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It’s that time of year again. You can feel it in the air – a palpable, electric environment charged by passion, innovation and hustle. While you may be thinking of March Madness college basketball, I'm talking about South by Southwest. Every year in mid-march, South by Southwest draws together a diverse crowd spanning all forms of media, film, music, technology and marketing to network, learn and collaborate with one another. South by Southwest is held in Austin, TX, and has steadily continued to grow in scope and size every year by keeping the conference fresh with modern and innovative content, creative discussions and sessions, and of course adding in some fun events!

Specifically for marketers, this conference expands on digital marketing trends and best practices. So what are the hot marketing topics this year? Let's take a deeper dive – coming to you live from Austin!


Virtual reality illustration

Virtual Reality

This year SxSW organized a separate Virtual Reality Experience where attendees could test out different VR experiences. More and more brands and companies are embracing virtual reality as a new form of marketing and advertising. This emerging trend is one that allows marketers to give their audiences a new, fresh vantage point into the product or service being offered. Other benefits to marketing with VR include:

Total Immersion – Consumers will be able to totally immerse themselves in the journey/experience that the marketer has created for them in an interactive way enhanced by appealing to multiple senses…specifically sight and sound. In today’s world of multi-tasking, this is beneficial because the viewer’s full attention is focused on the virtual reality your brand/ company has created and what is happening in it.

Customer Centricity – Marketers can tailor the virtual reality experience to specific customers and demographics. This shows that your brand or company revolves around the consumer and caters to their needs: meeting them where they are and delivering information, offers, product tours, and other communications in a way they want to digest it.

Word of Mouth – We are a society obsessed with social media. VR is a perfect way to get the buzz going about your product or service!

Innovative – VR is a new and attention-grabbing way to market your product or service.  It also gives consumers a chance to view and get excited about your product without having to physically be in the room with it.


Internet of Things illustration

Internet of Things

The internet of Things (IoT) – combining physical items (cars, houses, devices) with technology (software, electronics, network connectivity) that allows for collecting, transmitting and exchange of data. This is the future – it impacts how we work, live and make decisions. Marketers need to understand and embrace that nearly every object could have the capability to connect to the internet.  South by Southwest offered a variety of sessions, panels and discussions around the Internet of things. A few themes that stuck out:

Smart Watches / Wearables – These are the newest form of mobile connectivity. Marketers must leverage apps, push notifications, and data collection to successfully market and advertise on these devices. For example, a brand could push relevant offers/coupons to customers as they walk into a store. It is also safe (and smart) to expect a dramatic increase in location-based marketing efforts and campaigns. Smart watches and wearables track GPS locations of the wearers that unlock many possibilities for brands/companies to send personalized coupons or tell a powerful story.

User-Centered – The internet of things fosters a completely user-centered environment. Marketers need to transition from “big data” and focus on targeted, smart data. The more marketers can personalize experiences and offers to their customers, the more success they will achieve.

Right Message, Right Channel – Marketers know it is always important to tell a good story… however, in today’s society with more distractions than ever present before, it is even more imperative. It is important to convey the correct story and message on the right channel and device. Smart watches and wearables have tiny screens – messages need to be short and sweet. Websites need to be optimized for mobile. Interactive and engaging content such as videos, games, and surveys are a must!

It is an exciting time to be a marketer! From constant connectivity to virtual reality and beyond, there are so many new and creative avenues to explore in order to effectively engage potential (and current!) customers. South by Southwest proved to be another inspiring and enlightening event this year, and we cannot wait to see what next year brings. Signing off from sunny Austin!

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