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The Best of SXSWi 2016: Top Ten Things We Experienced in Austin

Five days, hundreds of sessions, dozens of unique brand activations and a lot of delicious TexMex and BBQ – this year’s SXSWi has wrapped but we’re still reeling from all the great things we experienced on the ground in Austin.

If you weren’t on the ground (or couldn’t get to everything while you were there), here’s our rundown on the best SXSWi had to offer attendees this year.Full team picture


“Most Inspiring Reason to Create and Innovate”
– President Obama’s Keynote Address: “The reason I’m here is to recruit all of you,” President Obama remarked. He called on SXSW attendees to collaborate on solutions for the country’s biggest problems addressing everything from updating obsolete federal networks to the debate over security versus privacy most recently ignited by the disputes between Apple and the FBI. If you were a lucky SXSW attendee to score a ticket to his address, you probably left Austin wondering how we can move innovation forward to improve our country for the better.


“Best Brand Experience”
– IBM Cognitive Experience: A mix of educational, aspirational, innovation and fun content, IBM created an engaging experience (in partnership with George P. Johnson, a Project WorldWide agenIBM.jpgcy) centered around IBM’s Watson. Upon entering the space, attendees were prompted to input details about th
eir mood and taste preferences, then given a wrist band and sent on their way to experience different stations tied to IBM’s latest innovations and partnerships, including The Weather Company’s latest innovations and Under Armour’s new offering in IoT. SXSW attendees could even play ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ against an IBM robot who got smarter with every move. Or if you wanted to burn a few BBQ calories, you could try some virtual reality cycling. At the end of the experience, attendees were invited to enjoy a “cognitive drink” based on the data in your wristband. Robot bartenders are now a thing – this is the future!

“Best Place to Run into a Trekkie” – The Eyes of Robots and Murders Session: Legendary director/producer/screenwriter J.J. Abrams and his friend Andrew Jarecki, the writer/director of HBO’s The Jinx” spoke about how technology has changed filmmaking for the better and how it has democratized the creative process. Abrams was also quick to point out that technology should be invisible so that the consumer can have an experience that’s as effortless as possible. Ending with a bit of inspiration, Abrams and Jalecki asked that attendees leverage their talents and today’s technology to create: “There’s no excuse to not tell the story we want to tell.”

“Best Off the Track Event” – Brand Innovators Austin Summit: Brand Innovators brought a great mix of speakers and content to SXSW attendees. From Mark Cuban speaking about the future of sports and sharing his candid feelings about the U.S. elections, to leading marketers from Mondelez, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Visa and much more – the venue was packed as any room in the convention center. A particular favorite panel was one featuring Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer moderating a panel with recording artist Kevin Jonas, actor Adrian Grenier, Johnson & Johnson’s Amy Pascal, and social media stars Monica Church and Shonduras. The lively discussion centered on how brands can best leverage celebrities to promote their brands on social media while still maintaining authenticity with millennials and other consumers.

MEC Job Fair

 

“Best Place to Find a New Gig” – MEC Job Fair: Our client MEC took a new approach to attracting talent at this year’s SXSW. The media agency transported its New York office culture to the event through three virtual reality films which gave prospective talent an immersive glimpse into what it’s like to work there. Using Google Cardboard, the first film focused on the agency’s digital teams, highlighting social media operations and some creative work they’ve made. Another showed off the agency’s culture, and the third film highlighted the agency’s creative moments.

 

“Coolest Executive” – a tie between Soulcycle Cofounders Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank. Soulcycle’s cofounders just oozed cool, but they definitely had a lot to offer to SXSW attendees. With Fast Company moderating their fireside chat, they addressed the characteristics that make up their brand DNA and how they were able to innovate in the fitness space – (surprise!) it wasn’t with technology but by creating a community for their consumers. Our friends at Fast Company also interviewed Under Armour’s CEO, where he provided one of festival’s best soundbites: “Data is the new oil. The companies that do well are the companies that use math.”

“Best Celebrity Panel” – New Rules of Social Stardom Session: Kerry Washington and InStyle Magazine hosted a discussion on the ever-evolving role that social media plays in the life of celebrities. Though she’s more of a private person, Washington talked about how she interacts with social herself versus when she taps a communications team, the types of content she likes to share (mainly fashion shots and causes she’s passionate about) and the value that lies in NOT reading the comment section: “It’s a tricky balance. For the most part, I stay away from comments, but Twitter is a conversation, so I do occasionally engage…but I’ve realized that comments are not about me. When someone comments, they are revealing something about themselves.”

