SXSW 2016: Air Force One, Best Countries & Breakfast Tacos
We’ve flown thousands of miles, collected hundreds of business cards, eaten countless breakfast tacos, and gotten approximately 5 hours of sleep, and we’re finally back at our offices in New York reflecting on the wondrous weekend that is SXSW. First off, thank you to the people of Austin for lending us your fabulous city. From chowing down on hushpuppies at Max’s Wine Dive to running in the sunshine along Lady Bird Lake to watching the famous Austin bats head out for their “morning hunt”, we can’t imagine a better city for SXSW.
Without further ado, here are BAV Consulting’s key takeaways from SXSW 2016:
1. Government and academia are not dead and are hubs for innovation, too.
Politicians (besides the President) and academics aren't the hottest ticket at SXSW, but it felt like they had some of the most interesting things to say. Particularly in this very rough political climate, we were surprised to find that the politicians- even the ones whose views we disagree with- had a tremendous amount of insights that were applicable to branding.
On BAV Consulting’s panel, Building the Perfect Country based on our Best Countries data, Israeli Ambassador Ido Aharoni had some of the most memorable (and tweet-able!) quotes about branding. Whether a country or a company, “If you do not tell your story, your competition will tell it for you.”
We also bonded with Professor Walter Voit, who leads the Advanced Polymer Research Lab (don’t ask us what that means) at the University of Texas at Dallas. We were blown away by the work his team is doing, particularly as it comes to the number of startups that have spun out of very technical science research.
2. Virtual Reality was the Belle of the Ball
Virtual reality was the clear Belle of the Ball this year – in all senses. Like the Belle of the Ball, virtual reality was vibrant, beautiful, and exciting. We became kids again when we were able to virtually “decorate” the inside of a happy meal box at the McDonald’s activation.
Yet like the Belle of the Ball, VR seemed a bit out of touch with reality and somewhat impractical. While the branded experiences at SXSW knocked it out of the park, they left us wondering how often we’d be willing to don a pair of chunky goggles reminiscent of the headgear we wore to sleep as teenagers.
That said, we’re optimistic about how VR will be applied more seamlessly to enhance everyday life. Throughout the conference, we were consistently amazed by how technology is empowering traditionally marginalized populations- such as the elderly and the disabled. VR has enormous potential. Looking forward to going back next year to find out how :)
3. SXSW felt like the UN of Advertising
We thought New York was far from Austin, but it seems like we were almost neighbors compared to the people we met- both attendees and exhibitors. We were surprised and impressed by the international audience throughout the entire conference. During the tradeshow, we saw booths from Brazil, Germany, France, and many others. At our company party, we were able to meet employees from the Lithuania office. And at night, we had a blast at Germanhaus, a bar on Rainey converted to a biergarten for the purposes of SXSW.
To us, the international presence at SXSW speaks to the importance of country branding. Our increasingly mobile workforce allows many people to work just about anywhere- which means that citizens are now consumers. Countries are now products to be branded accordingly. Our new Best Countries study allows us to take the traditional BAV model and apply it to country branding. We’re looking forward to seeing how the discipline evolves as countries lean into and develop their brands.
4. General Musings
- AirForce One is HUGE.
- Try to avoid landing at the same time as the President. The airport shuts down entirely and he takes a weirdly long time to disembark!
- The traffic isn’t actually that bad at SXSW.
- First there was black and white printing, then there was color printing. Now there is PIZZA PRINTING! This is not news, but we definitely wish we had a 3-D pizza printer in our office.
- Algae is the new Brussels Sprout.
- The Black Leather Jacket should be an official sponsor of SXSW.