Despite the drone-free skies at SXSW 2015, there is still plenty flying around Austin this weekend. While this isn’t a statistically valid analysis of what’s trending at SXSW 2015, here’s my rundown of the trends, activations and platforms that made the most noise in Austin this year. It’s an exciting time to work at the intersection of marketing, technology and communications.
Big Data – well, “big data” is here to stay in our marketing vocabulary. By far, the most common buzzword I have heard at SXSW so far has been “big data”. The longest lines for sessions have been for topics revolving around big data. Every vendor seems to now be in the big data business, and it’s clear everyone wants a piece of the “making sense out of data” pie. By and large, I think this is a great thing. For too long, we’ve made business decisions with limited and dated research – or hunches. The better we get at using accurate (and if possible, real-time data), the better informed and productive these decisions will be. The challenge for most organizations will be selling the value of big data internally, as it’s costly to fund the tools and people required to be successful.
Proximity – while there have been a few failed attempts at leveraging proximity-based mobile applications at past SXSW events (Highlight or Banjo come to mind), practical applications of proximity-based messaging technology – most-notably through the use of iBeacons – have utility. SXSW is using iBeacons at the conference this year to alert users of its app to interesting things going on at the conference. When you carry your mobile device around with you, you’re essentially telling people where you are. Privacy concerns aside, this is the future of location-based marketing – pushing content to users in the moment is one step closer to realizing those scenes out of Minority Report. I’m most-excited about seeing the adaptation of iBeacons for driving proximity-based engagement in retail and event applications.
Internet of Things – EVERYTHING is going to be connected to the Internet in the next couple of years. That’s the general theme of the dozens of Internet of Things sessions at SXSW. There are too many products out there in the Internet of Things – or IoT – sector to mention in this post. Just know that every for every product you own that plugs into the wall (or recharges), somebody is working on one that connects to the Internet. Honestly, there are a lot of products that you don’t currently need that will connect to the Internet too – like a device you can put your eggs in that will tell you if they’re still fresh. Don’t put all your IoT eggs in one basket, I guess?
There are surely some follow-up trends of note to be on the lookout for when it comes to the IoT. First, there are some considerable privacy and security issues that will emerge (opportunities for smart entrepreneurs to capitalize on). When everything is connected to the Internet, it brings with it the same risks and vulnerabilities of any other device on your network. Than there is the issue of overwhelming your home network with too many devices competing for a connection – there are limits here that will need to be addressed. Finally, it makes sense that we’ll see common aggregators emerge that enable you to manage all of your Internet things from a single interface. My guess is Google will emerge as a leader here, as it’s in line with indexing all of the world’s information – and yeah, back to that big data thing… there’s a lot of data behind all of our things being connected. Anybody making a product today needs to consider how that product will connect to the Internet – that’s a mega-trend if I’ve ever seen one.
Getting From Point A to B – personal transportation is an interesting trend I’ve noticed at SXSW. From the Ubers and Lyfts of the world, to tap-and-go Smart Cars you can see all over Austin, to similar applications for hailing taxis and pedicabs, it’s clear that smartphones with their GPS and mobile payments capabilities have made it easier than ever to find a ride than ever. Look for developments in ride-sharing to be a trend in coming months, as Uber recently announced its plans to enable you to team up with other users to get where you’re going.
Read more about the brand activations and platforms making a splash at SXSW 2015.
One of the hardest things to do at SXSW is to run an activation that rises above the noise. There’s so much competition for attention here, it’s really a test case for what it’s like in the real-world outside of SXSW. There are a few activations that have clearly succeeded in their mission of generating attention at SXSW:
Mophie’s St. Bernards – Mophie, a manufacturer or portable device chargers, is using a crew of rescued St. Bernards to do what they are known best for – search and rescue. The twist? They are using their search and rescue skills to bring power to attendees with dying mobile phones and devices. Simply tweet to the @mophie account and a dog will come out to the rescue. Don’t worry, the dogs are only going out a couple of times per day. It’s by far one of the most innovative stunts at SXSW – and best tied to the Mophie’s value proposition.
Mastercard’s Priceless Elevator Pitch – part of the SXSW 2015 Mashable House, a buzzworthy activation in its own right, Mastercard is offering a $15,000 prize for the best elevator pitch. Entrepreneurs enter an elevator at the activation and have 60 seconds to deliver their pitch. A panel of experts are voting on the pitches and will select one lucky startup to award the $15,000 prize. Priceless.
The Simpson’s Kwikie Mart Truck – Austin is known for its food trucks. The Simpsons are known for their characters. The two meet at SXSW with the Kwik-E-Truck, a Kwik-E-Mart on wheels where Apu fans can get a tasty brain freeze. You can also get a sneak peek at the Simpsons Quik-E-Mart Lego set that’s coming to stores soon.
HBO’s SXSWesteros – with April 12th right around the corner, HBO is once again using SXSW as a platform to generate excitement about it’s next installment of Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones fan can take their picture in the iconic throne, play a highly-interactive game with a real sword, or enjoy a nice frosty Game of Thrones themed micro-brew. Fire and Blood Red Ale anyone?
Showtime’s Penny Dreadful Bus Wraps – it’s hard to walk around SXSW without seeing shuttle buses adorned with a Penny Dreadful promo. As a new fan of the show, I’m personally excited to Season 2 to kickoff in May. Showtime has also leveraging a smart app sponsorship at SXSW, reaching all attendees using the app to manage their schedules.
If there’s one thing SXSW is known for, it’s serving as the launchpad for the next cool apps. Remember, it’s SXSW that is widely credited for launching Twitter and Foursquare into our daily lives. I still remember playing Foursquare with the founders back in 2010. While I miss the old Foursquare, I’m still excited to see Foursquare and its spinoff Swarm getting a lot of love at SXSW. This year has had no shortage of new apps generating buzz around the conference. Here are a few new services that have been rising above the noise at SXSW:
Meerkat – Meerkat is the Twitter of SXSW 2015. The recently-launched service enables users to livestream video feeds using their Twitter accounts and credentials. When a user starts streaming video from their phone using Meerkat, followers receive a tweet letting them know the user is broadcasting. All commentary around the livefeed is controlled within the Twitter ecosystem, enabling quick access to live events. While livestreaming is nothing new, Meerkat makes it incredibly easy and taps into users’ existing networks via a tight integration with Twitter. Despite Twitter’s efforts to limit Meerkat’s access to its social graph heading into SXSW, the app has reported nearly double the livestreams over the course of the conference so far. Twitter’s efforts to restrict Meerkat may have actually propelled adoption for the new service. You’ll be hearing a lot more about Meerkat in the weeks to come.
Super – fueled by a keynote on Saturday, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone talked about his new social app Super. I tried Super when it launched this past fall, and it was “fun” as intended by its founders, but I quickly lost interest in using the platform due to what seemed like a small community at the time. The main point of Super is to share emotions in a creative way – emotionally-charged reactions to everyday life. Perhaps with a larger community, the app could have some legs. I’m sure the app will see an uptick coming out of SXSW. They certainly have the right experience and connections to make this app a success.
Medium – remember one of the other co-founders of Twitter, Evan Williams? He has a new product too – newish at least. Medium is a new blogging platform – something Williams knows a thing or two about, having co-founded Blogger back in the day and sold to Google. Medium is picking up steam and may be worth a look if you’re in the publishing game. It’s clean interface, combined with a growing community and not a lot of new options in the marketplace, make it worth taking a look.
That’s it for now. Certainly a lot to take in at SXSW as always. What did I miss? Share your thoughts on SXSW so far in the comments below. See you in line at the next session!