Where better to draw inspiration on consumer trends than the annual Festival of Film, Music and Interactive - the legendary SXSW in Texas. The Newtons’ Creative Technologist (a developer but in fancy words) Thanasis Rebelos travels to Austin, Texas to report on the virals and trends that will influence our minds in the most immediate future. Words by Katerina Zherebtsova and Thanasis Rebelos.
This is the centre of the Earth. You get this feeling of ‘here, now, everything is possible’. It’s entirely possible to listen to Coldplay, Jay Z and Kanye West perform together , Soundgarden performing their album “Superunknown” in full or get into any club in town to watch an awesome small town band that will be big in the years to come. While you are randomly walking in the streets of Austin, you can stumble upon Steve Wozniak, or brush shoulders with George Takei, Neil Young or go shopping Americana antics side by side with Sean Lennon (John’s only child). You can also stay in the same hotel with your favorite small upcoming band, attend a keynote session with Edward Snowden, Chelsea Clinton or even the technology enthusiast Shaquille O’Neal. While attending a movie premiere, you get to hear Wes Anderson, Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Hawk who get up on stage to share their thoughts or even answer your questions.
Drop in and out of the mini versions of Brazil, South Africa and Germany and follow the alien looking lucky ones who now see the world through the lense of the Google Glass. It’s where Twitter first got people’s attention*, it’s where Foursquare turned the pavement to a simple foursquare game to promote their application that has just launched. It is the time and the place to learn, get inspired and share your creative vision with people whose first thought isn’t to make money but to innovate (their second thought is how to make money).
This explosion of people, ideas, conversations and experiences is SXSW, the annual event which started in 1987 and grew into a transcultural phenomenon, which attracts hundreds of thousands for 10 days of a complete immersion into the term ‘entertainment’. In fact, nothing you have experienced before gives this word the same meaning – your whole days here are filled with film premieres, directors speeches, critic reviews, music talent shows, debuts – and everything is at the tip of your toes, provided you can multitask, schedule and handle the multiple hospitality kiosks with drinks.
This is where the world draws inspiration for the year to come and where the brands put some of the most show-stopping performances. Here are the 10 picks from SXSW 2014 that captured consumer attention and will soon, we predict, set the trends for the way brands and audiences communicate.
- Google Glass: During this event the city was packed with early adopters and we were looking forward to people with new gadgets. But one thing caught our eye especially, Google Glass. So many people were using them. The verdict – necessity. Start watching Mars Attacks to get used to the idea that humans will never look the same again. Get your marketing strategy ready for ‘wearables’.
- Battery Life: as these 10 days have shown, there is no life after the battery death. No amount of Lady Gaga and JayZ can distract the person whose battery is uncharged. He is in Dante’s hell, circling to find the charging station. Brands, pay attention, battery life is the currency of the future – juice packs/cases are just temporary solutions to the problem.
- Mobile: and for those who are resourceful enough to have the battery in the green, most wonderful things do happen. JayZ and Kanye West concert was available exclusively to Samsung Galaxy phone owners – a sure way to drum up brand loyalty and jealousy of the iPhone hipsters (the venue was completely overbooked, and only half the people with tickets got in).
- Robotics: we don’t just want to limit our techie look to the glasses, robotic gear available to be worn as an outfit was a big hit with the crowds.
- Tweet to get: Branded Festivals took advantage of the instancy and urgency of Twitter by issuing tickets via tweets. In order to get the ticket, you had to tweet or look out for tweets of locations. As the saying goes: No tweet = No party.
- Mobile pay: Square addition (and alternatives) to the iPhone was a popular choice to make instant payments. Rather than bulky and stationary point of sale devices, this little invention was revolutionizing the payment process.
- Paper: New York Times has proven that newspapers can rival tech anytime they like, with their great app which puts the audience on the cover and allows to get a printed version. For brands this is a valuable trend to note: just digital doesn’t attract as much interest as actual offline things do.
- Design like Picasso: many of Steve Jobbs quotes derive from Picasso, it has been shown. Even the Finder icon is a nod to the great artist. Next time you are thinking of an ad campaign, don’t forget to flick through the online gallery of the Louvre or Museum of Modern Art. Your greatest ideas might be there. Don’t forget also to adapt his work methods in terms of intensity and methodology to achieve greatness.
- Safe and Static: lastly, with the revolution in website design and introduction of dynamic content, the developers are now looking back to the simpler and happier times. Better to be static and safe than dynamic and sorry. Static has been proven to be a much more secure platform. Take note.
- Photo-stop: Photoshop was originally created for photo manipulation-enhancement. At the time when the web got big there wasn’t any other tool to design your website. Now things have changed, the web has changed. You can no longer design a website experience in layers. The design should be interactive, in order to display the whole experience. And the tools are here (or in beta), just look for them.
Last and most important:
*Tech: SXSW mostly showed that technology is an incredible enabler of experiences which consumers want. When planning your campaigns, don’t make it about technology, make it about entertainment, but make the technology seamless, intuitive and enhancing.
No wonder SXSW is the highest revenue-producing event for the Austin economy, with an estimated economic impact of $190.3 million in 2012 increasing to $218 million in 2013 (is this the new Super Bowl?).
For those of us who spend their day to day lives to get attention, eyeballs, views, stickiness, shares and other symptoms of the popularity contest that is social media, there is one event in the calendar that cannot be missed – the annual SXSW in Austin, Texas.