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SXSW HOTSHEET: 360i Recaps the Best of SXSW Interactive 2014

SXSW HOTSHEET: 360i Recaps the Best of SXSW Interactive 2014

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Fresh from a few busy days in Austin, 360i is bringing you the top highlights from SXSW Interactive 2014. Read on to learn about the themes, personalities, startups and brands that moved and inspired us this year.
Fresh from a few busy days in Austin, 360i is bringing you the top highlights from SXSW Interactive 2014. Read on to learn about the themes, personalities, startups and brands that moved and inspired us this year.

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Published by: 360i on Mar 20, 2014
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360i RECAPS THE BEST OF SXSW INTERACTIVE 2014 Fresh from a few busy days in Austin, 360i is bringing you the top highlights from SXSW Interactive 2014. Read on to learn about the themes, personalities, startups and brands that moved and inspired us this year.


The single biggest theme this year was the tension between data and privacy—the products and technology we rely on to make our lives easier, and the data and privacy we give up to the companies that make that happen. The fact that Julian Assange and Edward Snowden spoke at the same conference as some of the world’s biggest data collectors was an irony not lost on the conference curators. Many presenters this year spoke to the fact that while data is powerful in that it can lead to great personal experiences (e.g. those that are customized or highly relevant), privacy can become an issue when the value of the service is unclear and/or when the handling of data is not transparent.

When wearables first launched, they seemed to be used more as a fashion accessory for trendsetters and early adopters and less as useful tools that could be leveraged by the masses. With the boom of devices designed to offer tangible and accessible benefits to their wearers though, that has all changed. From medical “implantables” able to track blood pressure, to tools that allow people to control the things around them to make everyday actions easier, wearables prove their worth when they provide insight into our current lives, and foresight about what we should do in the future. Brands will be especially eager to use these technologies to satisfy a consumer need and connect people to their products via physical experiences in physical spaces.

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Up-and-coming players were out in full force this year (see our Startups section for more on that), but some critics are arguing that SXSW has become less about startups and more about brands. The lack of clear-cut breakout stars this year (e.g. Twitter and Foursquare in 2007 and 2009, respectively) seems to support this theory. Josh Rubin, a producer for CNN who has covered the event for years said, “It’s too expensive for startups to get attention down here, so we’re seeing less launches and a lot of big brand activations.” While startups might have to find craftier ways to rise above the noise, the general consensus seems to be that SXSW remains a valuable incubator of idea-sharing and collaboration around digital culture.

Several talks focused on the need for marketers to recalibrate and consider the objectives that their programs are trying to meet (vs. blindly chasing “the next big thing”). The presenters’ advice: go back to the basics and understand what consumers want or need before you dream up experiences through which to reach them. Of course, this must also balance with the “innovate or die” theme expressed throughout the conference, which encourages companies to get over the fear of failure and to take calculated risks to create better work. One speaker summed this up in the following way: “Playing safe is playing to lose.”

Now that people have multiple mobile devices, they are constantly multi-tasking and sometimes only half-paying attention to content to which they’re exposed. Additionally, the way people pay attention depends on where they are, and if they’re online, what platform and device they’re on. For content creators, this is important to keep in mind. Marketers can overcome the attention challenge by considering a user’s behavior in their environment (not trying to change behavior) to scale information and lower friction.

Beyond visual forms of content (think Instagram images or Vines), several apps came to SXSW vying to be the next Instagram for another “sense.” For example, Bobler is a French startup focused on leveraging voice technology as content. Dubbed as the vocal form of social media, this product is out to prove that sound (voice particularly) can evoke emotion the same way that visuals can. Similarly, Scentee is doing the same with smell –in fact, our client Oscar Mayer has recently debuted a new iPhone dongle that emits the scent of fresh-cooked bacon (using Scentee technology).

Not surprisingly, 3D printing continued to capture imaginations at SXSW this year. 3D printed food in particular was everywhere, with Oreo (client) and Deloitte leading the pack. And apps like Easel are reinventing digital manufacturing by allowing users to invent their own products simply by sketching a 2D design.

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DR. NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, futurist, astrophysicist and star of FOX’s recently

re-launched show “COSMOS,” took his talents to Austin to deliver unique insights about the Universe around us. Our team was most struck by his infectious curiosity (“curiosity” is one of 360i’s core mantras) and passion. Says one of our ambassadors, “He creates wonderment and curiosity in a way I haven’t seen in a long time.”

