The third and last in a series of posts capturing people’s takeaways from SxSW. The open ended question yielded lots of thoughts and reactions united by the theme of connection.
Behind the iPhones and the social networks, actual people
“I didn’t really have a single ‘aha’ moment, but the human side of it was the best bit in every respect. Some stand out things for me: Biggest stand-out thing: Hanging out with people I’d only ever known before as avatars and addresses – for real – in a theme park called The Kingdom of Awesome. And then meeting their friends as well. And partying. Inspiring.
Second, Clay Shirky. “Abundance breaks more things than scarcity.” Hooray. And for re-connecting us with our human-nature-via-primate research and brilliant storytelling. Sneaky.
Third, Jaron Lanier for telling us to switch off Twitter and shut our laptops for a few seconds, and then for playing these brilliant solos on exotic and ancient pipe-based instruments. Chilling, charming and real. In terms of takeaways, I can’t stop thinking about things you could do with Foursquare, or what you couldn’t do with it. “
We need to be doing something interesting if we’re to share it
“Interestingly enough, my SXSW epiphany didn’t happen during the “Interactive” portion of the conference, it happened during the subsequent music festival. Starting Tuesday, watching the ironic-t-shirt-clad geeks leave and the skinny-jean-Mohawk-toting musicians and fans arrive was a prelude to witnessing literally two completely separate worlds.
There I was in Austin, Texas on the latter half of SXSW witnessing thousands of individuals creating music and other forms of art. Despite the amazing resources available to these creators, the vast majority of them don’t know how to optimally market themselves. On the flip side, the former half of the week was composed largely of individuals who knew how to market something (or claimed to) but often had nothing of their own to share with the world other than intangible items (personal brands, marketing services, etc).
After nine days in Austin, I’ve realized that the Renaissance man is an exotic creature in this world and striving to become one is something that we should all aspire to. We all don’t need to know how to paint, or be pro photographers, or play guitar, but we do need to be doing something INTERESTING. Something that isn’t our job, something we do because we have nothing to gain from it other than exposing ourselves to MORE in this world.”
Social media is boring until we do something innovative with it
“I spent the first two days of the conference sick in bed, reading tweets. And I was surprised to find that much of the conversation was negative. People were bored. Panels were disappointing. No one had anything original to say. Now, it could be inferred that I simply follow a lousy group of complainers, but I’d have to disagree (at least for Edward’s sake).
We find ourselves in a time and a place that calls for more than pedagoguery. The “you sit and listen while I talk” format is simply a bad fit for where we are. It’s a bit too long of an example to cite in this format, but complex adaptive systems show us that without recombinance, without the sharing and mutation and adaptation of solutions and thinking, the system is doomed for a rapid path to mediocrity. And that’s where we find ourselves.
We need lots of people talking. We need companies that collect insights and share predictions. We need more conversations like this. Social media IS boring. And that’s a great thing, because that’s when we can stop lecturing about it and start innovating with it. Well, that’s what I took away from this year’s SXSW.”
Ideas live in the dialog
“I found excellent content at SXSW this year that again didn’t tell me how to think, but rather what to consider–see talks by Jaron Lanier, Fred Beecher, and Jeffrey Zeldman and team Happy Cog. And that content was enriched by the meta-content created in hallway conversations and over late night tacos. Quality content begot quality conversation–but that demands quality participants as well.
Participatory listening and learning exploded this year at SXSW. Twitter was in full swing as a tool of synthesis, not just quotation. As you recall, Jaron Lanier encouraged us to put down the devices and instead just bask in the presentation. You probably noticed I couldn’t do that for long; I have grown too accustomed to the dialogue engendered by a democratic learning style to sit silently amidst monologue. It’s not that I seek the sound bite ready for re-tweeting. Rather, it’s the participation, not the pithiness that I need. Formal, final content can live in books; ideas are what live in dialogue, and that was alive and well this year in Austin.”
Connections can turn into relationships
I had a profound aha moment while in Austin, but it did not come from a panel or keynote. Rather, it came from a conversation with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years and we snuck away for some cold beer and nachos at a nearby restaurant. That single conversation and reconnection answered a personal question I had been pondering for months. For me, that is where the real power of a conference the size of SXSW comes into play. While the content is great and there are a lot of things to see, the fact of the matter is that so many diverse people from every corner of the Internet are in town for those few days. It allows us to take the connections we have made online in any capacity and transform them into much more meaning relationships.
