8 Mar 2014

All posts from 8 Mar 2014


SXSW 2014 Wrap-up: Day 2

Kristina Halvorson in front of SXSW banner

Kristina Halvorson’s session at SXSW was titled “Go Home Marketing, You Are Drunk!” (Photo: Hanns-Peter Nagel)

Mind-blowing Thought of the Day:

Remember the “Oreo” moment at last year’s Superbowl? When the lights went out in New Orleans, a team of creatives came up with a starkly lit picture of an Oreo and the tagline “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” It got 15000 retweets, 20000 Facebook likes and the undying adulation of the press and marketing world. The little tweet that could won several prizes and heralded a new age of “real-time advertising”.

According to Kristina Halvorson, CEO of Braintraffic, and one of the most vocal proponents of content strategy, the tweet and especially the reaction to it did not signal a new era of marketing but showed what’s wrong with it. Only 0.008% of Twitter users saw the tweet but suddenly every big brand needed a “reaction team”. Similarly, when Coca-Cola decided to ditch their classic brand website and go with storytelling and content marketing other brands followed and soon it become hard for customers to find simple product information among all the “5 Mixed Drinks You Need to Try” stories.

So here is Halvorson’s message: Don’t listen to other marketers, listen to your customers and give them what they need. Don’t chase the shiny new thing, don’t just create more and more content. Instead, slow  down and fix what’s broken and come up with a strategy you can actually sustain. Seems simple, but so hard to do.

Biggest Disappointment:

The party I Fucking Love Science Channel featuring Bill Nye, Eugene Merman, Kari and Tory from Mythbusters, and host Craig Ferguson might have been fun after all, but Mother Nature did not look kindly on it. Rain had already soaked the non-VIPs who had waited in labyrinthine lines for hours (yours truly right in their midst) when a particularly strong downpour turned the outdoor venue into mud pit teeming with poncho-clad (no umbrellas allowed) techies. Probably not the best party choice.

Quote(s) of the Day

A tie. Number one was a public announcement at the SXSW gaming convention: “We are looking for another lost child. Don’t give him Legos.” Number two comes from the always entertaining Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson): “If I want to check in for a flight at the United airlines website, I want to poke out my eye with a hot fork.”

Pedicab driver in rain

Pedicab in Austin rain. (Photograph: Carolyn Higgins)

Image of the Day

Yes, it was raining in Austin today. And yes, Austin needs it because of the drought, blah, blah, blah. We are from Seattle, we definitely don’t need it.

On a side note: Uber which is currently enlisting all the assembled SXSW techies to lobby the Austin City Council via social media to scrap fare limits actually has a Pedicab service here. So if you want, you can use your Uber app to call somebody to pedal you around.

Woman in transparent poncho with iPad

(Photo: Hanns-Peter Nagel)

Outfit of the Day:

Here in Seattle we face rain with ultra-functional rain gear, but in Austin you have to be more creative. This lovely woman on the left is sporting a transparent poncho that also works really well with an iPad.

Most Eye-catching Logo Choice

Julian Assange’s appearance via Skype was not only notable for his strong opinions on privacy and the strangely familiar Skype problems but also for the constantly dripping Wikileaks hourglass logo in the background. Vaguely reminiscent of Salvador Dali’s melting clocks, it gave the already strange living situation of Assange an even more surreal touch.

Hidden Gem of the Day:

Learning about social entrepreneurism through the brand new goods redistribution start-up, Connect 2 Good.

Something We Will All Do in 10 Years:

Sleep. I will start now.

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SXSW 2014 Wrap-up: Day 2

They’re All Connected: Journalism, Science, Movies, and Giving. And Family Guy is in There Somewhere.

Kevin Bacon talks with Brian Turtle Photo by Carolyn Higgins

Kevin Bacon talks with Brian Turtle
Photo by Carolyn Higgins

SXSW throws a lot at its inhabitants over the course of a day.

Where else can you go to absorb the buzz about the latest issues in everything from journalism to science to the motion picture industry – from household names that include Julian Assange, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and actor Kevin Bacon, respectively? (And on one day and in one venue, I might add.) Top that heady mix with the raw potential of startup entrepreneurs and the yet-undiscovered, and the quirkiness factor skyrockets. The quirkiness takes on an especially “We aren’t in Kansas anymore” tinge after deGrasse Tyson glowingly describes Fox TV and Seth McFarlane’s roles in bringing his show Cosmos to viewers around the world.

Celebrity fever packed all the above sessions, with Kevin Bacon fans scrambling to snap smartphone pics as he settled down to talk about the phenomenon of the parlor game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”, in which players determine the number of connections a given dramatist is from the highly prolific Mr. Bacon. After all, Bacon, has worked with a lot of actors. Bacon has since turned this phenomenon with which he was initially uncomfortable into a charitable organization (Six Degrees.org).

Talking with Joshua Jake Vaughan about how he came to found Connect 2 Good seemed at first like an abrupt departure from the big thinkers and celebrities I’d listened to earlier in the day. His global perspective on philanthropy, though, neatly aligns his aspirations with those I’d heard earlier from Assange and deGrasse Tyson, who both emphasized global cooperation in their talks.

Joshua Jake Vaughan, founder of Connect 2 Good Photo by Carolyn Higgins

Joshua Jake Vaughan, founder of Connect 2 Good
Photo by Carolyn Higgins

Vaughan originally intended to follow a standard course of law school and pursuit of prosperity, but after graduating with a degree in philosophy found himself drawn to humanitarian work. Restless after a year and a half at the American Cancer Society, he sold his possessions and embarked on an epic period of travel to southeast Asia. It was while casually wandering through a Laos street that the sight of a young mother, sitting on a curb with her baby and surrounded by garbage stopped him in his tracks.

Returning home to Texas to pursue a career in sales in the tech industry, he was haunted by the image of the hopeless woman and her child.  He began to read about the work of Mohammad Yunus, Nobel prize-winning founder of the Grameen Bank, a micro-lending bank that helps to lift women and their families out of poverty with small, low-interest loans.

With a group of friends, he founded Goodwill Globetrotting, an organization that matches idealistic travelers with volunteer opportunities all over the world. After running a 501C3 charity proved incompatible with his day job, Vaughan chose philanthropy and has never looked back.

Finding that many of the charities he worked with had material needs that they couldn’t afford to fulfill , in mid-2013 he created Connect 2 Good, a second charity that matches philanthropic organizations with people who have useful items to donate. Using asset mapping, a tool he discovered when he researched community development corporations, he assembled a tech team to create an app and began helping donors re-home their useful goods.

I missed Vaughan’s talk earlier today (Assets in Web 2.0: How to Kick Philanthropic A@! ), but he brings all the enthusiasm and passion to his subject that older and more renowned SXSW speakers bring to their audiences.

Could it really be that somewhere in this spicy southwest mix of get-rich entrepreneurialism, more social entrepreneurialism will also flourish? When a journalist confined to a small embassy room thousands of miles and an ocean away enthralls an Austin crowd, when a renowned scientist finds himself co-producing a science show with the creator of Family Guy, and a Hollywood actor unwittingly finds himself as an icon for social connections, anything is possible.

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They’re All Connected: Journalism, Science, Movies, and Giving. And Family Guy is in There Somewhere.