Today was our first day at SXSW! As newbies, we arrived early to the Austin Convention Center, where we encountered out first “wow this is a lot of people” moment while in line for our badge pickup. Once the particulars were out of the way, we were ready for our first session!
“Trust Me, I’m an Algorithm” by Head of Strategy for HUGE, Martin Harrison, was our first stop of the day. Highlights from the session include:
~A benefit only you can offer is the essential differentiator.
~The consumer constructs a brand as a nest – from small scraps collected here and there.
~You don’t stop thinking, even when you engage with products and services that make decision making easier for you; simply, what these products and services are doing is refocusing your cognitive load, also known as pointing you in different directions.
~We are cognitive misers – our brain takes more energy and fuel than any organ in the body.
We then ventured to an inspiring panel moderated by Callie O’Neill, a fashion writer for Marie Claire, featuring the Texas-based jewelry wunderkind Kendra Scott. Kendra shared how she started and grew her business and gave off some major #GirlBoss vibes. Tidbits from her speech include:
~ If you can do something you love and you can do good at the same time – that is success.
~ Look for moments of impact. You have to get out of your phone. Pay attention to the people around you. Pay attention to the moments around you. You have to be open to what is coming next.
~ Good things happen to good people. Our customer feels good about wearing our products because they know our business is doing good.
~ We all have a unique fingerprint and we were given it for a reason.
“Will ‘No-Tipping” Save the Restaurant Industry” with CEO of Union Square Hospitality, Danny Meyer, and Editor in Chief, Bon Appetit, Adam Rapoport was our next step.
~ Although Meyer has instituted a 20% increase in pricing at all of his restaurants, he has seen many positive effects from the switch to no-tipping beginning in early 2016.
~ Meyer spoke of how his staff is now challenged to find new ways to offer hospitality to guests and find tweaks that are needed in the system.
~ The inspiration for Meyer’s switch came from Shake Shack. You will never see a tip jar out at the counter. Meyer believes in the concept but doesn’t want to spread his mission– it’s right for those that want to adopt the model.
After a quick pit stop for smoothies and salads, it was time to explore the SXSW scene. We saw people play with virtual reality goggles and gadgets at a pop-up space hosted by McDonald’s; ran into a man dressed as Abraham Lincoln (it was an Uber promotion); talked to a student from Parsons School of Design in NYC who is designing fashionable, sensory-specific clothes for the visually impaired, and picked up a lot of brand freebies.
Then it was time to refuel our minds at a session about Native Advertising (AKA Sponsored Content) with VP of Brand Marketing and Public Relations for West Elm, Abigail Jacobs, Director of Digital Content for Domino Magazine, Shani Silver, and Camille Styles, a popular lifestyle blogger based in Austin. Inspiration was everywhere but we found the following to be the biggest takeaways:
~ Content is a way for brands to build a deeper relationship with their customers. If you are a brand and your customers can trust you and come back to you for ideas and inspiration, and your relationship isn’t just about the purchase, it can make a huge difference.
~Content is only as good as the distance it’s going to travel.
~ Sponsored-content is co-created content – it’s a mutually beneficial partnership that should be a reflection of both brands.
To end our day, we sat down to learn how culture is the new currency of retail from some of the brightest minds in the business representing TOMS, Kit + Ace and Frank & Oak.
TOMS VP of Retail, Rick Badgley shared:
~ We exist to improve lives. We don’t just give when business is good. When we can connect with people and embed in communities…we make an impact. We call our customers supporters because they are helping us grow our business.
Co-founder and CEO of Frank & Oak Ethan Song said:
~ If all you are going to supply is a transaction or a commodity, you are going to be out of business. What you own isn’t email addresses, but the heart of the customer.
~ The new loyalty is participation.
Head of Retail for Kit and Ace, Lacey Norton shared:
~ The desire for people to connect on a human level is growing rapidly. From the events we host to the spaces we design, it’s about having an intelligent conversation with people. The foundation of business isn’t purely transactional anymore; it’s about creating an experience where we aren’t just selling them something.
On top of the amazing sessions we went to, POTUS was in town, too, if you didn’t know already, and we were able to see a live stream feed of the interview. Very cool stuff! A walk around to the different hotels and brand activations, we quickly realized we are in for a great few days of learning and many “wow this is a lot of people” moments!
More to come tomorrow as we take on another full day of fun! Be sure to follow us along our journey and we promise to bring back some great ideas to the Integrate crew and Houston!
SXSW sweet dreams!
~Lauren and Emily