DANAH BOYD, Principal Researcher at Microsoft and author of “It’s Complicated: The Social

Lives of Networked Teens,” discussed the way teens use social media in their everyday lives. While Millennials are currently top of mind in marketing circles, the current teenage generation – their mindsets and the future trends associated with them – is one for brands to keep an eye on.

MARK CUBAN, tech investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is known for his outspoken

and blunt demeanor – and he delivered on this reputation in Austin. He joined Guy Kawasaki for a candid discussion around the state of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. He also subtly promoted his latest project, Cyber Dust, which is a private messaging app that operates like SnapChat for text. Leading the popular session “Go Home Marketing, You Are Drunk” was content strategist & Brain Traffic CEO KRISTINA HALVORSON, who urged marketers to recalibrate their approach and reground their organizations in pragmatism. Brands can achieve this by going back to the basics and starting with the consumer need/want – by fixing what’s broken instead of finding things to break.

FRED GRAVER, Head of TV at Twitter, discussed TV storytelling as adapted for the

140-character medium. Speaking to how television shows are integrating transmedia into their strategies, Graver shared examples of how networks are bringing fans into the storylines of their favorite programs. “A re-tweet is the new autograph,” he said.

JOANNA COLES, Editor in Chief of Cosmo, spoke about the ways in which consumers seek

out relatable characters in the media they consume – yet also appreciate when these characters have an unexpected twist along the way (e.g. Walter White: a high school chemistry teacher who moonlights as a meth manufacturer). Brands can aspire to similar combinations of familiar and unexpected in their own marketing to achieve the same resonance with their audiences.

ADAM SAVAGE, host of the popular Discovery Channel series “MythBusters,” delivered a

keynote that emphasized the role of science education in creative industries such as digital media and TV. Speaking passionately about his experiences across both scientific and artistic pursuits, Savage underscored the need for experimental sciences and arts in public education.

ALFRED LUI, Chief Design Officer at Seer Labs, gave an inspiring talk called “Reorienting

UX Design for the Internet of Things.” A designer of wearable technologies himself, Lui provided interesting insight into the opportunities and challenges faced by the UX community as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more prevalent. To learn more about Lui, check out his presentations on Slideshare.

ROY SEKOFF, Founding Editor of The Huffington Post, spoke about how the media company

evolved HuffPo Live into what it is today by focusing on engagement (and not just content). Giving people a platform from which to respond via video – and to do so in real-time – changed the game for the news consumption experience and created one of the most social experiences on the web.

CHELSEA CLINTON, Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, focused her talk on the ways

technology is being used in developing countries and how it can be used to make a real difference in the world. She stressed that things don’t always have to be innovative to be valuable, and that innovative isn’t always new. Some of the most effective and highly-used technologies in Africa for example are simple ones that already exist and don’t involve extravagant new apps or technology.

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Here are a few of this year’s standout startups (though there was no single breakout star in 2014):

Company: ROIKOI What it does : A “Leaderboard for Professionals,” ROIKOI lets you anonymously rate your colleagues and see the rankings of others. Reason to care : ROIKOI could impact how companies seek out and hire talent. Imagine another layer of vetting beyond the standard resume, cover letter and interview model. This is especially relevant to the marketing world, since the most successful work relies on wellfunctioning teams and a strong company culture. Company: PeepsOut What it does : This app allows you to gauge how “good” a scene is before ever leaving your house. Unsure about a bar or concert? Consult PeepsOut to watch a livestream of the action from the comfort of your living room couch. Reason to care : As PeepsOut becomes an established place for club and concert goers to “know before they go” it may also be a smart place for brands to advertise and promote special events to local markets. Company: Secret What it does : Secret encourages people to “Speak Freely” about specific topics (such as events). Similar to PostSecret, it inspires entertaining, hilarious and even shocking contributions. Reason to care : Apps like Secret could give marketers additional access to gleaning candid consumer sentiment. Whisper, for example, is another anonymous messaging platform that has been gaining momentum as of late. Banter provides a similar service via a chat-room style experience that’s reminiscent of AOL’s hey-day.

