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Highlights from Day 3 at SXSW 2019

The past weekend at SXSW 2019 has been all I hoped it would be. From attending some extremely informative sessions and meeting new people to just being part of the absolutely electric atmosphere, I’d be crazy to rate it anything less than stellar.

I’ve been documenting my experience at SXSW 2019 throughout, from the kick-off to the first two days, and here’s an overview of my 3rd day at the festival.SXSW Merch


The morning sessions


I kicked off the day with a session that was called… wait for it…. Branding is Sex, Get Your Customer Laid and Sell Anything.


Now I’ll admit, it was sort of a clickbaity name, but for better or worse, it had me intrigued. So I went. And I wasn’t (completely) disappointed.

Deb Gabor of Sol Marketing is a great speaker. She kept the audience engaged throughout even though most of the session was the stuff Marketing MBA textbooks are made of. But I am sure the reiteration was great for some.

There were some takeaways from the session that are worth mentioning though:

  1. Staying top of mind is the single predictor of whether or not your brand will be purchased, but asking people if they’ve heard a brand name might not give you the most accurate response.
  2. Functionality/Features can and will get replicated, and will become standard. Don’t market based on features, instead market based on brand values.
  3. Draw the ideal customer. Create their avatar. Understand what it says about the customer when they use a particular brand.
  4. What is the singular benefit consumers get from you that they won’t get from anyone else? Identify it, then use it
  5. Figure out how you can make your customer the hero of his/her own story?


The Interactive Keynote


As someone who’s been called paranoid about data privacy, this was one interesting session. The speaker, Roger Macnamee, was an early advisor and investor to Facebook was here to discuss his book – Zucked.

The conversation centered mainly on how trading consumer data without explicit consent questionable, at the least, if not straight out unethical way.  

Unfortunately, this isn’t an issue only with Facebook, Google, and other social sites. He raised very valid points like – is it really okay for credit card companies to sell your purchase records to companies to help them target ads to you without your explicit permission? Or cell phone companies selling your location data?

So while he wants this to be a national debate, what’s the solution in the interim?

Facebook, a platform that started out to make the world more connected and open is dealing with criticism of undermining America’s democracy and creating social anomie. While they’ve taken measures to repair this, is it really sufficient?

To my previous question, I would support his point of halting all questionable data trading until a conclusion is reached on the debate. It’s like Mr. Macnamee said, it’s a Right vs Wrong issue, not a Right vs Left issue.


The CMO session


I chose to attend the session on Reimagine Storytelling through Tech and Experiences, a) because I’m very interested in seeing how technology is shaping our future, and b) I was keen on picking up some insights from the CMO of Mastercard, Raja Rajamanner.

My honest review – I got some great value for about a third of the hour and that made the session worth attending.

It session kicked off with several statistics, like – Cisco predicts that there will be about 50 billion connected devices by 2020. But at the moment, 630 million devices have ad-blockers, and this number is upped 30% every quarter.

With these numbers, can brands really make an impact?


In a world where voice assistants are slowly taking over and changing consumer behavior, how does one see a brand’s logo on Alexa? That’s where a Sonic Identity comes into play.

This is where he had my full attention.

Remember the sound your first computer made when you switched it on? You immediately think of the Intel tune, don’t you? That little tune was as important in terms of brand memory as the logo itself.

The key takeaway from this session for me was their Musical Logo or MOGO – after evaluating 2000 new melodies created only for them over 2 years. Raja played several versions of this Sonic Identity,


  • The Sonic Identity, a 30-sec audio clip.
  • The 3-second MOGO created from the clip, and
  • The Acceptance sound; a 1.3-second clip.


The Acceptance sound is already integrated with Alexa, so every time you make a purchase with a Mastercard on Alexa, you will hear this new acceptance sound. This makes the brand immersive, not intrusive.


The Unobvious session


This was an encore of the first one that I missed, and I’m so glad that I caught it. Rohit Bhargava, the author of the WSJ’s bestselling Unobvious books conducted a brilliant session.

Everyone is looking for that big idea, that eureka/a-ha moment. But with so much information and content being thrown at consumers, how do you find a cool idea before 100 others are working on it, or before it becomes the next UBER?

The post-it photo we featured at the start may be a rather funny picture of Rohit, but it’s quite literally the story of every consumer today.

Bhargava shared an interesting perspective. Instead of searching for a needle in a haystack, build your own haystack. That way you can plant your needle where you want to.

So put together everything that would be a topic of interest to your consumer (your haystack) and try to derive key takeaways.

Of the 7 Unobvious  trends that he shared, these 3 were a stand out for me:


  1. Retro trust: Bringing back nostalgic experiences. Think Nokia re-launching their old phones.
  2. Enterprise empathy: Brands are, now more than ever, eager to create experiences. Tesco in the UK has a new “Relax” lane, specifically for customers who want to stay and chat, and want their weekly shopping to be a friendly experience.
  3. Artificial Influence: With artificial intelligence improving leaps and bounds, it’s blurring the lines of what’s real and what’s not. And influencing purchase decisions while at it. Case in point Amy Winehouse’s father announcing a concert featuring a hologram of the singer who passed away in 2011.


In the evening, I managed to catch Happy hour at the Amplify Philly House. Great people and loads of fun – the perfect way to wind down after an exhilarating day. A big shout out to the Amplify Philly organizers. You guys are doing a fantastic job of showcasing Philly at SXSW and Austin!

That’s all from me for today. If you liked what you read, come back tomorrow for the scoop on my last day at SXSW 2019!

Until then, Gaurav out.

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