SXSW Report: Non-Obvious – How to Predict the Future

This week, we have five OMD UKers reporting live from Austin, Texas where they are taking in the sights, sounds and tech of SXSW. In the first of our blog series, Katie McSweeney (our XMP Associate Director) shares her takes outs from her favourite talk so far.

This fascinating short talk by Rohit Bhargava, the founder of Influential Marketing Group, was based on his bestselling book “Non-Obvious” and it blew me away.

He highlighted six trends that he thinks will change businesses in 2016:

  • “Anti-Stereotyping”

Often shaking things up and challenging norms can capture people’s attention in a very cluttered market, e.g. the recent hashtag #ilooklikeanengineer went viral as it smashed the gender stereotyping that is commonplace in many industries. Another example is Louis Vuitton shooting Jayden Smith in a leather jacket and skirt with other female models. Yes, there’s the argument that it was in the name of sensationalism but still they are challenging the boundaries of gender definition to a huge audience. Whether these stories get good or bad attention it can work for brands to step outside what is traditionally expected of them and realise their stereotypes, especially if it’s for a positive cause.

  • “Strategic Downloading”

Rebelling against the ‘more-is-more’ trend and choosing a simpler way of life is now officially a thing. Vinyl, 8-bit gaming and the Blackphone are all examples of people stepping away from over-complicated modern tech and data overload and reverting back to the good ol’ days. We need to consider that maybe sometimes the only way forwards it backwards. Go on, get retro.

  • “Obsessive Productivity”

We are led to believe we have to squeeze dry every second of every hour of every day in the scramble towards that successful, fun, enviable life that everyone else seems to have. Recently in the news there was an example of ‘time maximisation’ by a group of American moms who hired disabled tour guides at Disneyland so they could jump the queues and go on more rides. Horrendous human beings.

Luckily there’s a much lovelier example of boosting efficiency from the Coffitivity app, which plays ambient coffee shop noises from all over the world to improve your creativity and help you work better. It has been scientifically proven that background noise helps concentration, and frankly who wouldn’t want to smash out some spectacular spreadsheets whilst pretending you’re in a Texas Teahouse. Let’s be having you, you mother-frothers.

  • “Virtual Empathy”

VR is massive this year at SXSW but I couldn’t really see it being used for anything more meaningful than varying degrees of entertainment. However there reportedly are many inspiring ways in which the world has started to explore the potential of this technology. Journalism has been transformed into a raw, immersive experience by the UN in “Clouds Over Sidra”. This 360 degree video lets you experience a real day in the life of a 12 year old Syrian refugee called Sidra using a Samsung Gear VR headset. Is there a way that we can use VR to help instil genuine sympathy and understanding towards the amazing causes our charities support?

  • “B2Beyond Marketing”

Just because you have niche product or message doesn’t mean that huge reach is bad or equals wastage. Supersize your marketing with a fantastic piece of content and let its quality do the hard graft. Easier said than done I hear you say, but many brands like Volvo “Epic Split” and Caterpillar “Jenga” have achieved just that.

  • “Earned Consumption”

This is essentially a smart activation to get people closer to what they want, faster and in a more exciting way. Brands can monopolise the digital pioneer ideal – the drive to be the first in your group to discover the newest, shiniest thing. Mailbox (an app Dropbox bought for $100m) did just that, they bumped you up the download waiting list if you tweeted five people about the app. What a simple way of driving anticipation as well as boosting reach and accessing potential new users via valued recommendations.

Totoraku is being called the most exclusive restaurant in LA because you have to be directly invited (and even invited back) as well as bringing your on bottle of wine that is verified before you are allowed entry. This is BONKERS because you’re still paying for your dinner but are also being made to jump through hoops to get in the door… but I’ll take a tater and wait, get me a tooin’ invite!


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