Comfortable, incremental change is not enough
SXSWi is, right now, the barometer for what’s happening in our industry. The most important idea I took from Austin is the need to look beyond comfortable, incremental change. There is no question that the advertising business is moving steadily towards complete, almost comical, irrelevance. Some of us are privileged to work in more progressive environments, but the fact is we’re only marginally better off – we still share more organizational DNA with dinosaur agencies than the start-ups creating many of the tools we use and content we consume.
I also learned we’re not going to fix anything working on our own. One of the greatest characteristics of SXSWi is the culture of openness – perhaps it’s some kind byproduct of social media-enabled sharing and the communal power of open source development. Whatever the reason, interactive folks don’t seem to nurture the secrecy fetishes of some of our traditional counterparts. It was inspiring to talk openly with competitors about things that have worked, haven’t worked, and why. You quickly understand that we are in this together, and if we can figure out a better way of working, it’s going to benefit everyone. I guess I’ve always believed this in principle, but the act of putting it into practice has turned me into a convert.
Though many of the most interesting moments took place in / on hallways, lunch tables and barstools, there were plenty of quotes and useful pieces of information picked from the sessions. Favorite quote was from the stunningly quotable Clay Shirky, something like “the minute people understand something’s important, all progress stops”, which appealed to my producer brain. There’s nothing worse than the paralysis that follows a great idea – too many people scrambling to get involved in something and ruining it in the process. The best work is accomplished with small, multi-disciplinary, empowered, teams. This is something we’ve implemented and – true to form – I’m now sharing with other agencies through organizations like Boulder Digital Works. Feels good.
Thanks again to Tim, Len, Bud, Margot, CC and Matt. Everything you say is not only true, you’ve proven it with your willingness to share it here.
We have entered the era of “adaptive marketing.” We need to move from outbound messages to a more holistic 360-degree approach, from campaigns to experiences, from audiences to individuals.
Late last week I got a peek at Forrester’s new report “The Future of Agency Relationships,” a comprehensive four month study based on interviews with more than 50 agencies and advertisers.*
According to the 16-page report, marketers still need ideas (to make emotional connections); interaction (to reach, connect and most importantly be found); and, of course, intelligence (to optimize brand experiences and more importantly predict outcomes). But this is no longer as simple as identifying an insight, translating it into messages, and measuring awareness or transactions.
OK, so that’s not a revelation. For anyone who’s read David Meerman Scott, observed Zappos’ success, or filled their RSS reader with posts from BBHLabs, Faris Yakob or even this blog, none of this is earth-shattering news. In fact much of what’s published in Forrester’s findings was predicted a few years ago in the popular and influential Groundswell, authored, in fact, by two former Forrester researchers. Much of it is already in practice by progressive agencies and clients alike.
But to the credit of Sean Corcoran, Dave Frankland and Vidya Drego, Forrester has produced a focused and actionable report for both brands and agencies, especially those who are still trying to figure out what the heck to do in the age of Twitter, Flipcams, smart phones and crowdsourcing. It lays out some fundamental requirements for any brand trying to navigate the rise of social media and digital proliferation. And it suggests a course of action for marketers to take when it comes to managing their agencies. (Obviously there must be companies for whom this is all still new or there would be no market for this report.)
More importantly, because the report comes from Forrester, it’s likely to get read, followed, or at least quoted frequently, by marketers, CMOs, bloggers and even reporters in months to come.
Obviously Forrester wants marketers to heed their advice. If they do, agencies who’ve been asleep at the wheel are in for a wake up call. But for those striving to keep up with all the change, this could be an advantage.
Here are a few of the recommendations Forrester makes in its report.
Clients should demand ideas that offer versatility
Ideas today have to work across numerous platforms. Creative has to be media specific. There’s no more taking one idea and replicating it on everything from TV to YouTube to mobile. In fact even platform specific content may have to change on the fly in response to the real time web. Marketers and agencies alike should master a new skill: it’s called agility.
Map out all consumer interactions
In the adaptive marketing era, interactions have to generate conversations that stimulate participation. (Or as I like to say, “Advertising used to be about telling stories; now it’s about getting others to tell them for us.”) They should add up to a cohesive experience – listening, connecting, and responding – in a manner that creates valuable, long lasting relationships. And finally any approach to interaction has to stay attentive to the ongoing dialog that takes place with or without your brand’s participation. Forrester refers to the United Hates Guitars debacle, but there are dozens of others — Dominos Pizza, Comcast Must Die, Motrin Moms and most recently Nestle – to remind brands and agencies that interaction is a constant.
