The 3 Biggest Marketing Trends Out of SXSW 2017

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketing

Experiencification ruled the festival, but branded experiences come in all shapes and sizes...

The latest SXSW is a wrap, and though big brands are not treating the festival as the free-for-all, big-budget marketing bonanza they have in years past (which many feel is a good thing) the event is still considered to be “the most valuable weekend of the year.” Forbes calls it the “best brain food”—which might be the best way for other brands to view the event. Because marketing at SXSW is targeting a hyper-engaged audience of industry insiders, it’s often a creative-cut-above-the-rest, and can serve as inspiration for others.

Throwing just any event at SXSW is not enough to generate buzz—even for the biggest brands. (Just look at Apple Music’s concert.) Experiences have to be eye-catching, unique, sharable, and over-the-top creative to gain traction beyond the Austin streets and make enough of an impression to be shared. Take Casper, one of the marketing stars of SXSW this year: the brand upped the ante on their 2016 “Napmobile” activation, taking over the hotel with The Standard’s One:Night app and turning it into the ultimate nap destination. Attendees could reserve “Refresh Rooms” complete with Casper’s mattresses, Tesla slippers, milk and cookie snacks, and even a tuck-in and bedtime story from an on-site “mom,” if requested. As evidenced by the buzz the stunt generated, experiencification was once again the fuel of the stand-out campaigns of the festival. But branded experiences come in all shapes and sizes, and this year we saw three major experience/immersion themes emerge from the days of the fest. Here are the biggest marketing trends of SXSW 2017:

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketingESCAPE ROOMS

Escape rooms emerged a few years ago as a unique group experience that Millennials helped turn into a lasting trend,…

 
 

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“There are alleys with street art that I've walked out of my way to take pictures of to share on Snapchat/Facebook.”
—Female, 32, IL

Mattel’s new toy franchise Enchantimals is inspired by Instagram and Snapchat filters. The new line of 14 dolls are all half-animal—think the bunny and deer filters—and each “shares a ritual trait with her animal friend.” Their origin and the YouTube series starring the girls are no doubt a part of Mattel’s “five-pillar strategic plan” to be a more digital brand. Appealing to Millennial parents and their kids has been a tough sell for Mattel, but they’re making moves like changing up Barbie’s body type and asking kids to pick the next big toy on TV to keep up with the next generation. (Kidscreen)

Harry Potter fans, raise your butterbeers up, because this franchise and its fandom will never die. Two more books from the Harry Potter universe are hitting shelves this fall—though they aren’t actually written by J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter: A History of Magic and Harry Potter: A Journey Through A History of Magic are instead both written by the British Library, to coincide with an exhibition dedicated to celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the first book. The two new works will include “exclusive manuscripts, sketches and illustrations from the Harry Potter archive,” to delight serious fans of the series. (USA Today, New York Times)

Restaurants are being designed with Instagrammability in mind. From unicorn foods to neon signs and tile floors with hidden messages, restaurateurs aren’t just tolerating Instagrammers, they’re intentionally acting as “Instagram bait” to earn some free press. And it doesn’t end at Instagrammable design touches. Many restaurants stress having perfect lighting, and one even provides “Instagram packs” at customer request, consisting of “a portable LED light, multi-device charger, clip-on wide-angle lens, tripod, and a selfie stick.” (The Verge, Grub Street)

Some student loan debt is getting “wiped away” in court because of missing paperwork. Students defaulting on their private loans are getting taken to court by aggressive creditors, but as it turns out, many don’t have the required documents to make them pay up. National Collegiate is at the center of many of these trials—one lawyer in Iowa represented 30 cases brought on by them, and 27 were dismissed because of “critical omissions or flaws” in the paperwork. Some Millennials prioritizing paying back debt might just catch a lucky break. (New York Times)

Millennials want older generations to know why they stand by political correctness. While some may despair the overly PC state of the world, many young consumers see political correctness as protection from prejudice, and a show of respect. What some may view as an over-sensitivity epidemic, many Millennials see as “being morally minded.” Ypulse’s PC Police trend tackled this topic, and found half of 13-33-year-olds would describe political correctness as treating others with respect, and 66% agree that political correctness is one way to make culture kinder and more inclusive. (Business Insider)

 “I’m too lazy to exercise on purpose. Too much work…If I can't get it with my dog, my job, or my nightlife, it ain't happening.”
—Female, 23, CA

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