4 Key Takeaways from SXSW 2019

March 18, 2019

SXSW once again did not disappoint. Here are 4 takeaways from the show:


Shedding stigma in cannabis

Elizabeth Hogan of GCH and Rama Mayo of Green Street Agency spoke about how their marketing agencies are developing cannabis-themed advertising campaigns. They have partnered with Willie Nelson to develop Willie’s Reserve, a line of branded cannabis products as well as rapper 2 Chainz to develop the Gas Cannabis Company, which also sells branded products under the rapper’s persona.

While cannabis in general is still far from mainstream appeal, the industry is shifting towards using traditional business strategies, such as brand and celebrity partnerships. As (or if) things continue to progress, it’s possible that non-cannabis companies may form partnerships in this industry.


VR and AR still have a long way to go

While the experience is cool and different, currently you still have to strap a chunky VR device to your head. Technology has a way of miniaturizing everything over time so when that does finally happen, there will be legal challenges to go along with it. If VR and AR were to become sophisticated enough to offer alternate realities and life experiences, how would they be policed? There are both legal and ethical issues that coincide with concerns in the real world. These issues are barely foreseeable right now, let alone resolvable, and therefore remain a concern as the industry develops.


Video games are gravitating toward science and diversity

The video game industry has come a long way since the days of sexist assumptions (such as Lara Croft). At the same time, there is still progress that needs to be made. A panel talked about how recent advancements in media, such as the lead cast of primarily African ancestry in Black Panther, are sparking advancements in traditionally low-diversity entertainment fields. A shortcoming in racial and gender diversity in both video games and the video game industry, however, has been slower to overcome.

Psychologist and consultant Celia Hodent discussed how to use neuroscience and psychology to better design video games. This potentially money- and time-saving approach to design proactively anticipates actions and thinking based on the basics of how the human brain works.

The key takeaway is that video games are becoming more mature and sophisticated and science should be utilized during game development to reach players on a deeper level as technology advances.


Brand experiences becoming more experiential

Minjae Ormes, CMO of Visible, took to the streets of Austin with an innovative brand activation. Being in an environment like SXSW that’s about both music and technology, it gives them the opportunity to have a face and inform others of who they are. Visible set up a full recording studio on the street, encased in glass, where anyone can come sing their heart out and have a memorable experience. As a challenger brand in the wireless industry, it was important that Visible activated their brand in a way that was in line with customer behaviors and trends while also pushing the envelope in order to stand out from the crowd.

Showtime CMO Donald Buckley spoke about their brand experience that combined music with their movies and television shows. Showtime teamed up with a popular bar in Austin where they hosted multiple music performances and music trivia. To take the Showtime brand experience up a notch from years prior, this year was much more offbeat and visually fused with the interactive music and film experiences that people come to SXSW for.