Key Insights from SXSW 2011

Posted by: in Austin Social Media, Pre-Commerce on March 15, 2011

Austin has enjoyed another great SXSW Interactive meeting with over 14,000 attendees. 

 If we strip out the noise, we see the following trends/insights as most important. 

 #1 – 2011 is the year of the big company.  It is the first conference where a large number of Fortune 1000 leaders visited with the intent of figuring out how to transform their companies.  In past years, companies wanted to talk about the latest shiny tool.  This year, nearly all conversations were about how they could change their business.  This is a sea-change vs. 2010.

You can hear from industry experts in the months ahead at our site at

 #2 – The best marketing idea was from Apple.  Although they are not a sponsor or participant, Apple’s decision to create a pop-up store to sell the iPad was the most influential move of any company.  Two days before SXSW started, the corner of 6th Street and Congress had a large number of security professionals guarding doors, as the windows remained blacked out.  At the start of SXSW, Apple announced that a significant portion of their new U.S. iPad shipment would be available in this new pop-up store.  The lines have been around the block now for four days.

 It was surely not cheap to build a pop-up store that looks like the real thing in days. However, the buzz from their efforts + sales showed us why Apple continues to redefine the game.

 #3 – QR codes are now mainstream.  They were everywhere. Some had good implementation (Gemalto/Digital Security) and others not so much (on the side of a building).  The key is that the QR code leads you to valuable information, not an advertisement.  Microsoft Tags, were very prominent.  The PSFK salon was a great session on the (future) integration of tags for awareness, information exchange, action/purchase, post-purchase:

 #4 – Pop-Ups were serious business.  From Pepsi to Apple to CNN, pop-up presence was well done.  It’s no longer throwing up a tent and a sign. There was some serious investment made in temporary locations, and for Apple and CNN at least, it really paid off.  The CNN Grille (pop up studio/media only hospitality restaurant) is normally set up for political conventions, Olympics and other major events.

 #5 – Group texting is new and has potential.  Group Me and Beluga are the big players at the moment.  It is the private, group nature that is driving interest.  A company team of 10 people can now privately keep in touch with single texts.  This was the most interesting development for location-based services, which are becoming top of mind for attendees.

 #6 – Microsoft launches IE9 – The completely rebuilt IE9 was made available for download 11pm central on the 14th. You can see more at the company’s “Beauty of the Web” site.

 Now we’re on to film…and then music…..great week ahead. 

All the best, Bob

Note: Gemalto is a client of WCG

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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