Insights, Surprises, Plaudits and Slams from #SXSW2015: Ramblings from our Creative Destruction Officer

Written by Patrick Milan, Creative Destruction Officer; follow him at @pmilan

Editor’s note: Patrick Milan, our creative destruction officer at Tunheim, is attending the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, along with many of our global business partners within the IPREX network of strategic communication consultancies. This blog will be updated frequently with Pat’s interactions, reactions, thoughts and musings on what’s happening at SXSW and what he and our IPREX colleagues see as the most critical takeaways to bring back to the office.

Final thoughts from #SXSW

I saved this post for last because I think it might be one of the most common issues frustrating communicators. I look forward to your thoughts. Join the conversation with me on Twitter, or below in the comments.

ceos on social media

Most senior leaders refuse to use social channels because they are afraid. They don’t understand why it matters, how it works or the massive benefit of reaching thousands of stakeholders via a single digital channel. Photo credit: ThinkStock.

The Top 6 Excuses CEOS Make to Avoid Social…(And How to Address Their Fears)
Presenter: Charlene Li, CEO, Altimeter Group; @charleneli

Charlene Li hosted a jam-packed #SXSW session focused on the subject of social media-adverse leaders, “Creating A Digital Engagement Strategy for Leaders.” While none of these excuses will surprise anyone (we’ve all heard them), Li had several strong arguments to help persuade reluctant leaders to add social to their management toolkit.

#1: It’s not about me
This is a viewpoint of CEOs who see social media users as completely self-absorbed. They see their children or grandchildren checking in everywhere, sharing overly-revealing vacation photos (please, no Speedos) or even the mystery dinner just delivered to their restaurant table.

Counterpoint: It is every leader’s responsibility to communicate what they need the organization to do. Social media channels deliver the fastest path for a leader to communicate direction and celebrate great employees who are getting it done on a daily basis. A great example of a leader who celebrates employees is Rosemary Turner, president of UPS North California District.

#2: I don’t have time
Counterpoint: “What? The telephone is winning.” (@CharleneLi, with my favorite comeback of #SXSW2015.)

#3 It doesn’t replace face-to-face. I shake hands.
Counterpoint: “That’s fantastic. You’ve got 10,000 employees. How are you going to meet those people and shake all of their hands?”

As a communication professional, this is the moment when you need to explain that social channels allow leaders to reach hundreds and thousands of employees in a personal way. For employees, social is personal. Leaders have an opportunity to leverage these channels to share key business objectives and moments when it has all come together. Employees in social businesses feel more connected to leadership.

And if you need even more fodder: Surveys prove employees want more information on direction. If you don’t share it, they will make up their own version of it. Nothing helps leaders connect the dots faster than social channels that employees use in every other aspect of their lives.

#4: It’s marketing’s job
Counterpoint: This one is easy because it is a cop out. Whose job is it to develop relationships for the organization? That is everyone’s job. And it starts with the CEO and is in the job description of every leader in the organization.

#5: Who cares about what I had for lunch?!
Counterpoint: You are right. Nobody cares about that, but what would they care about? Open a discussion with the wary leader. Ask them to articulate the most common questions they get from employees. What key organizational points seem to be least understood throughout the organization? This is the information your team cares about.

And don’t ever tweet about your lunch unless it was with a new customer or prospect who just said “yes.”

#6: I don’t want to get my company in trouble.
Counterpoint: This might be the toughest nut to crack. What the leader is really saying is “I’m afraid” and doesn’t know where to begin or how to do it. Li cautions you may be up against a few layers of issues. It starts with a flat-out refusal. Then, excuses usually follow with comments such as “somebody else can do it.” If you are persistent and keep presenting business reasons to try —acceptance usually follows. In many cases, a couple quick of wins will turn a leader into a social media evangelist.

It’s a matter of trust
As you get started, try focusing on your leader’s goals, not the technology. Discuss how sharing content over a social channel can help the leader reach any of the company’s goals faster — and at scale. Use a couple of proven success stories as part of your case and give it a shot.

What resistance do you face from leaders?
So, what are the excuses you hear? Share it in the comments and let’s open up the conversation to other excuses and even better solutions you can share with us.

Day 4 at SXSW: 10 Inventions That Will Revolutionize Retail

Presenters:
David Roth, WPP
Jon Bird, Y&R Labstore
#SXSWInteractive #Futurestore

Shopping is the Meaning of Life

It’s Sunday morning and I’m in a hotel ballroom with the lights intentionally kept low for the several hundred conference attendees who are nursing signifiant hangovers. A hush falls over the crowd as church organ music fills the room. Then, a call for all to stand for a moment of silence. A scene of graveyard tombstones fills two giant screens as the names of the dearly departed are displayed: RadioShack elicits respectful applause, Circuit City earns groans, Best Buy — wait! Best Buy on this list wakes me up.  Then I see the small print: “Europe and China.”

