MRY @ SXSW: A Recap of key topics & trends

SXSWi presented a considerable amount of marketing data and opinions to disseminate and apply to 2017 advertising campaigns and content. An exhaustive rundown of the week’s events would be, well, exhaustive – so here’s some key topics and takeaways from SXSWi to consider as 2017 marketing plans come together.

 

Social Influencers and Celebrities

Social media may have started as a venue to express authentic feelings at a particular moment, but this has changed significantly, especially for celebrities and influencers. Social for celebrities is more like a performance art, carefully honed and cultivated.
In an age where influence is a commodity, it makes sense that those making money off it would exert some quality control. To this end, many have even deployed ghostwriters – however, this can tarnish authenticity.


This could be a reason why some marketers attested to activating micro-influencers at scale instead of opting for one big name (and price tag). This tactic also helps a brand reach a larger segment of its target audience, rather than being locked to one portion of it.

 

Messaging

With many apps to help them, more people use messaging services than social media. The trend’s been referred to as “closed social” or “dark social”, and marketers are taking note. Their participation thus far manifests in a couple primary ways:

  • Branded Emoji / Stickers
    Brands must consider the context of branded assets, such as emoji and stickers, and how they would appear and appeal to users. This could be an opportunity where existing messaging emoji and stickers fall short.
  • Chatbots
    Messaging offers users a conversational resolution platform much like a customer service line, but can also integrate ecommerce. Payments and receipts are the first steps, gift-giving and shopping look next.

Overall, brands have recognized that communication is shifting from text-based to more visual. Platforms like Snapchat have helped this, and the direct visual messaging phenomenon has now been adopted as Instagram Direct and Stories, Messenger Day and more.

 

Luxury & Status
Similarly to celebrity and influencer behavior, the notion of luxury and status is also changing.


People are putting more stock in what they represent in terms of beliefs and causes instead of exclusive products. This means brands have to pay attention to messaging presented to potential customers, then make sure their products make good on expectations.

 

Gender & Empowerment

Gender – both in the workplace and society in general – featured prominently, with many panels aiming to mix women of all ages, races, experience and industry to share perspectives. Panelists at a Spredfast event pointed out that diversity improves performance to businesses, and that companies with female leadership in the C-Suite enjoy 56% more profit.
In other discussions, panelists asserted that women want brands to “walk the talk” and act in ways that support women – not just feature it in advertising. The whole of Generation Z shares this sentiment, as 77% feel businesses should make “doing good” a central part of their operations.
Panels focusing on men, on the other hand, revealed their goals have shifted more toward “living a long, healthy life” and “doing what you love” vs. traditional success markers. This appeal of enriching experience has gone hand-in-hand with the rise of “craft” versions of staple products: craft beer and distilleries being just the start.

 

Journalism, Social Media & the Echo Chamber

Social media rewrote the journalism playbook, and each new platform or update calls for a revision. News organizations now need to consider social media, from how to gather leads to how to maximize the reach of their stories. Of particular focus was social-first reporting, where journalists tweet or otherwise post news updates via social as they happen.

Some panels called for journalists to think more link influencers – considering their audience in terms of content they want to see, how to promote that content and how to engage with readers.

At the same time, a lot of emphasis was placed on the echo chambers social media creates, and how to break free of them. Panelists urged social platforms and other entities in digital to show varied perspectives, particularly via smarter, bubble-bursting recommendation engines.

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