Define success through customer intelligence
According to Forrester, analytics becomes meaningless if they don’t understand the implications of every consumer behavior. If a consumer wants you to “know them and be relevant,” it’s essential that an agency use every form of data — structured or unstructured, online or offline — to make better decisions in close to real time. In short, you better know the value of every customer, fan and follower. And have a plan to convert all the charts, graphs, and metrics into action.
While Forrester doesn’t point fingers at anyone, they do make it clear that brands and marketers have to change their own organizations and processes. Among their many recommendations to clients are suggestions that marketers test partners from outside the agency world and embrace more incentive-based compensation models.
As for where this is all going, Forrester goes to the middle of the limb with these predictions:
- we’ll see a new vocabulary (I’ve been suggesting this for the last six months; see slide below)
- media will be managed more holistically (paid, earned, owned working together)
- agencies and outsourced partners will become more important than ever (the world is too complex to figure it out alone)
- the interactive agency of record will die (interactive will be part of everything so interactive and digital shops will have to step it up or fall into a niche role)
It’s easy to agree with Forrester’s findings. (I was fortunate to among those interviewed for the report.) I especially like the idea of embracing a new vocabulary as the words we use actually perpetuate old (or inspire new) behavior. If you’ve attended any of my presentations the slide to the left is, by now, a familiar one. But Forrester’s validation of where things are going has me even more excited about the future and its opportunities.
No doubt you’ll be hearing plenty about Forrester’s report in days and weeks to come. In the meantime, however, I’d love to know your thoughts and reactions. Are you worried? Or excited? Working someplace that gets it? Or thinking it’s time for a change? Leave a comment. And as always, thanks for reading.
More on the Forrester report:
The Future of Advertising in Creativity_Unbound
Memo to Marketers: It’s Your Fault in Advertising Age
Original Report: for sale from Forrester
Shortly after SxSWi came to an end, I asked a number of people I admire the following question: What is the most actionable takeaway you got from SxSW. Was there a session, a lesson, a soundbite, an example that made you go aha, or that you believe will inspire and or change any of your behavior, tactics, strategies next year either for you or your clients?
This is the second of three posts recapping people’s answers. Three really smart thinkers/bloggers/doers weigh in on privacy, control and choice when it comes to what we share.
The delicate balance between too much openness and not enough
“I was struck by two themes that are simply different sides of the same coin: privacy and openness. Most of the attendees seemed happy leaving digital footprints on just about every application possible, but especially Foursquare & Gowalla. SXSW was an orgy of check-ins. Yet many of us were lucky to see brilliant presentations from Clay Shirky and Danah Doyd on the subject of privacy on the Internet, why that matters, and how easy it is to get it wrong.
Boyd summed it up beautifully: “Neither privacy nor publicity is dead, but technology will continue to make a mess of both.” For me this seems to be the challenge of the moment for brands, agencies, tech companies: how to navigate that delicate line between too much openness, and not enough. There are no easy answers, and much to learn.”
You shouldn’t have to opt-in to privacy
“For me the two most inspiring, interesting sessions were from Clay Shirky and Danah Boyd.
They are both incredible presenters that know how to engage with audiences – a vital communication skill at a conference, as Umair Haque found out – and their two keynotes circled around the same topic – how sharing information changes culture and brands and people.
Shirky pointed out that sharing information is not just a behavior we are evolutionary programmed to favor – it’s one we are programmed to enjoy. Danah pointed out that privacy is still incredibly important – that privacy is about who controls the access to and distribution of information, and whilst for many of us living in public has granted us great opportunities, for marginalized parts of society it can present significant danger.
It’s somewhere along this axis of public/private that the dynamic equilibrium of mutual information control exists and it’s this ever moving nexus that the new relationships between brands and their customers are being created – brands creating semi-permeable membranes to let their customers become a part of their community, their customers sharing more in order to receive more relevance, but both respecting each other’s right to control their own information to some extent.
As Dan Ariely pointed out in his talk, the default option within a choice architecture has a very powerful effect on people’s decisions – people usually pick the default. So, in matters of information flow between companies and customers, the default should always be OPT IN, not OPT OUT.”
