The outtake of SXSW17? Be stickier! By Elise Erwin


Yeehah, it’s now 15 days post South by Southwest and I’m pleased to say my belongings no longer carry the scent of Texan BBQ. Fortunately for me, and the greater good of knowledge sharing, some things have stuck from my trip to Austin, which I’ve snapshotted for you below.

Throughout, I heard from the full gamut of impressive beings – the big brands like Nike, Facebook and Dunkin Donuts, as well as software developers, autonomous electric car companies, entrepreneurial successful stories and my SXSW highlight; neuro, behavioural and social scientists. As you can imagine the content was diverse in nature, however, there is one thing they all understand very, very well - how to capture the attention of millions of people. It sounds simple, but it’s not.

Listening to Gary Vee, a hugely successful entrepreneur and social influencer with zilch marketing qualifications, certainly made me question whether we, at times, get lost in a false sense of marketing reality, driven by skewed audience figures and creative concepts that excite the socks off us. Gary speaks of being in the business of attention and takes a refreshingly simple approach to marketing. His secret weapon to successful business ventures is listening – something he believes most brands do very badly. In between profanities, he encouraged the audience to listen and then give, be patient, pay attention and not to be scared to take a risk at becoming relevant to your audience, importantly on their terms.

While most of Gary’s Q&A session was hijacked by self-promoting start-ups looking to gain exposure in-front of the 72,000 professionals in attendance, the message was delivered loud and clear. Challenge your thinking – are we truly capturing the attention and adding value to consumers or are we just going through the motions of ticking boxes and appeasing reporting lines?  


According to US studies, 40% of us wake up and check our iMessage app prior to opening any other social app on our phones. It’s our daily ritual. For brands everywhere, this is a huge opportunity to deliver and serve content in a somewhat diluted space. SXSW 2017 presented “iMessage: The New Marketing Gold Mine” with some of the biggest thought-leaders in the iMessage space on the panel; Kelly McCarthy (Senior Director of Global Marketing at Nike), Nick Dunham (Director of Media at Dunkin’ Donuts) and Amanda Moore (Senior Director Social and Digital Marketing at Marriott). Exploring the iMessage and Bot space for our clients is crucial to maintaining a competitive advantage so I was very interested in what the panel had to say.

Despite hearing in detail about the rewards Dunkin’ Donuts has enjoyed from being quick to market in this space, Nike’s Senior Director of Global Marketing Kelly McCarthy was firm in explaining what a heavy lift it is for Nike. While it’s easy to get excited about the branded opportunities that are offered by iMessage and bot technology, Kelly said it’s important to remember:

1.     There is a big difference between commerce and customer service – while bot technology can be a fun way to entertain, it’s not quite there from a utility perspective for brands like Nike who require a huge level of detail to identify the right product fit. Context is key with chatbots.

2.     To be successful in iMessage and Chatbot marketing, you have to tap into existing shared moments and provide a platform to enhance social experiences. Keep the approach and content consumer-centric or fail. iMessage and Chatbot also need to have longevity. Owning coffee time was a no brainer for Dunkin’ Donuts but not all brands will be able to attain this level of relevance. Nike admit they’re struggling to make their content live beyond campaigns and are hesitant to play in the space until they can get it right.

3.     Discovery of brands iMessage and Chatbot can prove challenging – dedicate significant media spend or don’t bother.

4.     The user experience with iMessgae is a bit disjointed but rest assured iOS 10 has made advancements to make iMessgae and Chatbot use much more seamless.

5.     iMessage engagement is hard to track beyond downloads and store offer conversions.

6.     Western consumers need to catch up on embracing mobile technology – Kelly thinks the US are about 24-36 months behind Asia due to the advanced use of AI.

7.     Speaking more generally around branded social content, Kelly said that branded content needs to look and feel like a friend has posted it.

8.     If you’re thinking about creating a new branded app, don’t. It will end up in the app graveyard!

9.     The opportunity according to Kelly? Find innovative ways to use video in chatbots as no one is doing this well as yet.

