The South by Southwest Festival showcases the latest innovations in technology and entertainment giving attendees a glimpse into the digital future.

From a branding and advertising perspective we learned some valuable lessons from these industry attendees on how to embrace emerging trends in tech.

Karleen Smyth and Kris Clarkin from Boys + Girls brought home some handy advice:

  • It’s not tech taking over the world but about using technology as a tool.
  • Artificial Intelligence is not a tech trend but another era of computing.
  • We need to design for all the senses, not just for the eyes.

Brand experiences that caught their attention were:

  • Eleven Eleven - Interactive Syfy where the viewer gets to select from the perspective of eleven characters to piece the story together.
  • Bleed for the Throne - HBO teamed up with the Red Cross in a blood donation drive that immersed the donor into the Game of Thrones world.
  • Good Omens series backed by Amazon recreated Heaven and Hell along with ongoing immersive events.

Jordan Mulvaney, a consultant at Teneo Ireland, shared with us ways brands can optimise their content for a satisfying user experience:

Community Hacking

The concept of Community Hacking was popular at this year's SXSW. It’s the practice of finding out where your consumer is online, what platforms are they occupying, and inserting your message there in an inobtrusive way. For example, if your target listens to ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) sounds on YouTube, you can borrow creative inspiration for your content, which can be an effective route to communicate with them. Check out this clever example by KFC:

Think of the popularity of Instagram AR face filters. This has led to a whole community of AR make up designers sharing tailored content across the platform.

With the rise of video platforms like TikTok, Twitch, and IGTV, communities interested in content creation are creating fresh user generated content (e.g. TikTok’s “hashtag challenges”) creating an interesting new space for brands to be present in.

User Feelings (UF) before User Experience (UX)

It’s important for brands to be aware of the difference between UX and UF. A short-term gadget experience is one thing, however it’s the lasting feeling you leave on a user that adds far more value to your brand long term. Users' feelings must be priority when producing content, think Facebook and Instagram ‘reactions’, that lead to a sense of shared experience and community.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Storytelling

Since Black Mirror aired last year the potential for AI-enhanced storytelling in entertainment and media has been leveraged. The role AI plays to tell a story will heighten creativity and take it to another level. Check out these notable AI ventures that were on display at SXSW:

  • Singularity Sushi - a restaurant that use AI software to 3D-print your meal based off the nutrients you lack.
  • StitchFix - a clothing company that uses AI to design clothes based on your style.

Put the Sound On

Having content that’s visually appealing captures attention, yet including sound is more effective in provoking emotion. As voice activated technologies and ASMR videos continue to rise, “sound on” content for social was a big talking point at SXSW 2019.

85% video in our social feeds are published with no sound, so millions of tweets every day compensate with the hashtag #SoundOn, alerting the user to pay attention to sound, thus adding context. When creating content where sound is key, including an audio symbol is a trick to get users to click and listen.

Advanced Virtual Reality (VR) Immersion

VR continues to grow and is finding out more ways to move into our day-to-day through storytelling, visuals and film. VR’s presence was strong at SXSW in:

With 5G on the horizon consumers will be more likely to embrace VR. As software and speed on our devices continues to improve VR is going to become a lot more accessible.

Jordan left us with some helpful advice on dealing with digital in the real world:

  • Don’t try to do it all yourself. Collaborate with developers, or even your audience.
  • User feeling should be on your list of objectives.
  • Once size does not fit all.
  • Building a digital profile for your audience is the first step.

Extra Ordinary

Last up writers/directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman (aka D.A.D.D.Y.) spoke about premiering their debut movie "Extra Ordinary" at SXSW. This supernatural comedy was also selected for an additional 'BUZZ' screening by the festival and is set to be a hit on streaming outlets.

The movie stars Maeve Higgins alongside a strong supporting cast and will be released in Ireland later this year. Check it out: