#SXSW: Where Change, Innovation & Local Meet

Posted by Mitchell Communications Group on March 14, 2015


Mitchell has converged on SXSW in Austin, TX. As each day of sunshine, networking and learnings ends, we'll be sharing the trends and insights that stood out. Today, our team touches on change, creativity, influencers, innovation, consumers and local engagement.

Jessicaimgres Dove, Digital Account Manager

In the workshop, Real Lessons in Working with Digital Influencers, we discussed the evolving state of influencer engagement. A recent Variety survey showed that YouTube stars are more influential than traditional celebrities. Research by Influicity showed that top rated primetime TV shows have a lower total viewership than top rated YouTube influencers. The cost of airtime for influencers compared to primetime advertising is substantially less.

For influencers, their audience is the motivation. If their audience is unlikely to appreciate and relate to the potential branded content than they will likely decline the opportunity. Influencers are all about the community they're building, and they do not want to jeopardize their relationships with their followers. An influencer wants to know the overall goal of a campaign and a few key message points. They must then be allowed to create and execute a concept. This will empower them to develop more engaging branded content that will speak to specifically their audience. The same audience the brand wants to engage.

Brent S. Gambill, Sr. Director, Digital & Social Media

One of the great aspects of SXSW is for a few days it changes the lens you see the world through. Making a difference is an important part of our professional lives, but the process to innovation is not always an easy road. Shane Snow, CCO of Contently, took on this challenge in his session Smartcuts: How to Accelerate Change that Matters.

Complication often takes the place of simplicity. To innovate, teams must strip away how they look at an issue. Think simpler. Get the simple right first and the necessary innovation will flow. The next step is to think big. Astro Teller says, "It is easier to make something ten times better than just 10% better." Do not settle on making something slightly better. When Apple reinvented the mobile phone, Steve Jobs did not want a 10% better phone. He wanted to change the mobile phone industry, but first he had to change the lens his team looked at a mobile phone through. As Snow concluded, "No one changed the world by doing the same thing."

IMG_9790Ann Hecksher, Digital Engagement Specialist

While SXSW is known for big brands pushing out either their new product or a new brand making their introduction, the little guy or lesser known brands can also make their presence known.

As I was en route to a session, a musical artist by the name of Salty was on the corner with phone and headphones in hand promoting the release of his new CD. Salty had it down in terms of ushering in people to listen.

He was very personable, making sure to greet us as potential consumers by our first names and asking what type of music we listen too. His ask wasn't big - just listen to his new CD for 10 seconds. While we were listening, we discussed our favorite music and gave feedback on his artistic expression. Salty ended up singing to us and free styling on the spot.

In the end, we walked away with his CD, a photo, and an established connection. There are lessons to be learned from the big brands to the little guy on the street corner. Big brands may be the aspiration, but consumer connection is still the name of the game even at its most granular level. I left with brand awareness, product and a smile. Hard to beat that result.

TJ Pike, Sr. Director, Digital Technology

Change is a topic most professionals deal with in their organization. In the SXSW session Rebels at Work: Leading Change from Within, former long-time CIA executive Carmen Medina shared her insights on being an agent of change. As someone who has literally been a change agent, she provided insight on how to lead change in your organization:

  • Find someone within your organization who knows the corporate landscape and mine them for institutional knowledge. This might be your boss or someone who has been with the company for a long time.
  • Build an alliance with other co-workers who are change agents and support one another.
  • Remember to avoid the Athena trap, which is thinking you have to have it all figured out before you start. This can kill your effort before you start.
  • Know when to push your idea forward and when to back down. You will not win every battle.

The most insightful point was also the most simplistic. Be positive. No one wants to follow a pessimist. It is easy to fall into the trap of complaining instead of constructively finding a solution. Optimism is something, and someone, every colleague will gravitate to.

Tracy Shea, Digital Strategist

SXSW-20151From the debut of Twitter at SXSW in 2007 to Foursquare in 2009 to the making of Tim Ferris who is quoted as saying: “If you hit the right 100 people at SXSW with Twitter and so forth, you can effectively hit everyone there if you have a strong impression.”

Now, its more like this; if you can locate the right people, you can effectively “localize” yourself.

So, enter the notion of localized, customized and personalized features that you have in your hand. The mobile device has never been more apparent to me as the one device that will change retail, travel and customer service radically in the next year. It has the ability to know where you are, what you are near and who you share interests with. It is effectively doing the work you used to do with advertising, or with a rolodex, fax machine, pager, credit card. All those “location” activities we used to do in the latter part of the last decade have started to happen “to us” rather than “by us.”

The more my mobile device and apps know about my status, my needs, my goals and so forth, the more my experience can be customized and tailored to me. In essence, I can become a local by giving up data and by interpreting the data flowing into my hands, real time. Window shopping is taking the place of networking. I can select who I want to meet based on criteria, but also sheer proximity to me.

In the marketing world we talk about the need for mobile engagement, a lot. But until you put the data to work in real world situations, it doesn’t really resonate as it does for attendees at SXSW. Today, I let my phone navigate, filter and program my day. The result? I met people, went places and saw things because I was a local in a very crowded place.

Jameson Sheppard, Director, Creative

SXSW has been a refreshing reminder of the power of spontaneity and ideas. Robert Kirkman, creator of the Walking Dead comic book series led a session on creative activism and the power and importance of defending your ideas. For Kirkman, the opportunity to produce a comic book series, and later video games, television series and films, would never have happened without the commitment to his own ideas.

In the Yahoo! Lounge, I listened to Paul Feig after a premiere of a show, Other Space, he originally scripted ten years ago. A decade for for an idea to come to life! Some ideas are brought to life in time. Steve Carell and his wife Nancy are releasing their new show - Angie Tribeca on TBS in the fall. Rashida Jones stars as a detective in a world where every cliché trope in the world of crime drama is made incredibly obvious and hilarious. Gags and jokes are constructed in a way that makes the show awkward and delightful at the same. The idea was born from the way Steve and Nancy make each other laugh. Originally pitched to a network a couple years ago and serendipitously added to TBS' line-up during an informal meeting. Yes, spontaneity and commitment to ideas are very powerful indeed.

You can follow our SXSW Mitchell Team here. We’ll be checking in daily with updates from Austin.

Topics: Creative, Mitchell Team, Digital