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What I Learned At SXSWi: We’re All In This Together

Where am I? What day is it? What does that QR code link to?

I’m in a post-SXSW haze. The past ten days were full of stickers, posters, and an incredible amount of information. I’ve always known that there was some level of overlap between industries, but in all the panels that I went to, I was consistently surprised at how often things were coming up. It just reminded me that the creative industries, whether music, or film, or advertising or something not traditionally considered creative, like the tech sector, are all pretty similar. Here are six things I learned at SXSW. Why six? Why not?

1. “Eat your own dogfood.”

Something that was stressed pretty frequently is the importance of KNOWING and USING your product yourself. People can pick out when companies are faking it, and ultimately, you’re so much more successful when you believe in what you’re selling.

2. It’s not the product, it’s the process.

Christopher Poole discussed this in relation to the creation of internet memes in the 4chan community. Someone plants a seed then, if it’s worth developing, other people take it and interpret it in their own way. It’s not what the end product turns out to be, it’s the process of creating something AS a community.

3. You can’t control an experience, only influence one.

As much as advertisers would like to believe differently, how people experience the brands we work with (or experience ANYTHING we make as creators) isn’t our choice. However, we can influence them. It’s better when we understand that so every time something happens along the way, it isn’t a national crisis. For The Man Your Man Could Smell Like for Old Spice, people took the spots and made them their own. The voicemail generator has had more than 100,000 unique downloads and wasn’t even something W+K planned, but a user wanted to do it, so they went with it. They could’ve easily said no, but instead they took it in stride and in turn had a measurable way to count impressions (and a lot of impressions at that).

4. A purpose is a higher mission.

Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes illustrated perfectly that giving people something to work toward creates a better experience all around. As a company, providing shoes to children in need has attracted some great employees and customers. Not only that, it’s given people something to stand for. It’s not about making money. It’s about making the world a better place.

5. When risk is low, experimentation is high.

This is especially true with the proliferation of real time technology. 4chan is an active and fluid exchange of ideas. If a post doesn’t take and have people actively commenting and interacting with it, it falls off into the abyss. And since you can post anonymously, the setbacks of failure are much lower. Mark Zuckerberg said that anonymity reduces authenticity, but Poole argued the opposite. If there aren’t any risks associated with being yourself, why not be yourself?

6. “Story is the currency of the social space.”

Probably the most important take away from the whole week was this: give people a story to tell. The launch marketing for True Blood was so successful because they created the backstory for the show that didn’t exist yet. They managed to get people interested enough to watch, and the rest is history. With Facebook and Twitter and blogs and everything else, people are actively commenting on the world around them. If you’ve got a story worth telling, people will oblige.

There you go. SXSWi without the [tech] hangover. If you’ve got questions or want clarification on the things I’ve mentioned, let me know in the comments. I’ve got pages and pages of notes (and doodles, but mostly notes).

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing.

‘Til next time…

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