“Best App Launch at Southby”Kodak – Kodak Moments: To launch its new visual storytelling app, Kodak Moments, Kodak Alaris (in partnership with Junior, a Project: WorldWide agency) created an activation that immersed attendees in their own memories – practically seeing, smelling and even hearing them – in a chamber it called the “Memory Observatory.” How did it work? Upon entering the chambers, participants saw whatever memory-specific image they chose to share projected on a grand scale within the activation, and the colors, smells and sounds corresponded to the emotion in something the brand called an “experience guide.” Robbie Whiting, co-founder of Junior, spoke with Adweek about why SXSW was the best place to launch the app: “SXSW is chaotic. We wanted to create a respite from the noise, a place for meaningful moments from the process of remembering a moment to the articulation of what makes that moment special to the communal experience of all our deconstructed memories, our own Kodak Moments.”

“Best Place to Go If You’re Craving San Fran Vibes” – Mashable House: From a Pied Piper Bar (shout out to fans of HBO’s “Silicon Valley”) and fun meme-inspired temporary tattoos to mingling with CEO Pete Cashmore. Upon entering this space, you were transported to the Bay City. Mashable had several parties and events at the space as well which put a spotlight on different brands and influencers – definitely making this a go-to place during the days and nights during Southby.

“Best Party at SXSWi” – GSD&M: Touted as one of SXSW’s must-attend events each year, we were lucky enough to get an invite and so glad we did. From unique art and live music to delicious food trucks and specialty cocktails – our last night in Austin was well spent on our GSD&M client’s compound.

 

I Hope You Have The Timeline Of Your Life

Wednesday was another big day for Facebook. In addition to hosting its first ever Marketing Conference, which viewers could watch via live stream on the Facebook site, Facebook also launched its Timeline pages for brands. New features include an updated layout with a cover photo, the ability to edit content without having to open separate pages, and opportunities to add content that spans the course of the brand’s lifetime to date.

But how will consumers respond to this new brand page format?

Before Facebook launched brand Timeline pages, it launched personal Timeline profiles. Similar to the brand Timeline pages, users can upload cover photos, edit content in one place and add information to past years to create a more robust illustration of the entirety of their lives to date. Some people have jumped at the opportunity to update their profiles, while others have found the format to be confusing, overwhelming and miscommunicated.

“I’m not really using it,” says DGC’s Kendra Peavy. “Every now and then I take a peek, but I think more time needs to pass.”

DGC’s Erin Donahue feels similarly: “I still have no idea what Facebook Timeline really is. I don’t think it was communicated to users properly. Now one person’s page looks different from the next. I like that Facebook is evolving to meet the needs of consumers, but I wish it was easier to comprehend, and I wish there was some sort of guide for how Timeline works.”

Facebook’s mission is “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” From the beginning, it has achieved this through constant growth, innovation and adaptability. In the grand scheme of things, Timeline is just one of many changes experienced by the Facebook community over the past eight years. So will people get used to these changes as they have in the past? Share your thoughts on Facebook Timeline for brands and people in the comments section below.

Taking Your Facebook Relationships To The Next Level

DGC DiGennaro Communications Facebook Social media advice tips engage fansDavid Fincher and Aaron Sorkin may have showed the world that Facebook was created to help college students hook-up, but since then, “The Social Network” has evolved into a vehicle for interaction among its members, job recruiters, entertainment artists, academic institutions and even consumer brands.

Despite these open lines of communication, not all brands know how to effectively engage with their online audiences. Take Chapstick, for example, which late last year got itself into a “social media death spiral” after posting a weird image on Facebook and quietly removing negative comments left by viewers on its Facebook Wall. A bit passive/aggressive if you ask us.

With this in mind, the DGC team has compiled the following tips to help you and your brand avoid social media suicide:

  • Don’t forget what you stand for. Posts on your Facebook page should be consistent with your marketing, advertising, news, etc.  Make sure your Facebook strategy sets you up to achieve the same goals that you aimed to accomplish from day-one.
  • No time like the present. Facebook continues to evolve and offer new ways for users to represent themselves online. Make sure you’re using the latest tools so you put forth a page that is relevant and creative.
  • The power of Facebook compels you. Provide useful and interesting information for fans to react to and share. If you need an example, The New York Public Library’s Facebook page is the bee’s knees.
  • READ. Your fans are constantly interacting with you on Facebook, so take a look at what they have to say. The easiest way to build brand loyalty is to let them know that you are listening.
  • Keep it coming. Fans are more likely to stick with a brand’s Facebook page when the brand stays engaged—even if it’s just one post a day—so push out content on a regular basis and watch your network grow.

Do you have other tips for maintaining an active Facebook brand page? Share them in the comments section below!

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