Strategic brand consultancy Added Value is a global specialist in South Africa and numerous other major markets worldwide. Here Jonathan Hall, President Consulting: North America, highlights the latest in everything from artificial intelligence to wearables, from big data to storytelling, and what brand owners can learn from the worlds of mobile and tech.
- Keyword: Innovation
The word, ‘Innovation’, was one of the most commonly used in the names of SXSW Interactive events this year. Hal Gregersen, co-author of the Innovator’s DNA with Clayton Christensen and Jeff Dyer, spoke about their award winning research and the 5 skills they identified that distinguish innovative leaders from non-innovators. In another panel, Walter Isaacson, biographer of Steve Jobs among others, emphasized the “group portrait of creativity”, as opposed to the loner(s) in the garage.
- Big data: not just for geeks
SXSW kicked off with a rock star panel facilitated by Ganesh Bell, Chief Digital Officer at GE, but the topic was raised in countless panels. And it’s not just for data scientists: Next Big Sound’s algorithm identifies breaking music artists; Catapult’s devices monitor the health of athletes; and Mark43 uses analytics to help make policing smarter. More than 70 sessions were dedicated to the Internet of Things. Read here about the impact a hyper-connected world will have on consumer identity.
- Wearables: Apple & more
Speaking of the Internet of Things, wearables are starting to come of age, with fashion and health the two sectors at the forefront. These days, cutting-edge fashion design is more about 3-D printed garments and smart textiles with performance, safety and quality of life in mind, like this light-emitting jacket or these touch-sensitive undergarments. The health sector has long been a focus for Wearables, allowing us to improve performance and wellness (think FitBit, Fuelband, Shine, but particularly Apple’s newly-announced ResearchKit). And of course, the debate raged around the Apple Watch.
- Artificial Intelligence is mainstreaming
Once the preserve of science fiction, artificial intelligence is among us. And it’s not only evidenced in products like DJI’s consumer-friendly video drones or Anki’s toy race cars, or SXSW’s first three-day Robot Petting Zoo. Martine Rothblatt, the highest-paid female CEO in the US, outlined her vision for a world where humans and artificial intelligence exist in harmony. On the principle that neuroscience can be understood and digitised, she believes ‘mindclones’ will be real in her lifetime.
- Storytelling goes experiential
As people develop T-shaped attention spans, brands have to develop narratives that are modular, without beginning or end, and open to be joined or left at any point. Sabrina Caluori from HBO talked about layering emotional, cross-channel experiences. Andrew Cochrane, Creative Lead at Mirada, Guillermo del Toro’s independent studio, spoke about driving experiences across physical and digital, including virtual and augmented reality. And that includes re-inventing physical stores. Here are the key takeaways for retail marketers.
- Every business is a tech business
One of the central business challenges/opportunities at SXSW was the bewildering acceleration of technological impact. Media business Thrillist sees the future of the industry as integrated media-commerce companies with technology as the facilitator; retail e-commerce start-ups Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix are steeped in data science and in healthcare, patients empowered by access to app-based data are challenging the diagnosis and distribution system. Spotify, however, bucked the trend launching its new brand identity to position itself as a music company, rather than a tech business.
- On-demand ecosystems
Lyft and Uber made a big play at SXSW with their ride-sharing services, reinforcing their role in the mushrooming sharing economy and on-demand ecosystems. But the opportunities for Lyft and Uber don’t stop at the taxi industry; the newly launched neighbour-to-neighbour shipping network, Roadie, demonstrates their potential to go up against UPS and Fedex; while they also share the goal of becoming a media platform for other brands. CEO of Lyft explains how he plans to overtake Uber in the ride-sharing race.
- Female empowerment
The stand-out Neiman Marcus ‘Make Some Noise’ initiative – celebrating bold women who ‘rock’ in their respective fields – was launched last year and generated more than 80 million impressions. Since, Neiman has pivoted to drive the initiative across everything they do. In a panel of female CEOs led by Julie Bornstein, CMO of Sephora, the conversation ignited around the relative lack of VC support for female entrepreneurs.
Added Value compiled these lessons following SXSWi (South by South West Interactive) in Austin, Texas.