Privacy is about choice and control
Mike Arauz, Strategist, Undercurrent, Blogger
“I’m sure I won’t be the only one to note that the mobile-location app Foursquare made a big splash at SXSWi this year. Location-aware technology is going over the tipping point as we speak. And the result is that the places we go and the experiences we have in the physical world are now becoming part of our virtual life stream. This means that restaurants and bars have the same potential for sudden exponential attention that web videos of kittens do. It also means, as Danah Boyd pointed out in her keynote address, that privacy is more important than ever.
As I went from the airport to the convention center to BBQ joints and bars, I was constantly aware of the potential of accessing my social network. But, I wanted the choice to share it – or not share it – with the people around me to be my own. As our physical world and virtual worlds continue to collide, navigating this delicate balance between public and private will be more important than ever.”
Thank you Ben, Faris and Mike for your contributions. Clearly privacy will continue to be an issue. Note more of Danah Boyd’s comments. One more post in this series to come. The next one on sharing and community, with comments from Len Kendall, Tim Malbon, Bud Caddell, Margot Bloomstein, CC Chapman and Matt Howell.
Thanks for reading. And as always, feel free to leave your opinion. Note that it won’t be private.
Photo by: Juliana Coutinho
There was lot of talk this year that SxSWi didn’t offer any earth shattering news or products. There were certainly some great keynotes – Danah Boyd, Jaron Lanier, Clay Shirky – along with one huge bomb –Umair Haque’s pathetic interview of Ev Williams – but based on many of the smart people I talked to, SxSWi was once again informative and inspirational.
I asked a number of people whom I admire the following question: What is the most actionable takeaway you got from SxSW. Was there a session, a lesson, a soundbite, an example that made you go aha, or that you believe will inspire and or change any of your behavior, tactics, strategies next year either for you or your clients?
I got back lots of great answers that one post can’t possible capture them all. So here’s the first of three; these responses united by something to do with new new or emerging trends, products or ways of thinking. More to come in the next few days.
Content strategy will force re-invention
“I was thrilled–but not surprised–by the buzz generated by the content strategy sessions this year. Last year, there was one session on writing for online audiences. This year, there were multiple sessions focused on content planning, creation, curation, and governance.
“My takeaway? Clients are ready to coordinate their currently siloed interactive marketing initiatives–social media, SEO, web and email communications, and so on—by creating a content strategy that defines and drives their content and its lifecycle processes. The larger implication is that organizations will need to reinvent themselves as publishers, creating new infrastructures to support the ongoing creation and care of relevant, quality content.”
Simple social and the frictionless experience
“If I had to pick one thing that felt most actionable coming out of SXSWi, it’d be a theme I picked up that could be called “simple social”: creating user experiences that are as frictionless as possible.
“Some of my favourite examples were Spotify’s Daniel Ek talk about wanting to provide music like water and Ohai’s Susan Wu who listed her rules for MMO games (1. Get to fun in 30 seconds. 2. Keep it simple, reveal complexity gradually. 3. Create real world context and relationships.)
“Continuing the theme – and putting any disappointment around Umair Haque’s interview with Evan Williams to one side – that interview opened with the announcement of Twitters new @anywhere platform, which will integrate Twitter content into partner sites (Amazon, Ebay, Digg, YouTube etc); simplifying and speeding connection to Twitter without having to leave the content site. Think Facebook Connect for Twitter.
“Ev also talked about Twitter operating quite simply as an information service (vs a social network) that works well across markets with less developed tech infrastructure – as he put it, countries with the “weakest signal”.
“This approach has implications for a couple of other big themes that I took from the conference (as Bruce Sterling said with some force, we have a way to go before we can tell future generations we used technology for social good.”
Note: See Mel’s great SxSW recap on BBH-Labs blog. Good pictures, too.
3-D TV will define the future of entertainment
“Away from the panels, buried in the back of a trade show floor, was one startling novelty: 3-D TV. Panasonic presented a booth that showed what the future might hold for home entertainment. I got in line with several others and heard many snide remarks. (“Who needs this? How much better can my eyes possibly see?”) Yet as soon as the screen came on, everyone gasped. The images are holographic and stunning.
