Top 5 Marketing Takeaways from SXSW 2022

I had the opportunity to attend SXSW last week. The festival/conference hadn’t taken place for three years, so I was very excited to see what it would be like this time around.

Written by
Monique Lorette
September 26, 2023

I had the opportunity to attend SXSW last week. The festival/conference hadn’t taken place for three years, so I was very excited to see what it would be like this time around. Most people know SXSW as a music or film festival, but since 2008 it’s also been an interactive conference. Professionals primarily from marketing and tech gather to talk about emerging trends for the future. This year was taken over by NFTs and Web3, which is no surprise when one of the primary sponsors was Blockchain Creative Labs.

While I’m sure some of you are interested in those things, that’s not what I went to the conference to learn about. So, without further ado, here are my 5 marketing takeaways from SXSW 2022.

1. Content is King

Yes, we’ve been saying this for awhile but it’s as true as ever. The pieces of content per year from top influencers has skyrocketed. The mix of TikTok and the pandemic has provided an exponential increase in content. This means quantity is being increasingly important. It’s no longer enough to just have quality content.

This slide from Shama Hyder’s presentation on “Treacherous: 5 Marketing Lies We All Believe” was a powerful way to showcase this exponential growth and the new bar we’ve set as an industry.

2. The Best Marketing isn’t Trackable

We’ve been conditioned as marketers to measure. We track ROI, CTRs, CPCs, etc. But usually what actually works in marketing can’t be measured the way we want it to be. For example, there’s no strong correlation between CTRs (click thru rates) and ad recall, brand awareness, or purchase intent. But we love telling a client their CTR is strong because it means our audience clicked on our ad. That’s the goal, right??

Instead, we should be measuring conversion rates (duh) and share of voice. Who cares if someone clicked on your ad if they also saw 5x as many ads for your competitor. Who do you think they’ll remember?

“We have to forego the measurable for the meaningful” - Shama Hyder

3. Focus More on Acquisition than Loyalty

Wait, wait, wait. We know keeping customers is way cheaper than getting new customers. How could you say acquisition deserves more assets than loyalty?

Well, studies show loyalty is most often given to the market leader. People are easily influenced and it’s easy to agree with the masses. So, the goal should actually be to gain enough market share to be the market leader and naturally earn loyalty from your customers.

Churn is a natural process and you can’t control loyalty. You can control strong customer acquisition strategies that build up your customer base enough to be the market leader. Customers can only spend so much, but continuously building your customer base is the best way to earn loyalty.

4. Spend Big, Go Big

I wish this was about marketing budgets….but I’m actually talking about customer sentiment here. This was shared in a session about The Future of Travel, but I’m sure it applies in some other industries as well.

In travel specifically, large brands (American Airlines, TripAdvisor) are seeing a trend in longer, more expensive vacations. While the pandemic kept many people close to home, those that are traveling now are doing it more intentionally than ever. They’re taking their time and they’re having specific experiences, wellness and sustainable travel topping the list.

People are adding on personal trips to business trips and even upgrading to first class or the nicer room more often.

5. We’re Not Fully Back Yet

Less exciting, but needs to be shared. SXSW was the smallest it’s been in years. There were less speakers, less sessions, less artists, less films, etc. But mainly there were less attendees. It’s clear business travel isn’t fully back.

It’s also important to note that many brands did not make it back this year for activations. Instead, we saw a lot of domestic tourism boards, NFTs, and TV. For a conference that’s supposed to be future forward, it felt like the companies that showed up were there because of their success over the pandemic.

I can’t wait to see what SXSW 2023 has in store.