Company: Ring What it does : Ring is a wearable input device that allows users to do things such as write texts, make payments and turn off lights with the twirl of a finger. In sum, Ring creates a shortcut to daily tasks using gesture recognition technology. Reason to care : Ring has already raised half its monetary goal on Kickstarter. If (when) this device makes it out of beta, it could be a true game-changer when it comes to how humans relate to the objects and people around them. Company: Epson Moverio What it does : Epson, while not technically a startup, is innovating at the intersection of wearables and augmented reality (AR). Epson’s wearable combines an activity monitor with a heart rate monitor – and allows users to view their pulsing heart via AR. Reason to care : Epson’s AR can be used to educate on virtually anything. For example, a car brand might use Epson to simulate sitting in a vehicle before the buyer ever visits the lot. Company: Nymi What it does : Nymi is a wristband that uses the wearer’s unique cardiac rhythm to confirm identity in lieu of a password or PIN number, allowing secure access to that individuals smartphones, devices, websites and more. Reason to care : Nymi and startups that provide similar utility symbolize an overarching theme this year: technology is enhancing the experience of existing smart phones and smart devices. This trend also includes companies like Mophie and Moment Lenses.
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Company: Bobler What it does : Think of it as the voice version of Instagram. Reason to care : Sound (and voice in particular) is a strong conveyor of emotion, which provides opportunities for brands to connect with consumers on an even deeper level. Company: Easel What it does : Easel allows for easy digital manufacturing. A heavy engineering background used to be needed to develop tech products, but now Easel makes it possible in a few simple steps. Reason to care : Easel is a new take on the 3D printing model in that you actually invent the object you want to make. Brands might be interested in partnering with Easel to engage consumers at promotions and events to create highly unique and personable products. For example, a toy company could allow kids to dream up and actually create their own playthings. Company: Scentee What it does : Scentee creates devices that release specific scents when connecting with a smartphone. Reason to care : We recently partnered with Scentee to develop Oscar Mayer’s “Wake Up & Smell the Bacon” app. This company is one to watch for brands looking to create physical experiences for fans.

There’s no doubt about it, this was the year marketers made their presence known in Austin – and did so in a big way. Here are a few of our favorite activations, #clients and non-clients included:
We worked with our client SUBWAY to develop a “Think Flatizza” experience that utilized electroencephalography (EEG) technology to allow people to play a virtual tug-of-war game simply by concentrating on objects on a screen. SUBWAY was a headline sponsor at SXSW this year, and provided several other experiences and “Eatovations” on the ground in Austin.

NESPRESSO set up a giant dome-shaped structure near all the
action and invited people in to get a free coffee. On a touch screen, they asked visitors to answer a short “which coffee are you” quiz. Once they got their answer, a brand ambassador would show them to a Nespresso machine and teach them how to make said coffee. Visitors were encouraged to tweet with a hashtag to win a free machine. The combination of high-quality giveaways and friendly staff made this brand activation one to remember.

AT&T came to play with its “Mobile Movement,” an interactive activation
that celebrated young innovators by elevating their apps to a much larger stage and/or screen than the cell phones to which we’re attached. It included the largest multiple-player game on one 20-foot screen (Splat!) and a live, music-making dance floor (Keezy). At night, the space turned into a concert venue.
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OREO, a client of 360i, set up a Twitter-powered vending machine where
festival-goers could create 3D printed Oreo cookies based on social conversations. You can read more about the activation in MediaPost. Just a month out from the “Game of Thrones” Season 4 premiere, HBO (a 360i client) made waves with an immersive exhibit that provided 5,000 square-feet of #SXWesteros experiences, and the launch of its official “Game of Thrones” beer line.

CHEVY, a repeat SXSW sponsor, had a large set-up outside of the Austin
Convention Center and provided free lifts to people unable to hail a cab. The useful perk not only allowed people to experience the cars first hand, but it also created an environment in which people associated the brand with happy thoughts (namely, relief and rescue).

SAMSUNG was also out in force, promoting its new “Milk Music”
app. Milk Music is a streaming music service similar to those offered by Apple, Google and Nokia. Samsung’s promotion included an interactive experience that allowed people to create their own album covers, driving home the message that Milk Music delivers a customized and personal experience. Tapping into Millennials’ penchant for Mario Kart, PENZOIL brought a live-action version of the popular game to Austin. The experience allowed participants to get into go-karts and race over various “power-ups” (detected via RFID chips on the cars) that had real-world implications such as a speed boost.

ABOUT 360i:
360i is an award-winning agency that drives results for Fortune 500 marketers by making brands culturally relevant amid the rapid pace of consumer behavior change. 360i is a highly strategic creative and media partner for clients that brings together digital specialization – in insights, strategy, social, influencer marketing, search, analytics and media – with a deep understanding of how people discover brands and share stories across all channels. This year 360i was consecutively named the top digital agency according to Advertising Age, Adweek and MediaPost, in addition to being recognized among the industry’s most innovative companies by Fast Company and Creativity. The agency’s clients include Coca-Cola, Kraft, Mondelez, Toyota and Unilever. For more information, visit blog.360i.com or follow us on Twitter @360i.

© 360i LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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