Lessons from SXSW, Day 2

Part of the theme of V2V seemed to be promoting Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, and the big nighttime party on Day 1 was designed to get us off the strip to a venue that Tony may or may not own called the Gold Spike. It lacked all of the swag that has made Vegas a place that people flock to, but the hometown vibe lent itself to interesting conversations. I met an eccentric tech developer who explained his theory of not handing out business cards because it makes people more interested in contacting you. Unfortunately, I don’t remember his name. I kicked off Day 2 at a talk by my friend Toby Daniels, ringleader of Social Media Week, which I think is one of the more interesting conferences out there.

His talk touched on the theme of personal effectiveness in a world where we’re expected to be “on” 24 x 7. The highlight was a service called Headspace, which Toby uses for daily meditation, and I’m trying it out in my own meditation practice. Here’s a fantastic sketch of the rest of his presentation by ImageThink:

AOL founder Steve Case gave the day’s keynote, an interview session in which he championed the cause of entrepreneurship, as well as his own efforts to reshape healthcare, education, government, and immigration.

  • He makes a persuasive argument for entrepreneurship… The reason we’re the leader of the free world is that we’re a startup nation. We’re a nation of entrepreneurs.
  • For healthcare, education, and government… Education, healthcare, and government are more than half the economy. If we want to fix the economy, fix those things.
  • And for immigration policy that makes sense… 40% of the Fortune 500 were started by immigrants

All interesting stuff, but the key takeaway for me was that we have to stick with it:  After seven years, AOL had only 186,000 users. Investors were telling him that obviously his company didn’t have mainstream appeal.

The highlight of the day’s talks was from Brian Solis, analyst at the Altimeter Group.

He’s one of those guys who constantly says the things I’m thinking, in ways that are more eloquent. Here are a few of those lessons:

  • The connected consumer (he calls it Generation C) is not an age group, but people living in a way that’s fundamentally different from what we’re used to. It includes a lot of Gen Y and younger, but also a significant number of Gen X and some Baby Boomers. If you’re still thinking along demographic lines, you’re missing the boat.
  • You are not in a position to compete for this consumer’s money, until you have successfully competed for his attention
  • Marketing is about experience. Period. Online, social, offline, in-store, product, support. Everything you do creates experiences (or worse, they happen without your input) that impact the way people perceive your brand.
  • Your job as a marketer is to address the Experience Divide — the gap between your brand promise and your customer’s experience. That’s it.

Here's the deck below. For further reference, check out the Cluetrain Manifesto, and Brian’s book What's The Future of Business

Coming up, lessons from Day 3, and some notes for the SXSW team about how to make the next one even better…