Top Three Trends Discovered at SXSW Interactive 2014

Over five intense and exhilarating days, I and members from my agency explored the premier interactive event for technology, design and marketing known as SXSW Interactive. This event is a festival focused on emerging technology that brings together a versatile mix of dreamers and makers, movers and shakers, nerds and celebrities. It sits at this crossroad of cultures and offers a taste of upcoming shifts in technology, design and marketing. As the biggest conference of its kind, SXSW brings in over 30,000 people to Austin to experience over 800 sessions including a trade show, speakers, parties and a startup accelerator. Here are the top emerging trends we discovered that are poised to impact the healthcare and pharmaceutical world.

Trend 1: Focus on People, Not Technology

Overwhelmingly, this year marked a large shift in focus. Fewer discussions around the mechanics and miracles of technology marked an increase in sessions centered on the topics of emotion and empathy. The center of attention had moved toward understanding and solving real human needs.

People fall in love with fictional characters every day through movies, novels and even games. In the “Building Empathic Games for Healthy Outcomes” session, game designers and public health educators came together to create a game called LongStory. The game focuses on allowing players to build empathy for the characters in the game and progress through decisions based on emotions instead of mechanics. The game is used to improve coping and overall mental health of teens. Could we all attempt to bring more empathy into our healthcare work?

Yael Cohen believes the cancer space is broken. In her sessions, we learned how Cohen formed letsfcancer.com to give a new vision of advocacy designed from the ground-up to reach youth. Focused on using tech, humor and humans to challenge the status quo, it aims to create a truly different type of cancer movement. The organization connects with its audience where they are active—online, and speaks their language—with humor, wit and edge. Letsfcancer.com harnesses the cumulative experiential knowledge of today’s community to help tomorrow’s generation.

So much focus aimed beyond technology raises interesting questions: Has technology become ubiquitous? Are human problems actually the more interesting ones to solve?

Trend 2: Content Marketing and Storytelling

Telling stories is as old as mankind. Marginally abandoned in the infancy of the digital age, the ancient art of storytelling is experiencing a marketing renaissance through the rise of content marketing.

So what’s the hook for your story? What’s going to get someone to care about your content? In “The Secrets Behind Addictive Storytelling,” the top minds from TV, magazine and online content publishers shared their secrets on how to break through clutter, find an audience and forge lasting relationships.

A&E Television works to engage while the audience is listening and then keeps a conversation going in all the other hours when the show is not on. Joanna Coles, Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan, insists that we each must “have a passion to create content that will move people.” BuzzFeed’s Jonathan Perelman asks that we “think of content not as something that people consume but how people communicate.”

We have the opportunity and ability to create stories that move people. In healthcare, we can create the content that moves people toward better health outcomes.

Trend 3: Second Generation of Wearable Technology

Wearable technology exploded this year—providing a nearly endless assortment of new devices trying to fit into and improve our daily lives. You are most likely familiar with devices such as Fitbit and Google Glass. A new generation of wearables seeks to tap into a new range of information that makes us stronger, faster, smarter and, perhaps most importantly, healthier.

From Muse—a brain activity monitor and trainer—to Nymi—a bracelet that uses your cardiac rhythm as your password—entrepreneurs are aiming to put our entire bodies to good use. Other devices are focused on detection and prevention. For example, the JUNE bracelet from Netatmo helps people discover their daily sun exposure and teaches them how to protect themselves from sun damage and prevent premature skin aging. Skully Helmets, the winner of this year’s Wearable Technology Accelerator, enhances the motorcyclist experience through smartphone integration, directions and weather via a heads-up display in the helmet visor as well as an actual “eyes in the back of your head” rearview display.

Self-awareness of one’s body and environment through devices helps to empower people to be in control of their own health. And, when shared with a physician, these insights build a more holistic view of the patient.

New View of Marketing in 2014

When put together, these concepts show us a clear direction for any marketing efforts—focus on people. As individuals empowered by technology, we rapidly spread stories of emotion and empathy. We are the new communication network. In 2014, people are the new medium.

  • Ben Putman

    Ben Putman is General Manager, Biotech at JUICE Pharma Worldwide. Ben is an expert in the conception and advancement of breakthrough strategic plans through digital innovation. Ben promotes creative and original approaches to gain uncontested access to target audiences.

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