David Roth of WPP and Jon Bird of Y&R Labstore started with the past because they say it has a wonderful way of framing the future. They spent SXSW inventions revolutionize retail 2the rest of the time demonstrating emerging technology that is on the verge of disrupting the retail landscape. As an example, think of the Coca-Cola Freestyle drink machines. You (meaning “your kids”) have the ability to mix as many as eleven different Coke brands in a custom made drink. Coke stole the idea from Nike and now Converse is advancing customization with new stores that build your shoe on-site with your personal direction. Now, imagine that model across your brands or offerings. With me?

The Most Liberating Time for Retail

Roth and Bird argue that it does not take a crystal ball to forecast coming retail changes. The technology is already there working — it just hasn’t achieved scale. 

This is the most liberating time for retail if we look at technology as a friend rather than a foe. With the past as a frame and new technology as a horizon, here are a few of the ten inventions that retailers should consider embracing:

  1. HoloStores and augmented retail – Customers can sit at home or walk through a store and see all three dimensions on a flat, clear device. SXSW inventions revolutionize retail 1Flat screens will be carried around stores delivering a personalized tour. Kansas City already pulled this off with a museum-like tour during Union Station’s bi-centennial. Today’s visitors see and interact with people and celebrities from the past who were traveling and even dying (big gangster shootout) in the same spots where they stood.
  2. Shop anywhere, serve anywhere — Imagine being rewarded if you agree to wear a hidden chip in a new coat. When someone sees it and wonders where you got it, that, plus a price and shipping info appears on their device. This takes celebrity Steal The Look to a whole new level.
  3. Smart vending — This is the Coke Freestyle rollout to a whole new level. Mix/match everything all the time.
  4. Sentient stores — These stores are designed and “wired” to capture the data swirling around each of us all the time, and using it to personalize our experience. Whole Foods in Austin is preparing to roll out its sentient store experiment in Austin with Microsoft to create smart shopping carts.
  5. Smart shelving — This one is pretty close to sentient. Store shelves interact with our wireless devices and deliver information that is customized to us. I guess this means Target will start trying to sell me Nair in the women’s health aisle because the shelf will know I’m a cyclist (not sure I like this one).

The Future is Being Defined By Retailers Who Embrace Technology

The brains of retail moving forward will be the data. The future is being created by retailers who develop and deploy strategies that embrace technology and make their brands famous by fanning the flames of innovation across the landscape. 

Day 3 at SXSW: Mobile Beyond Marketing: The Era of UnAdvertising

Today, I attended a panel discussion featuring: 

  • Brent Hieggelke, Chief Mobile Evangelist at Urban Airship
  • Sonia Nagar, Vice President, Product at RetailMeNot
  • Arlie Sisson, Associate Director, Mobile Strategy at Starwood Hotels & Resorts
  • Brendan Wright, Director, International Mobile Product Management at Wal-Mart

This group of digital explorers agreed that a key tipping point has occurred, and most companies do not realize their digital sites are visited by more mobile devices than desktops or PC’s. Wal-Mart’s director of international mobile product management shared that the retailer’s U.K. brand is now generating one-third of its sales from mobile apps; he said the company is excited to transform its U.K. learnings to the U.S. market.

Other great examples of brands that understand and navigate the difference between awareness and engagement were shared. They include:SXSW UnAdvertising

  • Walgreen’s prescription app is setting a new standard with the realization that customers don’t want to have to open the app to know their script is ready;
  • Starbuck’s Portland test of an app that let’s customers pre-order their drink, pre-pay, and then pick up and run is rolling out nationally (side-note: that would have been popular at SXSW based on the lines here this morning); and
  • Alaska Airlines’ app that automatically helps travelers manage late flights and navigate gate changes on the fly.

Notably, it was shared that consumers don’t want ads on mobile screens. They are already trained to expect magic. They push a button and a taxi shows up in two minutes. For example, Urban Airship’s Brent Hieggelke has fallen for REI’s app, which alerts him when a certain level of snow has fallen at a ski slope near his home. He says he now plays hooky on some of those days.

And it misses the mark (traditional advertising). Brands get stuck creating awareness messaging for customers who are ready for engagement rather than interruption. Hieggelke shared a list showcasing the transformation from Advertising to UnAdvertising, which really helps us all understand the need to transform our thinking both on the agency and client side.

Speaking of engagement, I’ve got dinner plans. Google grabbed the information from my calendar and told me its time to get moving.

Since we are dining Italian, I’ll say “Ciao” until Sunday from #SXSW.

