Now that I’ve had a few days to recover after seven straight days at SXSW, I’m finding that in a weird sort of way I’m already missing it. I realize that probably sounds a little odd, but it’s true. Granted, I don’t miss having incredibly sore feet or falling asleep while standing up (true story–one night last week I was so tired I literally fell asleep while standing up) or fighting downtown Austin congestion, but I do miss meeting new people and learning.
I learned a lot from the sessions I went to, and yet I don’t feel like I learned enough. I wanted to go to more sessions, and there were so many that were scheduled at conflicting times that I had to miss, so I feel like I could have learned more. Should have learned more. I’m one of those weird, geeky people who loves learning, and who learns best when there’s an open discussion and exchange of ideas, which is at the heart of what SXSW Interactive is. Instead of focusing on all of the great things I didn’t get to learn, though, I’m going to focus on what I DID get to learn.
What I learned from SXSW 2012:
Rappers are excellent marketers. Seriously.
I’m not really into rap, and am more of a country, folk, adult contemporary, hair metal, classic rock sort of girl. But I know who most of the big name rappers are. How can you not? I’m pretty sure most people in America have heard of Kanye, P Diddy, Jay Z, Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Master P and Eminem, and it isn’t necessarily because all of America is listening to their music. Instead, people know who those rappers are because those rappers have all worked very hard to create their own personal brand and name recognition. A lot of big companies struggle with that every single day, and yet rappers seem to do it with ease. Part of that is because rappers don’t really care about the rules, and in fact go out of their way to break the rules.
Lots of marketers are struggling with Pinterest.
In one of the sessions I went to, part of the conversation turned to Pinterest and how frustrated marketers are with CEOs and CMOs who are demanding they be on Pinterest RIGHT NOW when marketers still haven’t quite developed a strategy for how to best use Pinterest. Joe with Eloqua really summed up the whole social media marketing thing quite well when he said this: I would rather be really good at one or two social media platforms than be on all of them and suck at all of them (paraphrased). Pinterest really is a tricky medium for marketers. It isn’t “right” for all industries, and shameless self-promotion is a bit frowned upon. Instead, it’s a community built upon sharing, and one that happens to attract a primarily female demographic. How DO marketers harness that and use it to their advantage without intruding upon the “homey” feel that Pinterest has? It will continue to be a challenge, I think, but one that marketers are up for.
Privacy is really important.
There were a lot of panels on privacy at SXSW this year, and most of them were pretty well-attended from what I saw. In fact, privacy is such an important issue that there was a session on creating a Digital Privacy Bill of Rights. As a marketer, privacy is something I struggle with every day. I’m aware that every time I fill out a form that I’m going to be added to someone’s email database, possibly direct mail database, and that there’s a decent chance I’ll get a phone call that I let go directly to voice mail. I’m aware that I’m always being cookied, and that odds are I’ll see relevant ads on just about any website I go to. I have my Facebook privacy settings set as high as they can go, but my Twitter account is completely public. Anyone browsing LinkedIn can see my work history, and if you look at my Goodreads account you’ll see that I have a deep love for romance novels. Any company or person researching me can find out so many little and important things within ten minutes that it’s sometimes scary to think about. So yes, privacy is important. On the flip side of that, all of that data is so very important to marketers. Having all of that information at our fingertips makes our jobs easier–we’re better able to target our marketing and tailor it to meet the individual rather than the whole. From a marketing perspective, that’s a pretty good return on investment, and is simply a more effective way of marketing to your audience.
The future of marketing and science is…interesting.
Another big topic this year was what I can only describe as the convergence of science and marketing. Marketers have long known and admitted that a huge chunk of marketing is psychological. All good marketers are familiar with psychology basics, personality types and communication methods. We tailor our messages in order to have the most psychological impact with the sole purpose of evoking emotion. Advances in marketing analytics, though, are opening up brand new doors for marketers. As we learn more about consumer habits, we’re able to project more about certain groups and subsets. Target is the very obvious and recent case in point–the fact that any company can predict pregnancy depending upon what items you look at on their website is not only brilliant but creepy. Credit card companies can predict when a couple will get a divorce, and Facebook can figure out when you’ll change your relationship status. Throw in some good old fashioned science, and marketing has suddenly leaped ahead by a few years (if not decades) and straight into something out of a science fiction novel. That being said, though, we’re also highly predictable creatures, us humans, so in a weird sort of way marketers are also anthropologists. To say the least, I’m interested to see where the combination of marketing and science go, and how many cans of worms are opened as a result.
If there was one theme regarding marketing sessions at SXSW, it would be that marketing is changing, and doing so rapidly. Technology is giving us more tools than ever, but our customers (and potential customers) are also becoming more aware of those tools (like retargeting). We’re going to have to find creative ways to address privacy and respect our audience’s wishes while still getting the information we need in order to effectively do our jobs. We definitely live in interesting times, and marketing is rapidly changing with those times.