Personalized content marketing, deadly AI and more insights from #SXSW 2018

personalized content marketing

By Mark Schaefer

I attended some interesting, all-star presentations and panels at SXSW and there were a few golden nuggets I thought I would pass along. Here are some of my favorite speakers from the event and their best insights.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX

  • He was asked, Why aren’t there more people doing what you do? “By 2008 I had three consecutive rocket failures. If I had one more, I was through. Tesla was going bankrupt. I had spent all of my personal money on the ventures – $190 million gone. Why don’t more people do this? What’s your pain threshold?”
  • Wishful thinking causes a lot of problems in people’s lives. You have to always ask yourself if your life is true or not.
  • The single biggest challenge that we face is assuring that AI remains symbiotic with the human race.
  • I am not an advocate for government regulation but in this case we need insight and oversight into safe AI development. The danger of AI is much greater than nuclear war. Mark my words AI is FAR more dangerous than nukes and we would never think that nukes should not be regulated.
  • Speaking about people who diminish the threat of super-intelligence, he said: “These people think they are smarter than they are. They merely play smart people. They discount the idea that a machine could be as smart as them. I am reasonably close to the latest developments in AI and it scares the hell out of me.
  • I’m not worried about the short-term AI stuff. There will be dis-location and job loss but no real threat. But long-term, digital super intelligence is a threat to the human race. We should proceed very, very carefully. This is the most important decision we will ever have in our human race.

Ira Glass, NPR storyteller, This American Life, producer of Serial

  • Ira Glass at SXSW 2018

    Ira Glass at SXSW 2018

    A story is a forward momentum of events. No matter how banal, a sequence of events pulls you through. There may be big ideas, there might not. There might be insights, there might be not. As long as there is a series of events, you have a story.

  • Killing a story that is good but not great is a victory.
  • Great stories happen to those who can tell them.
  • The aesthetics of our podcast is the dominant aesthetic on the web. It’s personal, it’s real, it’s chatty, it’s intimate. It’s marketing without marketing.
  • We don’t know our target demographic or podcast audience at all. We just produce what we enjoy.
  • An interviewee will rise to the quality of the interviewer.
  • Podcasting is now larger than television. Marketers don’t understand that. Companies have not caught up with this advertising trend. They just do not understand. Why aren’t big brands sponsoring podcasts? This is capitalism people.
  • One of the most interesting things Ira showed was how he was exploring new ways to tell his “This American Life” podcast stories through movies, musicals, dance, animations.
  • My observation: Due to the enormous of success of “American Life,” “Serial,” and now “S-Town” podcasts, it seems like Ira and NPR have almost unlimited creative license. Will be interesting to see what happens next when a team of top creative talent is unleashed with almost no corporate or budgetary limits. Can’t think of too many other examples of that! Also, Ira Glass is perhaps the best public speaker I have ever seen.

Kaitlyn Wilkins Director of Account Management Facebook and formerly head of social for Burberry.

  • Data is the new secret sauce of content marketing.
  • Need to constantly change messages based on place, time, point in the buying cycle, stage in life. Automotive is doing a good job at personalization because there is a seven-year purchase cycle and lives change in that period.
  • It’s not about creating thousands of pieces of content. It’s about creating the one single piece of content that matters.
  • Most important thing you can do today: Constantly re-visit customer needs. Consumer behavior is changing quickly. Do you know their needs?
  • There is room for all types of content. 70 percent of content on Facebook is consumed on the go. It better be short. 20 percent is “lean in” where you have captured their interest to learn more. 10 percent is lean back – watching on your couch or relaxing, so it can be longer.

Johanna Murphy former CMO Rag and Bone, digital at Kate Spade

  • To break through the clutter, more companies are producing Hollywood-quality films for social media. It is really the only hope for earning attention today.
  • Brand-free or brand-light content — People want to consume content but they don’t want to think about the brand.
  • Sure, we need data, but the challenge is pulling the data into the real world. That is really hard because these are people who may or not be rational or attentive on that day no matter what the data might show.
  • The next stage of marketing will be offering true human connection, human experiences. Pointed to retail brand (could not name) that was awarding customers with in-store engagement with influencers. This was followed up with personalized messages on clothes they might like. It’s CRM … but it’s not robotic CRM.
  • Be a human being first. Content has to flow into the fabric of a life and live natively in a natural news feed. The only content that works is something that feels like it is from a friend instead of a company. If it is not native and natural, it will be seen as an ad even you don’t want it to be.
  • Much technology is aimed at reaching this personalization goal but nobody has cracked the nut to create an awesome end-to-end customer journey experience

David Godsman – Director of digital for Coke

  • Our customers experience 15 different drinking moments a day and we have 10 key audiences. Content is differentiated and geared toward those moments.
  • Coke’s program to make cans with names on them was a big hit. A physical personalization of the brand. Creates very interesting social conversations.
  • Experimenting with individual physical purchase experiences with personalized in-store signs (Minority Report?).
  • Chatbots as humans — Ran experiment in Brazil with personalized chatbot messaging. Achieved 36 percent coupon redemption rate (which is unheard of). But more important, also shared a million times.

Tom Klein, CMO Mailchimp

  • People don’t care about your points of differentiation. They just want you to listen and help them. They want to know the human behind the brand.
  • Content must be aligned with culture, every time, without exception. We were founded by a designer so our culture is quirky and creative. Being yourself makes all the difference. It’s hard to have a brand personality if you don’t have one. Having a personality is free. Don’t be a copy of someone else.
  • Listen hard, change fast. Just because you have a brand doesn’t mean that you opt-out of listening to your customer.
  • Everything has to be integrated. If a brand does not know their mission and their purpose, it will be pretty hard to create content or work with an agency. Why is the brand here?

General observations

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing additional posts based on the things I learned and the people I met at SXSW but I’d like to conclude with a general observation about this event.

One of the MAJOR themes this year was a backlash against technology, which is pretty weird for a tech-oriented gathering. People are sick of the fake news, the bullying, the toxicity and the outright danger presented by tech today. There were many sessions on restoring peace, harmony, trust, and civility. SXSW is a place where big trends begin. Let’s hope this one sticks.

This was either my eight or ninth consecutive trip to SXSW. The event has changed dramatically in that timeframe. In the earlier days it was more narrowly focused on true interactive media. So many of my marketing colleagues were there. I would meet somebody I knew every 10 minutes.

That is not the case today. The focus has become broader, more international, more inclusive, perhaps even more forward-thinking, but less about social media and marketing. It is a gathering of the brightest innovators on the planet and my single-most important source of creative inspiration and business development.

My great friend Cesar Paz of Brazil put it best: “I used to go to many marketing conferences but they simply report what happened. Today, I only go to SXSW because I learn what will happen.

SXSW is crowded and perhaps overwhelming. Some estimate 500,000 people will be here over the course of the event … most of whom don’t even have tickets. It has become a festival of festivals with mini-events and installations covering every open spot and hotel space in the city.

But if you have never tried it, you should attend at least once and maybe, like me, you’ll become hooked on the festival of what is next.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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