SXSW: It's All About Me

Dear Marketer,

While everyone else in our industry attended SXSW as a developer, advertiser, designer, or what have you. I actually attended SXSW as your consumer. And what I learned is that your entire industry is slowly getting in on my little secret:

It’s all about ME.

Yup, you used to think that you could bucket me with a bunch of other people who have similar HHIs, genital parts and ages. You were essentially saying that Marilyn Manson, Bobby Brown and Tim McGraw were the same person and had the same values. Turns out that we all want to be spoken to individually and that technology and the digital space are enabling that. Not only do we want to be spoken to individually, we want it on our terms and on our own schedule. I don’t want to wait for episodes of my favorite show; I want the entire season and I want it now on any device (see: Netflix’s “House of Cards.”)

And I want to be the star of the show. At SXSW I got to sit on the throne from HBO’s hit series “King of Thrones.” I got my picture taken and of course I put it on Facebook so all my friends could see ME. The New York Times made a profile of my face out of words, but then I learned that the words weren’t about ME—not cool. I visited the GE Brilliant Brew truck for a free latte and got my face drawn into the foam. I could have gotten a free latte with a GE light bulb drawn in the foam and only waited a few seconds, but instead I waited 45 minutes to get ME in the foam. It ended up looking like a mash-up of Abe Lincoln and Mr. Clean. But it was well worth the wait, Why? Because it was a picture of ME.

I was also shocked to see that brands were actually offering me things that I needed and wanted rather than yelling at me with a megaphone. Chevy offered me free rides around town through their “Grab a Chevy” program. AT&T let me power up my phone in a secure locker as I roamed the conference (while feeling naked without my phone). And countless brands gave me free stuff, like 3M post-its, battery packs and cell phone cases. The cell phone case came from a company that lets me customize and design my cover with—what else—pictures of ME.

The sessions were great, and, shockingly, they all revolved around ME. A few sessions touched on the power of humor, and I like to laugh—as long as you make it easy. And storytelling—I love a good story and you’re actually starting to learn that I would rather hear about the story behind your products than the features of your products. I attended Jonah Berger’s session (he’s the author of Contagious) and realized that you’ve started to figure out what makes things contagious. And as you suspected, it’s the content and type of content that makes things memes, not just calling them “viral” or making sure the right blogger or TV show mentions them. And, speaking of contagious, I waited in line one hour to get a picture of Grumpy Cat (and ME).

I even found it comforting to hear the stories of how Panera Bread and Whole foods are becoming more meaning-driven. It makes ME feel good when I eat there.

So keep it up marketers. God knows you have a long ways to go.

Best regards,

Your consumer (ME)