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What SXSW 2017 Means for Marketing


What SXSW 2017 Means for Marketing - James Aufenast, TMW Unlimited

A new senator that’s predicted to be the next president of the United States, a female astronaut who will be part of a mission to Mars, former vice president Joe Biden and the director of engineering at Google.

The line-up of speakers at SXSW was impressive – but what was discussed across the week was even more remarkable – and relevant for us marketers. It’s why our latest Influence Sessions at TMW Unlimited filtered all that future thinking from Austin, Texas, for those in the persuasion business. CEO Chris Pearce, Head of Digital Chris Buckley and Marc Curtis, Head of Labs (our tech innovation hub), unveiled the best of the fest for a packed audience at Unlimited House in our latest Influence Session talk.

Life as a Smart City

“For us this is the big bet,” said Curtis, “because how our cities evolve will impact everything we do as marketers.”

Jennifer Sanders from the Dallas Innovation Alliance and Jay Boisseau from Vizias spoke on Smart Cities – highlighting how by 2050 7 billion people will live in urban centres – double the current number.

In fact the Smart City is already with us – in Hudson Yard, New York, “they’re halfway through building the first fully integrated Smart City neighbourhood”, said Curtis. Bristol, Singapore, Vienna and Barcelona are already offering large amounts of data about their cities, which are viewable to private companies or public organisations.

“For marketers, understanding the possibilities of Smart Cities can make you a thought leader,” Curtis added. “Partnerships with city authorities will lead the way. With cameras you have the possibility to create facial recognition and target people accordingly.

“And with 6.5 billion connected devices already in existence, the technology is there for the Smart City to exist,” Curtis added. He spoke to a representative from Intel who told him that “anything drawing a current will be a connected device – because it’s easier to put a wireless facility in a circuit board than not”.

In fact, communication network LinkNYC is replacing all its phone boxes in the Big Apple with kiosks that offer wi-fi accessible to all, funded by an advertising panel on the kiosk. Link will be coming to the UK, and BT recently awarded Primesite the contract to fit free wi-fi in its phone boxes.

A Car that Runs Errands: Better Security Needed

A major part of Smart Cities is the driving experience. So Chris Buckley listened as Mercedes talked about the importance of locating where you are. “Highly accurate, inch-perfect maps, rendered in real time will let the car knows where it is. Then it will work out how to get you somewhere. These developments will redefine the role of luxury,” said Buckley. “If a car can drop you at work and then do its own tasks, you will want more from it, and be willing to spend more on this type of luxury.”

In fact, SXSW will venture out of its Austin home for the first time in September, with a joint presentation alongside Mercedes at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Chris also delved into the issue of security via a talk given by identity provides SureID – because you need to be able to get into your car, as well as other devices. “For most services we offer as marketers, we need to know who we’re talking to, and for someone to confirm that”, said Chris Buckley. “However, a proficient level of confirmation is hard to achieve. We use a passport for identity, but it’s hard to authenticate that.”

Verifying identity will be one of the big growth areas. But we shouldn’t go with the assumption that we’ll all move to a biometrics model, with your thumb on the phone. These have a 15% failure rate. “Ultimately the pain in having to access content or services through verifying your identity will drive this area on,” Chris added.

A New Way to Pre-Suade

But SXSW wasn’t all about the tech. There was something on the techniques too – from behavioural psychologist Professor Robert Cialdini, which our CEO Chris Pearce witnessed. In his book Pre-Suasion: a Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, Cialdini posits six ways that lead people to be influenced. These are reciprocity, social proof, liking, consistency, authority and scarcity.

However, recently a charity organisation called at his door and he found himself giving over a large sum of money to the caller. “Then he sat back down and had an epiphany,” said Pearce. “None of the six factors had influenced him. So why had he given all that money? And more importantly how was he going to deal with the fact that his life’s work was now ruined?!”

“Well, it was really simple,” Pearce continued. “The guy at the door had brought along his seven-year-old daughter, and that reminded him of his granddaughter. He came to the conclusion that having something or someone physically there is crucial – it’s the seventh golden rule.”

“Cialdini looked at two emails which had only one tiny difference. The more successful of the two had an emoji of a clock in the subject line, so people were pre-suaded by the idea of time, implying scarcity.”

And there was more

AR “ran through everything” at the festival, according to Buckley. “People still look stupid in those goggles. So companies were trying to take them away and create group VR experiences with big screens or different hardware.”

Then there’s AI: “2029 is the consistent date I have predicted when AI will pass a valid Turing test and therefore achieve human levels of intelligence,” according to Ray Kurzweil. He’s the director of engineering from Google that we mentioned earlier. Kurzweil also predicted that by 2045 “we will multiply our intelligence a billion-fold by merging with the intelligence we have created”.

“Bear in mind that Kurzweil has made 146 predictions and got 80% of those right. And of the remaining 20% only the timing – for example autonomous cars to be already in widespread use – is wrong,” added Buckley. “You start to realise he might be worth listening to.”

SXSW is certainly worth listening to – and even better if you can attend. It’s a harbinger of the future; a taste for us marketers of things to come.

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