Here are the most important things I observed at SXSW:
The world has changed
The conversation was mostly around how MUCH it has changed, and not IF it has changed. With panels like “Congratulations! Your Brand Is About to Become Obsolete”, “Social Marketing inReal-Time”, and “#FAIL: Infamous Social Media PR Disasters”, there was general knowledge that the rules of business, marketing, and PR are being re-written as we speak and that brands that do not keep up will suffer the consequences.
Real-time communication with consumers and influencers through social Marketing & PR channels is here. It’s not something that is going to happen. Companies are doing it now, and other brands should be doing this as well in order to stay competitive.
Brands are starting to figure this out
A look at the attendees of this festival show that. Brands are no longer sending the techie guy in IT. CMOs and Directors of Marketing are attending, along with the start-up kings, the filmmakers, the agency leaders, the creatives, the techies, and lots of others who are just interested.
And they are all mingling to figure out where all of this is going. It was interesting that even the trade show mixed interactive, film and music this year (for the first time). For the most part, film and music are “content” now, that is trying to find new business models in the new world dominated by the social interactive space.
The CMOs are there because they know that they must evolve in this new world or lose relevance and market share to more nimble competitors.
They don’t know what to do
In the Q&A sessions, lots of people asked for “best in class” examples, and the fact is—there aren’t many. There are lots of people getting some of this right (and they are the risk takers), but no one’s getting it ALL right. Everyone is testing and learning together.
I was very happy that my peers at Porter Novelli were very much at the forefront of the changes in our industry (a bit of a shameless plug, but true). Every night when we discussed the panels, we all felt very confident in the approach we are taking with our clients. It will evolve as the landscape changes, but we are definitely on the pulse and leading the pack.