Last week was the annual pilgrimage to SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas. Increasingly, SXSW is attracting big brands as a marketing venue to influencers (this year, even McDonalds has a presence) and as part of the search of the next new thing.
Famously the launchpad for Twitter in 2007 and Foursquare in 2009, this year SXSW had everyone talking about Meerkat, a live-streaming app. Not to mention the robot petting zoo, drones, virtual reality, and wearables of all types.
It’s important for marketers to remember that it’s not the tech that’s cool; it’s what’s enabled by the tech. It’s tempting for marketers to get so excited about technology that they lose all sense of perspective.
In 2010, I had the opportunity to speak at SXSW and soak up all of the stimulus from the sessions, booths, and conversations. After four days in the SXSW echo chamber, I completely drank the Kool-Aid. I got so excited about tech for tech sake, I temporarily forget that the rest of the world isn’t like the conference. And that technology is only as cool as what it allows you to do.
Just as Twitter is not a “strategy”, Meerkat is not a strategy. It’s what brands do with those technologies that matters, not just blindly chasing the shiny new thing.
Technology can’t save a boring marketing idea. But it can amplify a remarkable one.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on SXSW and how brands should think about adopting the latest tech.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed cartoon print. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)
10 CommentsJoin the Discussion
While the marriage between big brands and agile technology may seem like a mismatch, I think it is far from it. Big brands bring credibility and money to new technologies. New technologies help keep big brands relevant. As long as the big brands maintain a supporting role rather than a controlling role, I think it’s a perfect marriage.
Victor R. says
The challenge is not how to make technology relevant for brands, but which technology is really relevant for marketing a a product on a certant market. Moving from the short term “wow effect” camapigns to long term added value activations technology enabled.
Ori Pomerantz says
To paraphrase, “ask not what technology can do for you, and what you (and technology) can do to your customer.” This is true even if you are in marketing and are trying to get the customer to spend attention, as a prelude to spending dollars.
Great post. There is a time and place for tech in marketing, but you must keep the brand front and center. Marketers who know their brands well, will use the right tech at the right time and in the right way to successfully move their brand. But they will always have the brand in focus.
samuel Monnie says
Ouch. Tom, Your Cartoons are brutally honest. Marketers vested in the “growth mindset” are driven by a curiosity and unwavering desire to learn, develop and get better. With regard to Tech..its certainly a journey that will lead to setbacks, frustration, obstacles and criticism! Yet if you are a marketer willing to stay the course, motivated to understanding your brand, and relentlessly comitted to putting the consumer first I’m sure good WILL come out of the efforts you make.
Hugh Jedwill says
I agree with my friend, Samuel. Even the best brand marketers can forget to put their consumers first. Can’t tell you the number of times I cringe when I hear a marketer relate a personal story to justify a marketing campaign. It’s easy to forget that you are just a marketer – not the consumer. Many of the biggest flops can be attributed to this. Technology and specifically SXSW definitely drives this behavior. Personally, marketers – especially agency marketers – will fall in love with some new shiny tech object. We see it flood the market in the Fall about 6 months after SXSW. The real value in technology is not better value for the marketer, personally, or better value for the brand. It’s better value for the consumer.
The tech should inspire you to think about your marketing problems in different ways, not necessarily be the solution.
A live stream of a pop up restaurant selling the soup would be a fun way to advertise the brand and get people to try something new. Or maybe they could give out wearable thermometers to measure how the soup heats you up from the inside (wasn’t that a Campbells thing for awhile?).
Those would be fun little complements to a main marketing campaign that could inject some life into some very formula marketed brands (i.e. marketing is always tv ads during daytime + samples at the grocery store + coupons).
What does everyone want when they go to a conference? TOYS! Desk ornaments, squishy cars, notebooks, pens, fridge magnets, portable white boards, Post-it pads, coffee cups and bags with cool logos on them so you can parade them around at work when they get back. “Look at ME. . .I was at SXSW last week. . . .”
Tech is just a new toy in the hands of someone who loves bright, shiny objects. They can’t wait to start babbling about it and get it adopted. Problem is, not everyone shares that enthusiasm. But they don’t stop trying.
Years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a tech conference as a press person. Adobe was starting to introduce PDF documents. I was amazed by all that–and when I went back to work. . .nobody cared. Now, even grandmas know what a PDF document is, but back then, I couldn’t get anyone to listen to me, and how it would be immensely useful.
But we all love those new toys!
You nail it. I call it the “Leaf Blower Effect” because it’s not because something is more modern (shinier, with bells and whistles…) that it does the job better or enables you to strive (or in the case or marketing be more creative).
Plus, trying to be cool and using the newest tech is often distracting and a loss of time. (btw, it’s been proven that a broom is in many cases more effective that a leaf blower).
Yet, as human beings we are curious and attracted to the new toys.
Anyway, thanks for keeping us marketers real and sane with your spot-on cartoons.
I blogged about the leaf blower effect on linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leaf-blower-effect-guillaume-rigal
In July 2015 I saw a report from a gambling company that build a VR casino, exactly like the real casino they own. They admitted themselves that the VR experience couldnt replicate the feeling you get in the real casino. It was VR for VRs sake. Very much whats highlighted here. It reminds me of people building like for like copies of town in Second Life over 10 years ago and again more recently in Minecraft: Why?