SXSW: The Importance of Stories & Moments

As I look back on my experience at the 23rd annual SXSW interactive in Austin last week, a common theme struck me across all of the sessions, workshops, and pop-ups: The importance of stories and moments. SXSW Interactive considers itself an incubator of innovation with new technologies and digital creativity, and is definitely a must-attend for any marketing professional. But for my role in retail insights and strategy, I saw innovation through a different lens: evolving how we connect with consumers and improving the consumer experience. Along my journey, I was reminded of a few things…

The brain loves a story
When consumers connect with a story, they listen and remember. The brain actually can’t tell the difference between hearing a story and being in a situation. For example, if you’re listening to a story about skydiving, your brain will release cortisol when you hear about the “tension” part — as if you were experiencing it yourself.

As every day consumers we look for a story component in all communications and are predisposed to understand this kind of setup. Whether you are building an app, tracking a trend, or creating a campaign, the narrative arc of a story can attract interest and keep a consumer engaged.

Every brand is a story….
Every product is a chapter, and every spokesperson is an evolution. Define your POV and do that one thing well. Everything your company or brand does and every decision made should service it. You are competing with every other way people spend the hours of their day and your “one thing” doesn’t have to be the expected.

Soul Cycle considers themselves an experience company over a fitness company. Local Projects, a media design firm focused on museums, said they they’re in the memory business, not the tech business. And Fitbit isn’t wearables but anything “connected health”.

Regardless of how big your organization is, do not lose the strength of being nimble and don’t forget your core objective. Tell your story and own it. Build the chapters and include your audience in every step of the way.


Keynote from Under Armor CEO Kevin Plank

The golden moment
Finding the key moments to enable a conversation and create compelling customer experience is paramount. Contextual commerce is all about selling in the right moment. Embrace the time when I have your attention and you have mine. Once you know what’s important to your consumer’s personal “story”, you can crack the code to use to your advantage and reach them in the areas that mean the most.

The app that won: Storytelling
While there wasn’t one hot break-out app this year, Snapchat (a non-sponsor of SXSW) won the conversation. Snapchat perfectly captures these ephemeral golden micro-moments and taps into consumers’ affinity for storytelling. Multiple companies like Samsung, Gatorade, USA Network, and Spotify used the geo-filters to help connect SXSWers with what they were experiencing in real time.

At the end of the day, filmmaker J.J. Abrams reminded us “Taking the time to try to get the story right — that’s never something that technology can speed up.”

I couldn’t agree more.



Snapchat Geo-filters from Gatorade, Spotify/Soul Cycle, and USA Network