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SXSW 2022: Top Takeaways and Trends

March 3, 2022by Hiebing

It’s been a long two years of pandemic lockdown, but SXSW was finally live and in-person again in 2022 – while also staying connected to virtual audiences. Creative leaders from all over the world descended on the streets of Austin for tacos, tunes and trends that are transforming the marketing landscape. If you couldn’t make it, here is some info, inspo and insights gathered from Hiebingites who attended.

1.) Igniting Connection. A common thread across several seemingly unrelated sessions was the power of connection. One being that the majority of human achievements are credited to a collective of people (i.e., no one does it alone). Another is that psychological safety is key for connection, and you can’t build long-term trust with others if you don’t trust yourself. The lesson for marketers? Actively nurture relationships and leverage them to achieve a common purpose – and take time to appreciate the breakthroughs that happen on the other side of friction. 

2.) The Pervasive Nature of Purpose. Several sessions dug into the place for purpose in business. Purpose is greater than a mission – it’s a conviction to pursue action for others (certainly more than founders/owners). With rising generations caring about the role a business can serve for the greater good and their penchant to support those brands, marketers need to further define the role purpose should play in the DNA of a brand.

3.) Lived Experience > Work Experience. Historically, work culture was something employees – especially those from underrepresented groups – were conditioned to work around. But as shifting dynamics bring workplaces closer to authentic representation, employees from entry-level to executive are being encouraged to lead from their lived experiences. Marketers who are willing to tap into and learn from others’ firsthand encounters can begin to address the diversity and representation issues facing their industries, avoid the pitfalls of “wokeness” and create work that makes a genuine impact.

4.) DEIB. We’re adding a “B” to the well-known DEI acronym for “Belonging.” While many companies are enacting DEI initiatives, and rightly so, the ultimate last step of belonging goes beyond diversity, equity and inclusion. Once people are included, it’s important for them to feel they belong, i.e., they can be themselves and still be welcome. This includes feeling accepted regardless of how they wear their hair or who they may bring to the office holiday party, and knowing they’ll still be treated fairly.

5.) The Creator Revolution Is Here. As data privacy continues to permeate our marketing touchpoints, people are becoming the new economy. Creator Commerce is a very real marketing machine that brands should be considering. Influencer marketing is absolutely now at scale, and how you choose to deploy it can impact every level of the marketing funnel. The reason it works? How genuinely human it is.

6.) Content Experience > Content Consumption. Our starvation for real connection and access to social experiences during the pandemic unlocked creative content exploration that has forever changed our expectations. We are no longer OK with just consuming content – rather, we want to experience it. Consider: Biometric technology is being leveraged to create virtual reality that incorporates all five senses, and virtual workouts are creating global communities where they never existed before (hello, Peloton). Data allows us to see the speed, position and placement of every pitch, serve or throw in any sport we watch via video. In this “new normal,” content doesn’t just need to be authentic; it also needs to give us a leg up on what we could have experienced IRL.

7.) Female Athletes Gain Marketing Clout. There is a renewed emphasis on female athletes building their brand on social media. Their individual brand may affect the marketability of the team and even lead to impact on viewership (which, in turn, could affect TV network distribution rights). Also, with the rise of NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) in high school and college sports and high-profile owners putting a stake in the ground (Alexis Ohanion and Angel City FC), female athletes are not only inching toward pay equity, they’re starting to secure brand partnerships on par with and even surpassing those of their male counterparts. This, coupled with high usership of social media by girls and women who perpetuate the popularity and marketability of these female athletes, continues the push for an equal playing and paying field. 

8.) Entering the Metaverse. Tech giants have developed consumer-friendly augmented reality experiences that blend the virtual world with the real world. Social media platforms have transformed how one person can exist with multiple personas in a digital landscape. Gaming platforms have created a way to bring a group of people into the same world to share a common experience. What will life be like in the Metaverse when these converge? Democratizing a virtual world opens a new portal into what’s possible. But with the unlimited potential, it’s hard not to wonder if this could be a perfect storm that society isn’t ready for.

9.) Neuromarketing Begins to Make Waves. The ability to expose consumers to ads or communication materials while measuring their brain’s reaction in brain wave frequencies continues to evolve and excite us. When done well with experienced researchers, it can help “fill in the gaps” about our customers and their reactions to the marketing we’re putting out in the world. But like everything in life, it has limits – it only measures the likelihood you may do something in a given moment. The reality is that there are many other factors that drive decision making, some as simple as who you’re with when you’re making a purchase, if you’re hungry or if your hormone levels are running high or low. The key is finding a reputable neuromarketing partner who doesn’t just provide the data, but also knows how to interpret and apply it.

10.) The Rise of No-Code Development. 

No-code and low-code platforms have largely been available for the past decade, but they’re finally starting to overcome the functionality, scale and security limitations that prevented them from becoming more mainstream earlier on. As these limitations continue to lessen, these platforms are paving the way to streamline system integrations and cumbersome workflows that used to require custom development. By automating and simplifying repeatable tasks, brands can invest in creating unique experiences that are more meaningful to the user and can help move the business forward.

If you’re looking for a partner to assist you in leveraging the latest marketing trends to create momentum for your brand, email Dana at darnold@hiebing.com to set up a call.

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