The most interesting of SXSWi
SXSW Interactive has been gathering brightest minds in emerging technology and industry leaders in Austin, Texas for 19 years now. This year at SXSWi there were more clients than ever at Cannes. The tables have turned and clients want to be there for themselves, rather than agencies telling them about it.
Ambient technologies have been the talk of the town this time: Highlight app and Nike Fuelband are the two examples of the technology that monitors everything that happens to a user non-stop, which is a bit scary and big fun at the same time.
So here is a short overview of the main trends and most buzzed-about projects that represent some interest for the branding folk. All the nerdy content was carefully sifted off.
Trend: New ways of rewarding the crowd
Foursquare and Groupon have given brands a taste of easy customer engagement, so this year the developers tried to come up with even easier ways to pull people into brands’ orbits.
• Grandstand, a web platform that transforms social actions, such as Foursquare check-ins, tweets and likes into games, rewards and real-time data visualizations. As they promise on their website, it will generate spikes in brand engagement and is suggested to be used by brands, agencies and retailers.
• The Tweet. Sync. Save program by American Express is an interesting play with Twitter which lets US card members turn customised Twitter hashtags into savings. Brands offer deals with special hashtags and users need to tweet them in order to get a discount that will be given automatically when a person pays at the till. So no vouchers or promotional codes, all the savings go directly to a user’s account.
Trend: Location-based apps that show who’s nearby
Coca-Cola’s global group director Neil Bedwell said he was especially interested in this kind of apps as he thinks they will help the brand to engage its customers in more exciting ways.
• One app that has certainly become the SXSWi breakout of the year is Highlight, which is believed to change the face of social media in the years later.
The app keeps a log of who you pass by each day (well, not everybody, only those people who have Highlight too). You can see their name, photos of them, mutual friends, and anything else they have chosen. The best part is that it can be set up to show only the type of people you are interested in, which is really exciting as it gives you a great opportunity to meet new interesting friends or useful work contacts. One thing that distinguishes Highlight from other similar apps presented at SXSWi (Glancee, Banjo and Sonar), is the fact that it is a passive location app, meaning that it runs on the background all the time... meaning the Big Brother is watching you.
• Other interesting startup is Zaarly. It haven’t got as much attention as Highlight, but it supports the obsession with this year’s location-based apps with a slogan “Name your price for anything. Get it from people nearby”. Basically, it’s a local version of Craigslist. Would-be sellers can search offers based on price and distance. The buyers then choose among the responses to their offers. There's no obligation to accept any offer. When a task is completed, Zaarly takes a cut.
Platform: Nike+ FuelBand
Nike+ FuelBand is a new 24/7 activity monitoring platform that includes a digital wristband that tracks all your daily activities and a website/app where you can see if you reached your goal or unlocked special achievement. Of course, you can share all that on your Facebook Timeline, Twitter, and Foursquare. The cool thing is that the previous platform Nike+ was only for runners, now Fuelband makes it possible for a tennis player to compete with skateboarder because it estimates any movement, not only distance and speed.
Mobile Payments: ISIS
ISIS is a joint venture established by AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless. It functions like a digital version of a wallet, storing credit and debit card information in the form of digital card images that can be sorted and swiped with a finger. Tapping on a card calls up relevant data, such as the current balance and credit line information, transaction history. There will also be an option of using it as loyalty card that will provide a user with discounts he is interested in. Obviously.
People were talking a lot about: Multichanneling the brand story
There were a lot of discussions about the difficulty of brands telling a coherent story and maintaining consistency in new channels. Robin Lanahan, brand strategy director, start-up business group, Microsoft, cited Facebook Timelines as an example of digital disruption to storytelling, meaning brands now 'not only manage their future, but their past too'.