The year of the meerkat

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The year of the meerkat SXSW 2015

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SXSW: 10 Key Themes The year of the Meerkat Body as a controller Science on display Government gets geeky Who are all these joggers? Marketing activation In pursuit of the millennials Getting staid Fiction is better than truth Can’t we all just get along?

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The Year of the Meerkat 01

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The year of the Meerkat. Let’s discuss. Proclaimed the “Breakout App” of SXSW 2015, Meerkat brought mobile live streaming to the masses as Twitter was putting the final touches on Periscope. First to the race, Meerkat posited that “simultaneous togetherness” will redefine digital sharing. Early adopters flexed the medium’s potential, streaming everything from a stroll down 6th street to keynotes and parties.

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Body as Controller 02

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Wearables meet VR Last year’s wearable explosion was all but forgotten, as virtual reality stepped in to demonstrate that it’s not about the data, but about the outcome. And the outcome everyone wants is to feel good. Controllers for your hands, shoulders, knees, and toes abound. In fact, no one is certain which part of the body – or how much of the body - is the controller. Eye tracking takes the experience to a new level, suggesting that the entire body is the controller. As for headsets, there were many, but they are clearly not the end all. And while we all strapped in and on, there was a collective feeling that it’s weird, and we’ll get past it in the future. If there is one thing that is certain, it is that we are just in one big game.

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Science on Display 03

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Understanding the underpinnings Powerhouses such as 3M, GE, and Google took the magic and mystery of science out of the black box with tangible demonstrations of how new innovations power commercial and consumer needs.

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Government Gets Geeky 04

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Tech President Four years ago, we met a lone federal government official attending SXSW. He was allowed to attend, but had to pay his own way. Today, federal, state, and local government is out in full force, serving as keynotes, orchestrating panels, demonstrating new innovations, having beers, and taking selfies with the digerati.

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Who are all these joggers? 05

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Health and the boondoggle This year, it seemed that everyone packed their running shoes for SXSW as attendees and organizers incorporated health into the geeks’ boondoggle. Yoga sessions, mediation, and morning runs were a must on the agenda. Daybreaker, the early morning dry rave, also had a presence at SXSW where young people gathered to dance their hearts out in the name of wellness. (Preceded by an optional yoga session, natch.)

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Marketing Activation 06

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All you have to do is sign up With an increased advertising agency presence has come an increase in activation campaigns. Most offered a premium in exchange for an action, such as downloading an app or distributing a scripted message across social media. Few, however, offered meaningful connections between the brand and the community. The 7Eleven Slurpee truck immediately comes to mind. With a free Slurpee in hand, the app is immediately deleted. National Geographic also scored low, requesting that participants in their “Escape the Cold” activation send a scripted tweet to get a clue. Sponsors can do better in 2016. Create an incredible experience and it will speak for itself.

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In pursuit of the millennials 07

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“Um, no thank you.’ Our millennial attendees are not easily impressed. Customizable Samsung t-shirts? Guitar picks? Word is that brands were trying too hard to capture millennial attention in 2015. Perhaps the most obvious (and desperate) attempt was by McDonald’s, offering free fries and wifi to a segment critical for the company’s turnaround.

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Getting staid 08

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Just like last year! One of the great joys of SXSW is discovery, as restaurants and parking lots are re-envisioned as unique experiences. In 2015, a number of brands, such as 3M, Fast Company, and Mashable, reupped on their 2014 location, offering more or less the same experience. And while each of these brands did a relatively good job of engaging attendees, we miss the whimsy of years past.

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Fiction is better than truth 09

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Fictional brands ruled Fictional brands extended into the real world by offering attendees carefully designed experiences, such as sampling free squishees from the Simpsons’ Kwick-e truck, entering for a chance to win a night’s stay at a pop up Bates Motel in Austin, and slashing swords with the best within a Game of Thrones environment.

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Can’t we all just get along? 10

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We could, if we knew how. Tech knows it has a diversity problem. Chairman Eric Schmidt and acclaimed Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson were wrapping up a SXSW Interactive panel that had focused on diversity, when an audience member called out the two men for repeatedly interrupting their fellow panelist, the United States' Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.

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