SXSW: the destination of discovery

SXSW: the destination of discovery

Mar 16, 2019
An idea can change the world. It could be a song, a film, a technological breakthrough, or even a festival – but without the platform to get it noticed, an idea is only that. So as South By Southwest (SXSW) draws to a close for another year, we’re taking a look at the festival that brings the biggest and the best ideas from creative mediums to a truly global audience. Now in its 32nd year, and boasting a 10-day roster of incredible ingenuity and entertainment, its appeal and influence is only growing.


For several years now, SXSW – held every year in Austin, Texas – has enjoyed a reputation for hosting historical breakthroughs and iconic moments. John Mayer’s incredible performance at SXSW back in 2000 kick-started his career and led to his first record label deal… the social media giant Twitter completely took off at its SXSW debut in 2007… and Academy Award-winner The Hurt Locker made its US premiere there in 2009. These achievements are just the tip of the iceberg – there’s new talent, technology and triumphs unearthed every year, as budding creatives and performers make the most of Austin’s sprawling networking scene. It’s no wonder SXSW has earned the moniker of ‘the premier destination for discovery.’

As technology continues to accelerate on a seemingly never-ending upward curve, numerous companies are now pushing “the art of the possible” – emphasising the incredible tech capabilities that are becoming ever more available to consumers on a daily basis. Of course, SXSW got in on the act again this year, with Accenture Interactive offering a series of immersive shopping, advertising and training experiences. Notable campaigns include the Teslasuit; the world’s first fully integrated smart clothing apparel with climate control and motion sensor systems; and Disney’s Dumbo experience, which responds to facial expressions to play different film snippets.

And on the theme of cinematics, HBO’s cultural phenomenon Game of Thrones has been playing up to its bloody reputation – partnering with the American Red Cross to offer a blood donation campaign which lets you walk in the chilling footsteps of those who have met grisly ends in previous seasons, delivered with a stunning set and thrilling audio narrative.

That’s just one example where creativity, technology and culture combine for innovative experiences you wouldn’t find elsewhere. And it’s something 2019’s occasion has focused on; prioritizing the complete customer experience instead of cashing-in on spectacles or gimmicks. SXSW has always excelled in bringing discussion and networking opportunities to the centre-stage; taking a break from the noise and commotion to offer insightful dialogue into intriguing topics. Perhaps most relevant for PHMG and the world of audio branding is the panel discussion entitled ‘The Invisible Brand in an Audio-First World’. The emergence of Siri, Alexa and Android’s ‘Okay Google’ feature has transformed the way we use the internet – and it’s only just getting started, with comScore predicting that voice search on the web will make up 50% of all searches in the next few years. But the panel – led by film scorer and Man Made Music’s Joel Beckerman – looks at the merits in humanizing technology to create an attachment with customers, such as with sonic triggers. And the numbers don’t lie.

Beckerman cited that: ‘If you like the sound in association with a particular experience, you’re 86% more likely to actually want to have that experience again with that brand.’ It’s appealing in the same way nostalgia is, engaging the senses through recognition – and it’s such a powerful marketing tool for industries such as banking, health and insurance, who rely on providing peace of mind. 

SXSW: the destination of discovery

It just goes to show how an idea as simple as a sonic trigger can impact something as big as the marketing and branding industry as we know it. And as SXSW continues to influence creatives, innovators and dreamers alike, we’re likely to see a few more of the world’s biggest and brightest ideas cutting their teeth in Austin, Texas over the next few years.