Alight in Austin

A lot happens while waiting in line at SXSW 2018

We are Alight Solutions.
Reimagining how people and organizations thrive.

Consumer Experience

Reimagining the ways we interact with brands, tech and each other.

Day 1

Fresh off our panel in '17, "What's brand got to do with it?", we've returned to discover deep insights and SXSW trends while waiting in line to hear the next big things. Check back each day as we give you live insights, random thoughts and fun SX moments as they happen.

Once the festivities come to a close, we'll post our full "book report" style recap (which you can totally steal) so you can show your boss all the great things you learned (even if you didn't) and justify your expense report (even if it doesn't).

Day 2

And we're off. 2 selfie sticks, 1 live streaming. Before touching down in Austin, this is how we started our journey out of Chicago's Midway airport on Southwest Airlines. We've seen wilder. But, it's a good sign. This year feels different. Maybe it's because we can now do a lot of the things we dreamed about at the last several years of the festival. For us, this desire to put potential ideas into motion is ingrained. So much so, it's in our brand values #actnow #thinkforward.

Live streaming aside, we did make it to Austin and are already knee-deep in digital. Chatbots, like Facebook messenger's SXSW survival guide and the SXSW app have made this year super seamless and easy, serving up content at the speed of a text.

For our first "waiting in line moment," we have tech media innovator, Mashable House #MashHouse. Here, we've stumbled upon veterans and newbies diving headfirst into an adult-sized ball pit, VRcade (half virtual reality, half arcade #brightideas), Austin Humane Society's puppy corner and Wendy's frosty photo activation. What's next? Stay tuned!

Day 3

It's day three and almost 90 degrees. Amidst the robots walking around and the baby goat yoga in Viceland, we found our way into a deep AI and machine learning (ML) discussion. While using data to surface highly relevant content to users isn't new, the idea of ML comodeling (think of getting spot on clothing recommendations based off of the type of faucets you buy) is now a soon-to-be-reality.

The biggest human insight so far came from the outdoor (hot!) Pinterest House session, "Accounting for Human Tastes: Marketing and A.I." The a-ha moment was that as advanced as we get with all of this tech, the litmus test is still, "did it make my life easier, better, happier?" Ipso facto, we humans are still relevant and smart tech is designed for good - to make things more relevant to our lives.

The exciting nugget from Pinterest is their new #TasteGraph for visual search. The simple explanation of this was instead of pinning an avocado and getting avocado recommendations, you would receive guacamole recipes or, better, a specific color of paint if you’d separately been pinning DIY home projects.

Lastly, we’ll leave this little fun fact here for you to close out day 3:
11 years ago Twitter introduced itself to the world at SXSW #brightideas.

Day 4

Theme of the day - #bereal (another one of our brand values) and get serious about social. Top brands here are saying the same thing- get serious about social and, while data is great, it's only as good as the people distilling it into true, actionable human insights. Which leads us into an interesting convo - truth.

While waiting in line for genuine Austin BBQ, we started chatting with Porche New Media & Social Engagement Specialist, Jazzmynn Finney. In between BBQ and beverages the discussion turned to social, data and partnerships. One of her best #brightideas included bringing truth to the brand through data and insights. Only then, she says, can we achieve powerful consumer experiences and sell the aspirations of what could be.

This insight carried through all of today's conversations and sessions and is being put into practice, well, right now.

Day 5

There’s no sign of slowing down here. People are doing things. Some folks, like the team on the Just Design panel, discussed how they used design to impact the quality of life and culture in lower income, under-served communities in Chicago. Some, like Kate Spade’s nimble and mighty female-forward team, are bringing new and wonderful brand experiences to consumers and colleagues. Whatever the challenge, people are bringing innovative answers and solutions. We are getting somewhere.

For Slack, they want the story to tell its own story. It's not enough to tell people “we’re innovative.” Earn trust and prove it to them. This rings true with us. We believe every company is centered around their people; tech and innovation is about helping solve human problems, not the other way around. For CNN’s Courageous Studio and Pepsi’s LIFEWTR, the echo is deafening—your story is your brand and your story, your culture and your core needs to hold strong to a real purpose.

All of this energizes us and leads us to believe that the world is changing at the speed of light,and progress, and humanspeopleare 100% behind it. What we ask of ourselves is: are we speeding with it or digging in and creating drag? We met up with our friends at Dell who proudly walked the walked and said, “yes, we are accelerators.” #DellExperience

Day 6

It's all over and it’s just the beginning. SXSW 2018 was refreshing, rallying and frenetic at times. Companies like Uber, Pinterest, HP and Hulu came out swinging. Big buzzwords and themes that surfaced like AI and ML are imperative to the future (Google’s AI now creates better machine-learning code than the researchers who created it), Fintech is getting there, and attention to mental health is imperative to all of our wellbeing.

But the rally cry we heard most was that brands and companies need to bring new voices, ideas and all of their people into the process. Fail fast, scale fast. Be the speed. Iterate now and forever.

We’re fighting off a bit of fatigue after a week at SXSW but this is to be expected when you suddenly stop drinking from the digital firehose. But like all things, this will pass. Upon landing, we will distill our insights and apply them to our systems, our clients and ourselves with the goal of bringing more of the emotional to technical, more of the human to the insights, and more spontaneity and iteration to the plan.

Thank you for keeping up with us as we keep creating!

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