‘We can debate the reasons for this new gadgetry push — U.S. consumers now own four TVs per household; panel manufacturers need something really sexy if they’re going to cram a fifth set in our homes; Internet video streaming threatens to end the sale of $400 video boxes unless Sony and Panasonic cram so much 3-D data into a film the current Internet pipes can’t download the file, which is exactly what 3-D does; etc. etc. It all led to an epiphany — we will never have enough. Technology will keep advancing with new ways to stimulate our minds because, like heroin addicts who never recreate the old high, we need more juice to jack up our our neurons. The failure of SXSW this year was there wasn’t enough *new* there. But in coming years newer things will emerge because all of us — video watchers or marketing strategists — crave novelty like the drug it is. The future won’t be better, but it will have tweaks that pump our minds just the right way. And when it comes you’ll be presenting it to an AMA panel, using PowerPoint in 3-D.”
Higher standards should be everyone’s objective
“When will we stop thinking that less bad is good? What if we weren’t allowed to reproduce or recreate something that already existed? For me, those two questions are not only actionable, but personal calls-to-action. As creators and problem solvers, we have the unique privilege of making awesome things for a living. We must challenge ourselves to think not only outside the box, but to throw away the box all together – to solve problems meaningfully and sustainably, not just temporarily.”
We all need new sources of inspiration
“My biggest take-away was actually this: by following my inner GPS system, I was able to witness and experience events that deeply inspired me. One of my favorite talks was Jaron Lanier’s. At the beginning of his speech, he encouraged us to put down our laptops and phones and, for a brief moment in time, be present. He said to let the experience resonate so it would sink in without a fractured memory of texts, blogs, tweets–a challenge to be sure and not an entirely new revelation. But we have to. As creatives, technologists and strategists, it’s impossible to move things forward without embracing random events; events that inspire and create the idea that anything is possible. Here is one of those random events for me that inspired – thousands of bats streaming from the Congress Avenue Bridge.”
The importance of new and different perspectives
“Well the one “aha” that actually led to something tangible was Ze Frank’s wide-ranging keynote on creativity. His personality and online accomplishments were both impressive and infectious, but it was a specific project (A Childhood Walk) that inspired me to write this column for the site’s Memory Forever theme week (we’ve had a half dozen such “theme weeks” over the past year or so). If anything, Ze’s SXSW keynote did what I was hoping it would: Allow me to see everyday things online differently. Google Maps is everywhere now. People take it for granted as a navigation/networking tool, but after that keynote, I saw it had use as a metaphorical time/memory machine too.”
Thank you Kristina, Mel, Ben, Conrad, Kat and Jack for sharing. In the next couple of days thoughts on community, connections and privacy from the like of Ben Malbon, Faris Yakob, Len Kendall and many others. Want to share yours? What did you take away that you can put into action.
This Thursday, March 25th, I have the privilege of speaking to the Milwaukee Ad Workers, United 208. The event will be held at the Eisner Museum, which is pretty cool. It’s the only museum in America dedicated to advertising.
I plan on opening with a short video and the story behind it. (Remember how in the old days when you went to the movies you got a short?) I’ll share some of my own experiences, observations on consumer behavior and what I/we/Mullen have tried to do over the last year or so to stay current, become more digitally centric, and experiment in the social media space.
The fact is I don’t know any more than anyone else — especially in social-savvy Milwaukee, home of AJ Bombers who made the news for its Foursquare Swarm badge event – but since I spend a fair amount of time thinking about social media, trying stuff out and working with clients to get smarter, I’ve got a few stories and examples; some of them are from Mullen, many from all the other agencies leading the way.
Whenever you speak anywhere these days, you can expect non-stop tweets from the audience. If you want, you can capture the stream in real time, project it on a screen, follow what people are saying, and even respond right then and there. A little too much multi-tasking for me and perhaps more suited to a panel or a Q and A session.
I thought I’d try something different instead: assign a Stickybits barcode to my presentation. That way, rather than simply shooting off tweets, people can attach all kinds of bits: photos, comments, links, even audio bites. And we’ll have them preserved in the Stickybits archive, accessible long after the hashtag stream has disappeared from the search.twitter.com. One of my main points is how we all need to conceive ideas that generate content (by getting others to tell brand stories for us, or co-create them with us) and experiment constantly. So here’s an example of both. Whether it’s foolish or brilliant remains to be seen.
So, here you go. If you want, you can scan the above barcode right now, and add stuff to it on Thursday. Log onto stickybits.com for an account or download the iPhone app so you can scan it. Look forward to seeing, reading and hearing whatever you want to attach.