YoungShand’s SXSW Diary: Day #1

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Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 7.56.01 am.jpgDuncan Shand (left), Jesse Kelly (centre) and Kat Cox (right) from Auckland agency YoungShand are attending SXSW 2019 in Austin, Texas. Here they report on the latest trends from the conference exclusively for Campaign Brief.

Duncan Shand, managing director:

What does it mean to show up, be seen and live brave?

My first session at SXSW was listening to Brene Brown. For those that don’t know, Brene is a shame researcher, has one of the most popular Ted Talks on the planet and coincidentally, I recently read one of her books, so I thought it would be an interesting start to the week.

The flip side of being a shame researcher means that Brene also studies belonging – and currently, while we’re living in the most connected age in history, loneliness is at an all-time high. Brene refers to this as ‘high lonesome’, and her challenge is for us to be ourselves rather than trying to fit in. You see, according to Brene, fitting in leads to shame whereas being authentic leads to real connection and belonging.

She had some interesting principles to help make this possible:

  • People are hard to hate
  • Move up lean in
  • Speak truth to bullshit, but be civil
  • Ministry of presence

The core of which is understanding that we are all people with more in common than not, and just being present together is a huge step forward. The biggest challenge is speaking truth to bullshit, but being civil. Rather than a divisive ‘with us or against us attitude’, her call was to be civil and be true to yourself.

So how did this talk relate to me? As brands (or agencies representing our brands) we need to think about how we can be more authentic – ‘With a strong back, a soft front and a wild heart’. We’ll create better brands if we have strong values, purpose and position — a great challenge for any brand.

Jesse Kelly, strategy director:

Experiences with empathy

There was one theme that stood out as being the most refreshing – a reminder about the importance of empathy. This was especially relevant given my SXSW focus on finding new methodologies, technologies, and applications that will give our clients and work an edge. It was a stark reminder that there is a responsibility that comes with what we do.

My first session of the day featured Shanying Leung, the design director of Alipay, which is the largest payment platform in the world. In his talk on ‘Creating cashless cities and a borderless world’, he spoke about how empathy is central to Alipay’s design ethos. Leung felt a responsibility to their breadth of users; e.g. kids, the elderly and people with disabilities. He said Alipay has a responsibility to ensure they democratise their offering for everyone.

This involved initiatives like using AI/AR to assist small businesses through self-service poster design and printing, enabling them to promote themselves and facilitate payments, through to making their mobile payment system more widely accessible so that anyone can get their own high-quality personalised QR code for the low cost of USD 0.50.

As a strategist, it was a no-brainer to attend Rohit Bhargava’s afternoon session on ‘7 non-obvious trends’. He identified empathy in his key trends for 2019. ‘Enterprise empathy’ as he called it, is where empathy becomes the driver of innovation, revenue, and a point of differentiation for products, services, hiring, and experiences.

He spoke about Tesco, who have a relaxed (slow) checkout for the elderly, or for those who get anxious due to feeling pressured with the pace of a regular checkout. And the introduction of a quiet hour to reduce anxiety for people with autism. Other examples included Herbal Essence, with their empathic bottle design that lets the consumer feel the difference between shampoo and conditioner and Join Papa, which connects college students and older adults who need assistance through an on-demand style app.

The takeaway for me today is to ensure empathy is considered within the planning process. Not just being user-centred in the way we ensure experiences are seamless for our core audiences, but also finding opportunities to make improvements for those around the fringes. Small improvements collectively make the world a better and more connected place for everyone.

Kat Cox, executive digital producer:

The next wave of the DTC revolution

With the dominance of big retailers and online stores, small or emerging businesses can find it tough to stand out and grow a customer base. The panel of Lily Kanter (CEO, Boon supply; and co-founder, Serena & Lily) Brian Spaly (Executive Chairman, Tecovas; Founder, Trunk Club; Founder, Bonobos) and Jeff Weiser (Shopify CMO) spoke about trends that can help retailers stand out and win shopper loyalty through providing a better customer experience.

With the panel predicting a swing back to local companies as a preferred method of buying, it’s the right time to be reminding ourselves of the following;

  • Be data driven. The successful ones will use data to give a customer what they want.Identify your power users who love your product and don’t mind paying for it. Then think “how can I do more for them?”
  • Be authentic. Retailers need to be true to brand and message. Brand campaigns need to follow through to the natural environment.
  • Embrace doing things differently. Always be thinking; what will this look like and how will it improve customer experience? “If anyone else can do it it’s not good enough for us” – Brian Spaly.

So that’s our wrap up for SXSW day one. Can’t wait to see what day two has in store for all of us. Stay tuned.

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