A couple of months ago, the three of us spent a week at SXSW, one of the biggest creative conferences in the world. It’s a 10-day event split into three major streams; film, music and interactive along with additional streams of art, gaming, comedy and convergence. It was hectic and to keep the team updated back home, we had to frantically post everything as we experienced it.

One of the key themes at the conference was innovation, these are the four things that stuck with us that you could use to drive fresh thinking.

How to use trends

Amy Webb (CEO, Tech Trends Report) explained that the key to rigorous planning is to study and consider the key trends. Not only the ones affecting your industry but also what is happening in other adjacent industries as well.

For example, if you were a strategist at Walmart, you should look at how local farming innovations could impact your supply chain and transportation. A farming innovation, like vertical farming, could utilise unused basement/attic real estate. This would not only improve food quality and freshness but also decrease delivery truck mileage.

Obviously, you can’t predict the future but looking at the trends and adjacencies, can allow you to push you to think through different scenarios. Those scenarios can then be used as a base for healthy debate that will then shape investments in new capability and technology.

The new creative process

We also learnt that the traditional creative process doesn’t work anymore and needs to be changed. Nick Law, CCO, Publicis Group, challenged creative agencies to embrace new media and technology to find new ideas and approaches, as well as redefining the creative team.

His challenge was that agencies need to break the 50 year old traditional of the Art Director/Copywriter partnership. Yes, this approach was a breakthrough as it pulled the two parts of a traditional ad together, but communications aren’t just print or film anymore, they’ve become digital. Naturally, that means the new creative partnership should include UX designers, developers, and digital media planners in the mix.

Also creative agencies need to embrace new technology as a fresh canvas to push them to create new approaches, rather than using the safety-net of traditional media to test and shape their ideas.

New Partnerships

Using different spokespeople to promote your brand isn’t new, influencers are just the more ‘modern’ approach. But breaking out of your brand’s reality bubble and committing to collaborating with unexpected partnerships, is where you can mix things up in a powerful way.

Look at the partnership between Mercedes and A$AP Rocky. If you look back ten years, you would never believe the conservative premium brand would ever want to be associated with a hip-hop superstar but this freshness is the sort of injection of life that will help keep the Mercedes brand relevant.

This partnership worked because the collaboration was authentic as both partners were committed to doing something deeper. A$AP styled the trim of a specific car and also designed a Mercedes clothing range, as well as featuring in their ‘Grow Up’ campaign.

Failure, Vulnerability and Creativity

To finish Brene Brown opened the conference talking about vulnerability. She is actually a shame researcher whose message was about unlocking a strong creative culture through vulnerability. If you want to create something, you need to be open and vulnerable to the possibility of failure.

Something that all creatives understand, is it takes a lot of bad ideas to find the one that shines but this shouldn’t be something restricted to the creative department alone. If you want your business to be innovative, dare the entire team to be brave, embrace failure and demonstrate vulnerability. That way your business can lead authentically.

If you want to learn more about the culture of creativity, check out Brene’s Netflix documentary ‘The Call to Courage’. It’s well worth a watch.


Those were four of our takeaways from SXSW that we think could help drive your innovation game. But, we did notice that the one element that truly underlies innovation is the human element. People are the reason we’re innovating in the first place, if you don’t think of them, you just end up with an innovative solution that doesn’t actually solve the problem.

That’s where we come in. Our role as a strategic marketing partner is to work with you to develop a strong, clear plan that drives innovation, make a difference and deliver results. So if you’d like to discuss how you could create a more innovative approach in your communications let’s talk.

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