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L & D @ SXSW? Yes, Yes We Were

March 15, 2018

South by Southwest, SXSW, South By, SX. Whatever you call it, it is THE destination “to celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries.”

How do these industries overlap? How do these industries impact one another? How will the latest technology in these industries drive innovation in industries like ours and the clients we serve? This past week, I went to find out.

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First, you may be asking what a company like L & D, who plays mainly in the direct marketing and statement processing space, is doing at a conference like SXSW. Simply, we believe in finding inspiration outside of the day to day atmosphere in which we operate to serve our clients. The ultimate foundation of what we do in our industry is to help our clients communicate their message to their customers and members. That’s it. It really is that simple.

Using this conference, I stepped out of our “business as usual” mentality that is filled with things like printer technology, substrates, PURLS and inserting equipment into a world of virtual reality, blockchain, startups and driverless vehicles. How will that impact our business? It helps us understand what we are competing against on a higher level, how it may change our industry and how we can best adapt and thrive.

Often what happens at conferences like SXSW pervade our industry in an extensive way because what dominates or launches at the conference often impacts the way people communicate and relate to one another. In 2007, a micro-blogging startup used South By as a launching pad to become the well-known platform we know as Twitter. A very pervasive topic at this year’s conference has been about the responsibility and culpability of social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube when it comes to disseminating “fake news” or false AI generated content, hate speech, and harassment. They are facing what has been dubbed “techlash” from Silicon Valley to the Silicon Hills here in Austin.

I was able to attend a speech and Q & A session given by London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan. He discussed the regulations that could be enacted if tech companies do not find solutions to these problems themselves as well as how these companies must be “chivvied and cajoled to take action.” He emphasized the seriousness of the situation by reading six abusive, threatening tweets he has received ranging from wishing him dead through to wishing all Muslims dead. He later tweeted a Jimmy Kimmel-style video reading other tweets he receives along with a message regarding social media’s future.

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Are these tech company’s media providers or are they as they say, “tech platforms that facilitates media?” Will they be able to self-regulate or will pervasive regulation be enacted like that of Germany’s recent regulations? The future of social will continue to impact our industry as we help our customers execute multi-channel campaigns, so how these companies go forward both in technology and policy development will shape the “trust” factor of brands.

In a session with PepsiCo’s VP of Marketing and R/GA Chicago’s ECD, AJ Hassan, purpose-driven brands were discussed. The question to ask when developing your purpose-driven brand is “Why does my brand exist in the world or in society?” These brands are designed more to “do” than to “sell.” The case study they explored is PepsiCo’s brand LIFEWTR and its campaign #ArtByAWoman.

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I was also able to explore a company called PhotoBloomAR who will launch a Kickstarter campaign following SXSW. This startup combines online photo printing with augmented reality (AR) to bring print pieces to life. It embodied another trend on the Trade Show floor – People no longer want a passive experience. People want to engage. They want to experience. Brands that can create captivating experiences and communication will see their share of wallet and brand loyalty exceed their competitors who do not try to engage. 

As always, L & D Mail Masters is a direct marketing firm who enables our clients to Relate, Captivate, Cultivate and Resonate with their target audience. We have been helping our clients engage since 1986. And, wouldn’t you know, SXSW has been around for AL-most as long (1987) helping creative people achieve their goals. Maybe we have more in common than at first glance after all.

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