Scooting Across SXSW

Posted by Lisa Fritts from Ogilvy Health on March 18, 2019

 

As a first timer at SXSW, you quickly become acquainted with one of the best ways of navigating the event: the electric scooter! And with just so many things I heard, saw, and learned, I thought it would be most appropriate zip through them, sharing out as a quick scooter-like tour through my brain. I’ve narrowed my takeaways down to two very different directions and their brand implications:

 

Breaking Binaries: Everyone IS Beautiful

Beyond Visuals: The Power of Sound

 

So hop on, give it a lil’ kick start, and away we go!

 

Breaking Binaries: Everyone IS Beautiful

What I heard

 

Working on a dermatology-based, skin care brand I attended several beauty-based panels. The common thread to all was a challenge to marketers to rethink standards and the creative images shown. For example: author and speaker, Jacob Tobia pointed out how brands today either go very cosmetic and shallow, or too broadly, as he sarcastically stated: “yay, everyone is beautiful!” In his view, “everyone deserves good lighting,” meaning beauty and body positivity standards begin with marketing and creative that showcases the best sides of everyone.

 

This view of being much more inclusive, breaking binaries, and more gender fluidity continued with speakers on stage including Christopher Sayasith from Estee Lauder, Ann Bradstreet Brown from Bumble and Bumble, and influencer Dev Seldon. They pulled back the curtain on men’s skincare brands as being repackaged women’s products and completely unnecessary. They also talked about how men today use skin care products and make-up to look and feel their best—the idea of a metrosexual man is long over. They, too, encouraged brands to look at skin care, dermatology-based brands, and beauty through a much more inclusive lens that reflects all races, ethnicities, ages, and gender identities.

 

The common thread to all was a challenge to marketers to rethink standards and the creative images shown.

 

The beauty panel talks were complemented by a non-obvious trends presentation insight from Rohit Bhargava, Founder of the Non-Obvious Company, who spoke about what he’s dubbed “Muddled Masculinity.” This trend reflects the shifting cultural uncertainty men face today in how to act, how to “be a man.” His takeaway to brands was to embrace the shifts and non-conformity.

 

What this all means for brands

 

For dermatology brands, for skin care brands: you are setting the standards for what good looks like. Be incredibly thoughtful and don’t be afraid to show the variety of users, a variety of faces, ages, colors, bodies. If you’re not sure how to depict certain targets: “just ask us” (as advised by SXSW panelists), do your research. Ann Bradstreet Brown from Bumble and Bumble had a great quote that summed it all up: “everyone has skin, and it needs care.” And for all other brands: you, too, should recognize that there are shifts in cultural norms, and beware of having your creative images look out of touch with today’s perceptions—particularly around gender roles.

 

Beyond Visuals: The Power of Sound

What I heard

 

On the tech end of SXSW, several vendors on the convention floor and in outside pop-ups shared the power of sound. As marketers, we’re so very entrenched in visuals. It was an enlightening reminder of just how influential pure sound can be for listeners. For example: the Bose experience encouraged visitors to slip on a pair of noise cancelling headphones to stop the buzz around SXSW and enjoy meditation for a few minutes in near-silence. A pair of Bose, tech-enabled sunglasses transmitted sounds closely to your ears as you walked you through town disseminating information about local restaurant reviews based on what you were looking at. The same sunglasses also helped talk a golf player through navigating the course and locating the green to improve overall performance. It was an ear-opening reminder of how we can think beyond cool visuals and use audible expressions to impact an audience’s state of mind or behaviors.

 

 

The power of sound extended from human experience to artificial intelligence applications. Specifically, the future of voice-enabled products. Trends panelist and futurist, Amy Webb spoke about the patent Amazon already has for Alexa to enable “her” to detect baseline voice intonation, and then she can understand the speaker’s emotional state. And it wasn’t just Alexa, it was also other voice-enabled products. For example: sound more congested than normal? Your voice assistant will recommend tissues or an OTC cough-cold-allergy product. Seem angry or upset during your commute? Your voice-enabled car will automatically play soothing sounds to calm your anxieties.

 

What this all means for brands

 

Health care is a perfect place for sound impact. Calming, familiar voices for patients undergoing treatment. Clear, concise instructions captured and spoken to caregivers that need not rely on an HCP’s time to explain. Or new diagnosis techniques spoken step by step as an HCP does an exam. Or what was once called sonic branding, simply considering a branded tone, or a jingle, that’s memorable and repeatable, from patient to HCP.

 

 

So, how’d you do on the scooter? I found it to be a little tricky navigating through traffic and crowds and on unknown ground, but it was fun and unconventional and a worthwhile experience. Just like attending SXSW!