Day one at SXSW is always hugely busy and chaotic as 30k people descend on a city  the size of Bristol and display the keenness of  A...


Day one at SXSW is always hugely busy and chaotic as 30k people descend on a city  the size of Bristol and display the keenness of 

As promised here are my 3 observations of the day:

Brands and marketing: ATTENTION IS THE CURRENCY

Increasingly across different talks and tracks there is a consistent theme. It isn't new and it isn't unsurprising it is that attention is the new currency 

Gary Vaynerchuck in his Q&A repeatedly impressed on people the importance of attention - he called it the currency of the 21st century and the lens all brands should be using right now.

The big question is how do you get this attention ?

Gary's answer is simple - use the most efficient and effective means and for him that is the most targeted, underrated and underpriced of all mediums: Facebook video and influencer marketing 

It is an approach that many brands ignore either through the challenge of creating the right content for the medium or through the perceived simplicity of the approach.

Be aware however that creativity is the differentiator in a World where 98% of brand don't have a real point of difference so use the creativity to make the difference.


Interestingly Gary Vee applies the same principles to VR in that whilst it is clearly mainstream no one is using it very much (Other than those who work in the industry). As such he believes it is far further away in terms of adoption than people think - that said he did say it is v hot right now for B2B that will then unlock the uses for consumers in the future. 

This was very relevant as the lens through which we looked at a session focusing on 5 of the hottest start up in Austin. Whilst this is just Austin you have to remember that it is a hotbed of tech development and investment (good intersection) and those presenting came from all of over the World not just the US.

Many of the ideas were not new and often use cases were not relevant to the service itself from distraction of kids to help medical procedures (Axon) to VR without headset (Radix) to a physical place for experiencing VR without falling over (Omni) however perhaps the most interesting is Thrillbox which is essentially Nielsen for VR - it helps quantify ROI for VR in terms of focus and attention and exposure (how long people are exposed). I guess you can tell when industries are moving mainstream when measurement starts to get discussed.


The maker culture has long been a track at SXSW however it seems that this has now moved from a focus on NPD and into a means by which employees can be more fulfilled.

There are many companies creating spaces for making in the workplace -
Airbnb, Nike, Pinterest and IBM spoke of just this in a panel.

Airbnb have created what they call the Common Studio - a place to get away from computers and experiment.

Nike have the Blue Ribbon studio - space for all designers including screen printing, foil stamping, a sewing studio and technology integration with VR and robotic arm work.

IBM have a make lab - 400 sq ft space intended for coffee / printers - including screen printing in an upstart space. Interestingly it has no official funding or sanctioning but has caught on hugely in the fi-orate giant to the point where this is being considered as an employee investment.

Why ?

Work is changing people want a different kind of work in the workspace, they need to live with errors and making appears to be great at keeping people happy and engaged.

It is great at helping cross functional teams work together at all levels, and not just designers, filmmakers etc. , in essence you don't have to be a creative  to be creative. All new people coming though the business have to spend time in the studio 

Workshops unlock skills that everyone has too and a few have even changed roles as a result.

The Challenges?

Were highlighted as finding space, funding, culturally getting used to people not being at their desks and perceived to not be working. In IBM it is not funded, the people who use it chip in $10. All the panel are working at proving business value 

So any business should consider by starting small and quickly, align your making with company activity.

Deck here:


I thought I would start strong on this by not usinga local but someone who has travelled to SXSW for a keynote Corey Richards - a true inspiration.

Corey opened his heart and his immense photo library to show us his personal and literal journey that resulted in his reaching the summit of Everest without supplemental oxygen via trips around southern Africa, Myanmar and Nepal.

His heart rendering story that includes alcoholism, homelessness and a marriage break up was based on the principles of honesty - honesty in yourself and honesty to other - achieving this not only creates empathy butt also connection 

The digital connection was about ignoring the distraction of social media - whilst they documented their last trip up Everest on Snapchat (that started with 30 views and ended with over 100k) he was keen to impress that social means people compare their views and life to the curated views of others and that is never going to be healthy.

The key to life according to Corey ? Be authentic !

See you on Day two.

You may also like

Powered by Blogger.