Day 2 at SXSW: Move Fast, Government, or Get Out of the Way

SXSW - U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker I saw an interesting conversation between U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and the Daily Mail’s John Steinberg, “Move Fast, Government, or Get Out of the Way,” earlier today. During the event, Pritzker swore in the new head of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, Michelle Kim. Kim is now the first woman to lead the patent office. Here are highlights from the event:

Take-away 1: Technology is moving faster than the government’s ability to keep up
Pritzker said the pace of technology is outstripping the Department of Commerce’s ability to issue patents. The department receives 550,000 to 650,000 patent requests each year, and this year the agency slowed it down. The reason? She said, “We needed to better train our patent adjudicators so the patents we do approve fare stronger in the courts. It was a decision of quality over quantity.”

Take-away 2: Every company must be globalSxsw - Move, Fast, Government or Get Out of the Way
A business builder and owner before her stint as a bureaucrat, Pritzker noted that new businesses launching today “have to be born global in order to be a competitive company.” If she were not leading the Department of Commerce, Pritzker said she would be starting a business focused on infrastructure. Pritzker noted that the world currently needs $53 trillion in infrastructure investment.

“I know it doesn’t sound sexy, but somebody has to re-build the roads to get to work and supply the roads for faster broadband. It all needs investment, public and private.”

Take-away 3: Droning on
It’s an exciting time for technology but developing policy on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) or drones requires balance. “We have to balance safety, security, privacy and economic concerns,” Pritzker said.

Take-away 4: Sexy Manufacturing
With all the talk about technology, Pritzker made sure to point out that “manufacturing is critical to innovation in the United States.” With more than 30 percent of patents originating from manufacturers, Pritzker said she is happy to see the manufacturing sector rebounding in our country.

The department has even created the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, a program that unites the federal government with various regional and local ecosystems including universities, cities and other key players to focus “all around innovative technologies.” She said, this includes the “areas where we create a system to get new stuff from the lab to the market.”

On to the next session. Look for more updates throughout the weekend!

Day 1 at SXSW: Geek, Freak, Chic Ready to Take the Stage

It’s my first trip to SXSW and I have to say it’s pretty impressive. After missing the early years, I resisted attending and used an old Yogi Berra line as my excuse. You know, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

This year I took the plunge and decided to attend.

Austin has amassed so much muscle and scale around the three sectors — interactive, film and music — that for 10 days it becomes the world capitol of geek, freak and chic. Apparently that is the new triple-threat in marketing.

I say this because I cannot remember the last time I saw this much gluttonous and unmeasured marketing money spent in the name of anything. Yeah, I remember Comdex and CES, but the truth is that one event died and the other is stale.

I laugh, but hey, it is impressive when Samsung buys an entire restaurant and then constructs a roof over the “rooftop bar” for its 10 days in the sun (or rain).

I’m not sure why, but cable channel AMC bought the length of an entire downtown city block to re-construct the Bates Motel. Can somebody help me understand how this drives more viewers to the third season of the TV show?

And then there’s Hootsuite. They bought a bar, too. But they have the creativity to get physically interactive by providing guided bike tours around town. Go ahead, say it: It’s a hoot.

The craziness settles down Friday when the stuff we came to see and hear takes over the Austin Convention Center and the big hotel ballrooms. The highlights we want to take in include:

Mobile Beyond Marketing: The Era of UnAdvertising
These guys have a really good point. If a customer “friends” or “follows,” the last thing they want is more awareness advertising. The session focuses on what to do with customers once you have their attention. Yet, very few consumer or B2B brands are good at this. We will be there and the entire audience will be sharing on Twitter.
Follow: #SXSW #MobileSat

Turning Talent into Rockstars
Despite some pretty shocking layoff announcements recently, the overall employment market is showing signs of struggling to find and keep great talent. This session focuses on creating a culture that attracts and cultivate rock stars.
Follow: #SXSW #NewTalent

There’s an impressive amount of time devoted to transforming our government. Two solid events we will attend include:

How Government Fails and How You Can Fix It
The call to action (CTA) here? For government to work in the 21st century, it must become competent — even great — at digital. This one sounds like it could be a groundswell to force change. These digital geeks know taxpayers are mad and they’re not going to take it anymore!
Follow: #SXSW #govtfix

Move Fast, Government, or Get Out of the Way
At least one bureaucrat is speaking. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will discuss how the government is adapting to the rate and pace of technology by re-tooling the patent system, and aligning federal policy to fuel, not slow, innovation.
Follow: #SXSW #adapt

That’s the news from geek, freak and chic land. We have several digital professionals from our IPREX Global Communication team crisscrossing Austin and sharing what we learn.

Follow us on Twitter at #SXSW #IPREX. The full schedule of presentations and events is here. Let us know if you want us to be your eyes and ears in a particular session.

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