Wow. Talk about data overload. Looking back at a hectic day in which best laid plans quickly got re-arranged, the best talks came from those I didn’t even know I was attending and some of the best insight came from chats around the sidelines, there’s a lot to take in.
If I was to attempt to pull out one theme from day one it would be that the companies, brands and people who are best placed to succeed are those who apply emotional intelligence to their work, and those who strive to put themselves in the shoes of their customer / end user / audience.
This was spelled out with great clarity by the force of nature that is Gary Vaynerchuk who put the world to rights in a passionate and entertaining hour or so where he covered issues as wide ranging as his hiring and firing policy to the way you should behave at SXSW (don’t be a f*cking douche). He made the connection between how you should behave as a person (adding value to the conversation first rather than explicitly selling your wares) and how to succeed as a business. Part of that was about acting ‘like one of us’ – especially when your business has no money – and becoming part of the community, as he did when commenting on wine forums for WineLibrary.com.
Only then, he suggested can you truly gain the trust of the end user, demonstrating your expertise as well as the person you’d like to do business with.
The need for a natural shared language was picked up in a completely different sphere in (bear with me here) ‘natural interactions between man and machine’, a talk about the rise of ubiquitous computing in our everyday things. Language commands have the capacity to cut through the clutter of folders and apps that get in the way of a more human-like connection.
But no matter how advance machine learning can improve speech recognition between humans and their devices, it is only when the machines ‘move towards human like senses’ that we’ll be able to execute complex automated tasks like asking our computer to book our favourite restaurant with the neighbours at number 42. Luckily the machine senses are getting better…
In ‘memes and meanings’, Abigail Posner encouraged us to see the visual web as a glorious return to a childlike state of novel stimuli firing all kinds of new connections, without any filtering by an external source. Hence the unfiltered joys of ‘what does the fox say’ not to mention Les Mis as performed by goats. This ‘synaptic play’ allows others to continually add to the crazy mix of meaning in a teasing, tickling hotbed of creative output. Just like kids, the social feedback is positive and open to new combinations.
By putting yourself into this hyper-creative mindset of the Youtube meme collaborator it opens up the question of what happens if you take the ‘rules’ of the visual web and apply it to other worlds. What if a brand or product were mixed with something else, totally unrelated? Would you let your brand go there?
Next, Victor Lee from Hasbro laid down some simple rules about how to connect with what your core audience really care about, while telling the lovely story of how Monopoly asked their fans to replace one of the famous ‘tokens’ with a new one. It was based on one compelling insight – that Monopoly fans all have their favourite token and argue before the game has even started over who gets to play as the car and who gets the iron.
I believe the iron got kicked out, while the cat (!) won hands down. What came across very powerfully was that of a very simple idea (not an advertising idea, as not a penny was spent on paid media) that fuelled conversation, not just among core fans but inspiring participation from all kinds of brands (cat food brands supporting the cat token for example).
It broke-out into the wider cultural sphere with the Today show asking to be the first to announce the new token, while 185 countries took part in the vote, more than who participated in the 2012 Olympics. By keeping it incredibly simple and focusing on their most loved (and simultaneously, disliked) owned assets, Hasbro were able to weave a powerful story.
I ended the day chatting at Hackney House with Alastair Somerville about how UX design focuses almost entirely on visual senses, to the detriment of the other four. This explains why so much wearable tech feels so… unnatural. By putting the other senses as much to the fore, a more complete connection can be made between the physical object being used and the end user, which ultimately leads to greater utility and cognition. By focusing too much on one sense alone, the brain becomes expert at filtering out the excess data.
Which in a roundabout way brings me back to the beginning of my post. Time to let some more data soak into the old synapses.
To see live photos of SXSW view PHD’s Pinterest page.