SXSW Preview Day 1: Hit the Ground Running
Every year, SXSW Interactive (aka Geek Spring Break) gets a little bigger than the year before. To make things easier, weâ€™ve combed the list of panels, looking for the best opportunities for affiliates and marketers. Each day this week, weâ€™ll highlight a different day of panels at SXSW and provide an overview of the content.
SXSW Interactive opens its doors officially Friday, March 9. And one of the ladies best equipped to kick things off will take the stage at 2 p.m. Friday. In Battle for the User Soul: Gamification’s Dark Side, user advocate and former game developer Kathy Sierra will look at how games have become a way to bribe people to engage or join a community as opposed to helping users do what they really want to do.
The discussion around gamification is a volatile one with respected players on both sides of the debate (make sure to read the comments). Sierra is well known for her commitment to the user experience, and youâ€™re likely to hear something along these lines in her presentation:
â€¦the current crop of â€œgamiÂfiÂcaÂtionâ€ experts are doing nothing more than â€œpointsification/badgificationâ€, taking the most superÂfiÂcial, surÂface mechaÂnics of games and applÂying them out of conÂtext to areas where they are, as I have refeÂrred to it, â€œthe high frucÂtose corn syrup of engaÂgeÂment.â€ Once the sugar-rush novelty has worn off, there will be a subsÂtanÂtial crash from the high. And it may be one from which a brand canÂnot recover.
As an alternative, Sierra will challenge attendees to look past gamification to something more sustainable that doesnâ€™t rely on that initial rush to create meaningful engagement with customers. If youâ€™re a marketer whoâ€™s looked to games in the past, this is the panel for you.
That Ad Knows My Name
Few people truly understand just how much information the internet scoops up every time we go online. Starting at 2 p.m. Friday, the Creepy? Captivating? Ads in the Personal Data Era session will tackle what the world will look like as individual data gets used more frequently to customize are personal experience online. Set up as a panel, youâ€™ll hear from Deb Schultz, Jason Cavnar (Singly), John Battelle (Federated Media), and Robert Stephens (Best Buy). Personally, I think Deb Schultz alone makes the panel worth attending.
Given the backgrounds of all four, you can expect to hear strong arguments about both the good and the bad of getting more personal with our customer interactions. Weâ€™re moving into the Wild West of data, and this panel will walk through what you stand to gain and to lose as they discuss data liability, identity, and privacy, particularly with the recent release of President Obamaâ€™s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.
Whereâ€™s My Brand
Evolution in branding is a good thing, right? It shows weâ€™re not stuck in the past and weâ€™re paying attention to changes around us. However, the panel on Brands As Patterns will argue thereâ€™s a need for consistency. The panel offers a good mix of perspectives with Greg Johnson (HP), Marc Shillum (Method, Inc.), Maureen Sullivan (AOL), Robin Lanahan (Microsoft), and Walter Werzowa (Musikvergneugen).
You can also expect to hear this group outline a new model for designers to adopt. For instance, as Johnson noted last year:
We have entire industries built around following guidelines, reading rule books, implementing standardsâ€¦ We need to strive for a different idea of what success looks like, based on the premise that a one-size-fits-all approach is dead and that our digital age has given us the tools to do something never before possible: adapt to context and the individual consumer. To generate a brand expression. But doing so means we have to rethink how we tell the story of a brand, and the tools we create to express a brand.
Depending on the chemistry of the panel, this could be one of the more thought-provoking sessions of the day. If youâ€™re struggling with brand and how to adapt, plan to make time for this one on Friday at 2 p.m.
Making More Than Ads
Advertisers often get a lot of grief for only being able to do one thing: make ads. To that charge Robbie Whiting will use his solo presentation, We Made This, and It’s Not an Ad, to argue that agencies and marketers can do more. And Whiting should know; heâ€™s the Director of Creative Technology and Production at Duncan/Channon.
Whiting clearly stakes his territory with the statement that, â€œThe ability to make something that isnâ€™t an â€˜adâ€™ is no longer optional in modern advertising.â€ If thatâ€™s the case, it will be interesting to hear his take on the debate around creative technologists and the idea of agencies acting like start ups. Whiting will present at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.
Reaching Specific Groups
The new tools available to marketers can make it easier to do our jobs, but what if we donâ€™t really understand our audience? To this end, two panels caught our eye on the first day of SXSW:
- Building a Jewish Presence Through Social Media (2 p.m., Friday)
- Mining Diversity: Developing a Community of Color (5 p.m., Friday)
In the first panel, panelists Bob Watts (Federation of Jewish Menâ€™s Clubs), Brian Block (Pierpont Communications), Jennifer-Joy Bronk (The Hebrew Free Loan Association of Houston), Leisa Holland-Nelson (ContentActive), and William Daroff (The Jewish Federations of North America) will speak to the specific issues that come from trying to bring century-old organizations into the digital age. To that end, theyâ€™ll highlight how to build relationships between organizations and digital experts while supporting community engagement.
In the second session, solo presenter Trevite Willis (Southern Fried Filmworks) will challenge attendees to do more than look at income and education when building a diverse community. Willis will highlight best practices to help you find communities, understand how they engage (i.e. how you need to adapt), and the platforms that can actually reach diverse communities.
Surviving the First Day
The first day is packed with some amazing talent. If youâ€™ve been keeping track, youâ€™ll realize that weâ€™ve recommended panels at competing times. Luckily, SXSW records all sessions, so you can catch up later on the overlapping panels after your survive SXSW.
Tomorrow Iâ€™ll highlight the top panels for SXSW Interactive on Saturday, March 10.
Photo credit: Alex de Carvalho
About Britt Raybould
Britt Raybould has a passion for telling stories and she specializes in helping companies figure out how to tell their own stories. Through her firm, Write Bold, she shows companies how storytelling can define them, both to their customers and within their industry. When she remembers to, Britt blogs on her personal sites at bold-words.com and brittraybould.com. You can find Britt on Twitter @britter.