SXSW 2017 – Brands, Agencies and Topics That Matter

March 30, 2017
Ken Beasley

Push10 took a break from the Philly cold to attend the SXSW 2017 Interactive conference in Austin. Mixing it up with droves of interesting people from around the country/world, we discovered some clear themes and predictions for emerging industry trends across the astounding assortment of sessions.

SXSW Interactive and Marketing Sign

It’s undeniable that multi-day conferences like SXSW can be somewhat overwhelming to navigate. It’s tempting to over-commit to sessions, lunches, and meeting up with long lost friends – so, finding time to take a breath can be a challenge. For example, our first day was spent bouncing between sessions at 9am, 11am, 12:30pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4:30pm, and 6pm (Come On!). Learning that everything was at least a 10 minute walk from each other, and one should get to a venue about 20 minutes in advance to secure a seat, the follow-up math easily showed that ambitions needed to be tempered in the days to follow.

That being said, the enthusiasm was justified, as there were abundant sessions every day on hot topics like The Future of Experience Design, Influencer Marketing and Designing for Accessibility. Here are some notable themes and ideas that stood out from the cacophony of the week.


ACCESSIBILTY
(Attended Sessions: Accessibility: Why It’s So Important, Designing For Accessibility, Making Accessibility Part of Your Digital DNA)

One topic that seemed to pop up multiple times throughout the conference was Accessibility, and designing with it in mind. While in the physical realm we know that making things “accessible” is to provide channels of access for the elderly or those with disabilities. (ramps, brail signage, etc). In the digital realm, it means the same thing, though interestingly, it’s not nearly as common place.

Only 10% of new tech hires have an understanding of Digital Accessibility
Fortunately, the industry is catching on, and now there’s an on-going dialogue on how to make websites and digital products more accessible, and planning for it from the get-go. There was much discussion among brands and creatives about content strategy, considering disabled personas and proper SEO measures. At Push10, we do a lot of work for financial firms, non-profits and higher education, so accessibility is incredibly important to us and to our clients. Making content readable, navigation clear and files light to load are all key considerations. (even our own site has zero accessibility errors when testing on the WAVE tool). It’s reassuring to learn that teams across the board are now paying attention to this, and we can certainly expect some unique innovations to spring up because of it.

AUTHENTICITY
(Attended Sessions: The Moral Code of Pay-to-Play Marketing, How Imagery Shapes a Brand, A Shared Purpose: Keys to Leveraging Authenticity)

Another very popular topic addressed during the week was the idea of Authenticity. It’s clear that today’s most successful players are doing so well because of their connection to their audience. Being authentic in your marketing seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not always that easy to achieve.

For instance, you can still deliver authenticity when using stock imagery, but is has to be the RIGHT stock imagery. It was extremely interesting to hear this topic discussed at length in a particular session, as Push10 always opts for high-quality paid stock images when custom photography isn’t available. Other tactics such as leveraging social media to provide a personal touch when engaging with your audience were also widely examined.

It all comes back to listening to your audience, of course. By asking and listening, you can become authentically authentic. If you know your user/customer, meaning you understand what makes them tick and what they respond to, then you can form a proper strategy for any tactic, whether it be advertising, product development or web design.

HAPPY, HEALTHY & ETHICAL IS IN
(Attended Sessions: Good is the New Cool, Healthy Doesn’t Sell – Hell Yeah it Does, Ethical Brands: Building a Socially Conscious Business)

Push10 is in the business of building and marketing brands that have vision. SXSW 2017 certainly confirmed what we had presumed — brands these days are looking to impact and improve people’s lives.

Whether it be Capital One Bank putting together a full department focused on accessibility for impaired audiences, startups like Phlur using sustainably sourced ingredients for their fragrances, or Fox Restaurant Concepts expanding their True Food Kitchen venture to bring healthy and delicious eating experiences to new markets across the country, brands are looking to match value and convenience with passion and sincerity. More than ever, people care about what they put into their bodies, who they do business with and how they can improve their quality of life.

As a result, agencies like ours work with clients to understand an audience’s challenges, promote transparency and position their products or services to maximize positive resonance both online and IRL.

View of Austin Capital building during SXSW

Of course this is just a slice of all the great industry happenings during the week. The product expo alone was a sight to behold, and the smell of tech in the air rivaled the breakfast tacos. And AI? Oh yeah – there most definitely was AI. (but we’ll save that for another post)

There’s no doubt that events like these are important to the industry and the community. The digital sphere is only expanding further and faster, increasing the value of conferences like SXSW 2017. Plus – it was nice to be warm for a few days. We’ll be back, Austin. We’ll be back.