SXSWi Day Three…My Last Day (Sunday, March 13),
I headed downtown for the early session with my “lost” sunglasses back in my possession and a handful of chocolate chip cookies from checkout. Thanks Double Tree!
I had a brief face to face with one of Austin’s traffic enforcers. Note to self: next year, book earlier so you can walk everywhere. But that might conflict with my cookie hookup.
Two Sessions/Two or More Moments (each)
1) Radical Openness: Growing TED by Giving it Away
Led by TED’s, June Cohen, this session was pretty well-attended for the morning after Saturday night in the Live Music Capital of the World. I was already a bit familiar with TED’s radical openness approach from watching Chris Anderson’s discussion on the subject during his introduction of Ads Worth Spreading. The basic premise is that loosening the organization’s control over their content results in better results, including growth, higher revenue and delivering on their mission (spreading ideas). Examples of this approach include distribution of TED talks on video and the TEDx initiative (already resulting in 1,500 events all over the world). Cohen noted that another outcome is that a global audience becomes a global team—brilliant.
In discussing the approach Sunday morning, Cohen announced that TED was taking another step and opening up their code to developers. A pretty big deal and an exciting new direction for the TED brand. The guiding thought here is that while the organization itself might have some pretty incredible ideas, the best ideas are still unknown and very likely to come from an external source—the global team.
2) Congratulations: Your Brand is About to Become Obsolete
This session led by R/GA’s Andrea Ring and William Charnock, was less insightful and aha-packed than anticipated given the incredible innovation and boundary shattering experiences forged by one of the premier digital agencies in the world. But it did have a moment or two.
I liked their point that one of the markers of impending obsolescence is when a brand can’t recognize a game-changing idea. The agency proposes something new, and it gets rejected by the brand. Hardly a rare occurrence, but one of a larger pattern and particularly troubling when these ideas or directions start showing up in market after adoption by competitors.
The most important part of R/GA’s discussion was their focus on purpose—the reason that a brand exists—compared to an emphasis on the object or product. Beyond enabling people to connect with the brand in a meaningful way, it is a platform for innovation since it looks beyond the simple iterative development of products. It’s what has taken Nike from an emphasis on shoes to a broader focus on performance. It’s led Barnes & Noble to look beyond books and embrace a larger purpose, reading. And it fosters constant invention and reimagining the brand. It also fuels R/GA’s approach of purposeful play.
So that was my SXSWi experience 2011. I’m off for a working vacation where I will ponder both the challenges of how to employ the best of what I have learned in my life at imc², as well and how to deal with the increasingly slushy spring break slopes in northern New Mexico.