Originally Published in Arkansas Business
Leaving South by Southwest is always bittersweet. On one hand, I am always exhausted and ready to get back to Arkansas. On the other hand, I never want to leave the magic convergence of industry thought-leaders, practitioners, brand activations, bleeding-edge technology, music and film. Where else can you leave a Snap, Inc. party to attend a star-studded movie premiere after-party after having your mind blown by speakers you admire all day?
I went to 22 different sessions in a full week at SXSW, some better than others. The major trends this year can be summed up in one word: authenticity. Each session addressed authenticity in unique ways. Three main themes emerged: empathy, influencers and social justice on social media.
Empathy is defined as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experiences fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner” by Merriam-Webster. Simply put, empathy is a brand’s golden ticket to an emotional connection, leading to higher recall with its ads. Brands express empathy in many ways. It could be through 1:1 communication on messaging apps, or the use of AI analyze and personalize content. The most striking ways marketers infuse empathy into strategies are through psychology and storytelling.
Psychology and advertising have long been married in an inextricable way. As people become numb to the constant barrage of ads in their everyday life, advertisers use unique and compelling ways to not only have ads accepted, but to make them memorable. As humans wise up to age-old advertising tactics, brands can tell emotionally complex stories with ads that have a high value exchange with the viewer.
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