Two cents blog


by Paul Cornwell on 18 March 2016

After five jam packed days of stimulating, interesting and inspiring content at SXSW, I decided I’d attempt to wrap up my experience.  No mean feat considering the range and depth of material we covered.


But nevertheless here’s my ‘key themes’ from SXSW 2016:

1. Storytelling.

Whether it’s a VR experience or a brand engaging with consumers on a new social platform, every speaker, without fail, talked about how crucial storytelling is. Brands need to move from pushing products and product features on consumers and involving them in an engaging story. This subject was covered very effectively by Ed Saxon with his ‘The Power of Story in a Digital Age‘ session. Ed Saxon, by the way, is a famous Hollywood Producer with a long list of credits for movies such as Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia (Google him)

2. VR.

Virtual Reality was the stand out technology at SXSW. It was demonstrated by a range of tech companies like IBM, Samsung, Krush and even Maccas. But the Samsung roller coaster experience did an impressive job of distorting reality to the point that you actually felt you were on a high speed roller coaster. VR’s possibilities are endless. And there are many, many commercial opportunities like property marketing, gaming, travel and the list goes on. VR is here to stay.

3. Work in Beta.  

Another key theme from many speakers was that we all need to be much more comfortable launching products, digital assets, comms programmes, social programmes, etc. when they are 80-90% complete. Aiming for 100%, according to the experts, will see you left behind and outflanked by competitors. For the perfectionists amongst us this will take some adjusting to.

4. Hyper Adoption.

Consumers, particularly under 35’s, are tuned for hyper adoption and as such will embrace new technology, new ideas and new products at high speed. We should keep this in mind as we develop concepts for our clients’ brands and not underestimate our prospects’ capacity to embrace the ‘new’.

5. Authenticity. 

An overused word in marketing these days, but still one that cropped up constantly at SXSW. In short, the more authentic you are, the more you will be accepted by your target – flaws and all.

6. Be data informed not data driven.  

Self-explanatory really, but in an age when we’re swamped with the amount of data available to us, we could easily be seduced by the safety of it and as a tool to make low risk decisions – rather than using it as another information source for insights and planning.

7. Build cultural currency.  

This suggests that living in the users’ world and genuinely communicating with them, not at them, is the path to more effective brand engagement and loyalty.

8. Connected Moments.

I covered this in my previous SXSW blog, so I won’t explain it again here. But I will say that it is probably the session that most left an impression on me.

9. Do Brands.  

We’ve discussed ‘Do Brands’ Vs ‘Say Brands’ in the agency many times in the past. It emerged at SXSW continuously. Summary – consumers will be more likely to connect with your brand if it practises what it preaches – rather than the old paradigm of creating a perfect brand façade that consumers couldn’t see behind. Now they can, big time!

10. Everything on Demand.

Consumers now expect everything they want to experience, buy, watch, listen to, etc. to be available instantly and on demand. Brands that adapt to these expectations will win.

11. The Connected Generation.  

The next generations are digital natives who’ve grown up with everything connected via technology. Therefore it’s not a bonus, but an expectation. Brands like Under Armour have adapted to this. We heard CEO Kevin Plank talk about how his company is evolving from an apparel company to a connected 24/7 health and lifestyle brand. This is the future.

12. Smart Cities.  

It’s clear that civic infrastructure, community services, government and transport, and  telecommunications will very soon be high tech and we’ll all be living in ‘Smart Cities’ and the local governments that understand this and engage the tech community will attract residents who see the benefits that this approach will bring to their quality of life.

13. Context is Everything.  

Many speakers at SXSW talked about using context to get interactions with technology, media and brands into their most powerful form. It should be a key part of planning strategy as we move forward.

14. Finally, IoT – or the Internet of Things.  

A Google search finds this neat description of IoT. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects – devices, vehicles, buildings and other items – embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. IoT is our future. It is now inescapable. Brands who embrace this new IoT world will without a doubt be rewarded.

So, that’s my 14 point summary of themes worth noting from SXSW 2016.


If you’d like to discuss any of this in detail, then we’re full of information, inspiration and ideas.

We live in exciting times indeed.

Paul Cornwell is a Managing Director at BCM


- Gillian on March 19

Very inspiring

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