshops at SXSW were an indicator of how important a technology core has become in marketing – new extended workshops at the event enabled a more hands on approach to topics such as HTML5 Mobile Apps, UX in a touch first world, prototyping ,and more. It is no longer “why responsive design” but “why not.” The community also talked in-depth about solving problems such as getting more girls into coding.
The Year of the Thought Leader
Austin attracted a new level of thought leader to this year’s event, with the keynotes determining the emerging themes of the event: Elon Musk – the South African born entrepreneur behind Space X, Tesla Motors and PayPal; Tina Roth Eisenberg, also known as @swissmiss and one of the leading voices on creativity; game industry veteran Julie Uhrman, founder and CEO of OUYA and Matthew Inman, the artist and author behind the comedy website The Oatmeal.
Making Memes Real – Mashable House
It is safe to say that Grumpy Cat was a stand out winner from the event. Attendees lined up around the block for a picture with the chilled-out cat at the Mashable House. He was accompanied by Nyan Cat artist, Christopher Torres, who was drawing temporary tattoos of his artwork on attendees. Torres accompanied the biggest jerk on the Internet, Scumbag Steve, in photo opps and special performances at Mashable House. The popularity of the house with memes as superstars of the show shows the unmistakable impact of the web on popular culture today.
The End of SXSW Product Tourism?
This year there really was no big app launch. We saw the same players who were out there last year – Highlight, Lasso, Lanyard. Highlight was expected to join Twitter, Foursquare and Groupme in the line of SXSW winners, but so far has not lived up to the hype, matching strangers with very little in common and draining everyone’s phone batteries. Also outside of SXSW, the app didn’t seem to have much of a use case. This “product tourism” seems to be what products are now fighting against when it comes to launching at the event.
Yet More Marketing-Offs
It seemed to be a battle of the bucks in terms of which brand was the winner. Which brand had the biggest party, largest customized car or most elaborate pedicabs. SXSW this year did not allow onstreet activations so brands dominated the marketing conversation with big booths and concepts in the hallways and on the streets. SXSW regulars Chevvy and AT&T and current social media darling Oreo were among the heavyweights of marketing in Austin. There were fewer smaller companies risking bigger bucks on social marketing schemes, and certainly fewer of them launching real conversation-starter campaigns.
Overlap between film and interactive
A notable change this year was the overlap between the three parts of SXSW. There were many films being launched at the event, including James Franco’s new movie -Spring Breakers – with many movie stars and producers in the house making deals during interactive. The entertainment industry’s effect was in full effect – with Game of Thrones pedicabs, and the actual throne from GOT prevalent throughout.
Wearable Technology Goes Big
There were many sessions on wearable technology and how it is about to go mainstream. This move has the potential to change our relationship to technology altogether by making it more discreetly and smartly integrated into our lifestyle. An integrated ecosystem of hardware manufacturers, software and service providers and developers, designers and fashion experts at SXSW discussed the intersection between clothing, functionality and technology being a big next area for growth.
3D Printing Continues Apace
3D Printing has been on everyone’s lips for a while now, and SXSW showed how it is rapidly maturing and enabling a wide variety of people and companies to design and create physical products at a rapid pace. The opportunities that 3D printing offers everyone from entrepreneurs to large corporations will be plentiful, and often economically advantageous. While many might think 3D printing isn’t a mature production technology, every in-ear hearing device for the deaf or hard-of-hearing that’s made today is manufactured using 3D printing techniques. Many parts used in unmanned aerial vehicles, and about 90 parts used on military F-18s are 3D printed. Watch 3D printing continue its charge into the mainstream.
What’s Next For SXSW?
This year the conference scales definitely tipped from being the smaller-but-getting-larger serendipitous meet up and inspiration fest to a large-scale marketing-led event, with brands at its heart. Even South By itself has recognized that fact, with the launch of its own small spin off this year in Vegas – SXSW V2V. “Creative thinkers, entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, designers, tinkerers, believers and doers from all over the world” are invited in August to share the inspiration that propels their ideas forward – which was the original premise of the Austin event. What will that mean for us in 2014?