Interested in knowing more about Chatbot or iMessage marketing for your brand? Bastion Effect have some great case studies of work we have recently delivered in this space, and we’d be more than happy to discuss these with you.


Hands down the most interesting session I attended at SXSW, a panel of neuro and behavioural scientists discussed the neural pathways to great creative. It’s no surprise that customising content for cross platform campaigns became one of the key focuses for the session, however having now witnessed the Budweiser Superbowl TVC overlayed with eye and neural tracking, I appreciate just how wrong we can get it.

How many times have you heard ‘I want to take our brand from one that people like to one that they love’? Successfully delivering emotion in short-form content is the goal but managing to strike a chord that leaves a lasting impression is the holy grail, and something we are always striving for at Bastion Effect. The answer is of course to find a way to not only deliver emotion but evoke a high level of self-identification, aligning to the viewer’s core sense of self. Personal relevance is the most powerful tool to enter long-term memory, followed by emotional intensity. Fun fact from the panel? Content delivered in Spanish is more effective at achieving an emotional response than the exact same dialogue in English.  


Fear less, technology may in fact help us all to connect in and to the public. No, I’m not talking about virtual companions that will prevent Kodokushi – there are some talented software developers out there who are designing ‘adventures on foot’ which encourage exploration, exercise and interactive experience with REAL people.

Do you remember August, 2016? Ok, more specifically do you remember witnessing friends, colleagues, clients and strangers quite literally running all over the city in a frenzy to catch fictional creatures? Apparently, there was a nest of Ponyta hiding in Cremorne if that helps? Yes, Pokemon Go, the most downloaded iOS App in 2016. To be honest, I didn’t get into the game last year or circa 1995, nor did I understand what its creator, Niantic, was really setting out to do.

Niantic’s CEO John Hanke spoke at SXSW about his vision to reactivate public spaces by redefining the way we engage in them i.e. by using technologies such as augmented reality to overlay the functionality of the everyday world. I learnt that Pokemon Go was not a flash in the pan throwback and continues to be a worldwide hit (view this video for proof), and also that Niantic’s first real-world augmented reality game, Ingress, also captivated the globe, driving people to places of ‘human creativity’ such as museums, sculptures, historic landmarks, parks and other public spaces of interest. It got them up off the couch, connecting with the physical world, albeit incentivised through technology. Hmmm, that’s nice isn’t it.

Well having the attention of millions of people the globe over is pretty special, particularly when it’s impact spans beyond entertainment and shared exploration. In 2016, Pokemon Go drew people to tsunami effected Japan injecting much needed funds into the local economy. What could be achieved if Pokemon Go switched into a mode that rewarded players in times of crisis i.e. donating blood, providing temporary housing or filling sandbags. You’d hope the world is compassionate and charitable enough to help in times of need, just as you’d hope that we’re not so far down the technology rabbit hole that we require coaxing off the edge at the very thought of engaging in traditional community activities such as sitting in the town square or visiting the local library. But what sang loud and clear from the Niantic/Knight Foundation panel was just how powerful a sense of belonging can be. We need reasons to be somewhere, say something and simply be in public. From a branded activity perspective, that reason has to extend beyond a potential need or interest in a product or service. It’s certainly not a light bulb moment, much more of a stop and check yourself reminder to think more deeply about why consumers would step out of anonymity and connect with you.

The conclusion…

The somewhat unhinged Gary Vee and other SXSW presenters helped me redefine the way I think about our profession – which is a comforting takeaway given the death of media and PR has been widely reported since I graduated and started paying my HECS debt!

We’re in the business of earning people's attention. Our clients pay us to get into the minds and hearts of consumers and we do that well, but we could always do more. My take away from SXSW 2017 is to lean in, continually challenging ourselves to be more relevant than our last most successful piece of work and to help brands listen to their consumers rather than shouting out in the hope that something will stick.

...Until next year SXSW!