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As I mentioned in my kickoff post, we are hosting a series of blog interviews pre and post SXSW with speakers from our PreCommerce Summit (March 10) and Movers & Shapers Summit (March 12). Today’s interview is with the Kyle Flaherty, VP of Solutions Marketing at security company, Rapid7. Kyle spoke yesterday on the topic why marketers are easy targets for cyber security breaches. To say that it was eye-opening would be an understatement.a - KyleFlaherty

Before we jump into our interview, here’s a little bit more about Kyle. According to LinkedIn, Kyle is a “technology marketing executive [who has] worked with early-stage startups to $1 billion+ high-growth companies changing the worlds of big data, IoT, BYOD, SaaS, open source software, network security, fraud detection, data analytics, marketing automation, and network management. Known for launching high profile technology startups, with four successful exits, [his] passion is to not only message technology and brand an organization, but build award-winning marketing teams that work in lock-step to rapidly produce marketing campaigns that drive measurable results to impact the bottom line.

Now on to the interview:

  1. Aaron: How do you define innovation?
    Kyle: The word innovation is so overused it’s makes me nauseous to even think about the definition. Honestly we must start to think way beyond innovation and start thinking about technology aiding human life; what I call human-driven alteration (well I didn’t invent the words, just the use). For two decades we’ve seen a rise in ‘innovation for innovation’, with technology being spit out that does pointless things like order us more Amazon boxes via a mysterious cylinder cone in the corner of our house. That’s not what I call innovation, it’s laziness masked as technology. The next few years will see a good healthy dose of closure around pointless and directionless innovation, instead a focus will be held on pragmatic uses for technology that will actually make us more secure, our earth cleaner, and our bodies more healthy. That’s what I call alteration.
  2. Aaron: What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
    Kyle: Working in security the past two decades I’ve seen my fair share of “innovative” introductions and great new technologies. Yet we are now in an era where we are more insecure than ever. We have all been hit by data breaches, and if you think you haven’t it’s simply because you don’t know yet. One of the reasons is that our industry often times focused from the outside in, building a stronger or smarter firewall, rather than helping to amplify the talents of security pros to make them smarter or more talented — because we all know the attackers can get past the preventive security solutions. I recently joined Rapid7 because they have a vision of creating products that have the human-being in mind, not simply the bits and bytes. Our entire mission is to build technology that restores confidence and control back to the security team, and ultimately back to the business.
  3. Aaron: Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire? Why?
    Kyle: Jennifer Leggio, a mutual friend of ours. Fortunately I met “Mediaphyter” many moons ago when she just happened to sit in on a webcast I was doing for a PR agency about this new-fangled technology called Twitter. Ever since that time we’ve crossed paths and have even been able to do some work together in the security industry. Jen is a rock star in our community and has taught me that it’s not enough to just know marketing, you have to understand the community that makes up security because not only is it truly unique, it will feed your soul. I consider myself blessed to have her as a contemporary and a friend.
  4. Aaron: Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
    Kyle: In the next few years the security industry will begin to understand that we can no longer prevent attacks, and thus the era of rapid detection, fed by user behavior analytics, will take hold. As we move into the 5 to 10 year frame we will actually see the security teams begin to better mesh with their contemporaries in IT as they understand their shared resource of the data that courses thorough their company and the ability to harness it so that security becomes only necessary for incident response, and IT is now handling the rest. That would be a monumental achievement if it can happen.
  5. What book are you reading right now? How did you choose it?
    Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders. I’m trying to better understand the effect different foods have in my body, not only so that I’m not a big lard ass, but also how it changes my moods, triggers my Psoriasis and arthritis, and more. It’s a fascinating, and often times disgusting, read.
  6. For fun: what three things would you make sure you brought with you in a zombie apocalypse?
    Kyle: Chuck Hemann, Pops, and a bottle of great bourbon.

Thank you Kyle. Good choices for the zombie apocalypse. I’ve heard that that Pops is a really zombie killer.

Our PreCommerce Summit started off our events with a bang. Hard to believe, but 2016 marks the 6th annual version of the summit. We built it around a series of 10-minute Ted-style talks, and rounded it out with a few panel discussions and a couple of fireside chats.

These discussions featured insights from executives and leadership from some of our top clients and partners. It’s a view into what’s next, the technology that’s impacting all of us, how its changing business, as well as other aspects of our lives outside of work.

  • Lord Peter Chadlington, Founder of Shandwick and Huntsworth Group; See Lord Chadington’s preview interview here.
    Lord Peter Chadington discussed global communications trends with our own Bob Pearson. In terms of global trends, Peter pointed out that 50% of the world’s population have just started getting access to the Internet.  Lord Chadlington is someone who’s dedicated much of his work to politics and shared his thoughts on the impact that social media is having on politics. According to research they did in the UK, 72% said social media and the Internet made them more involved in politics. They feel empowered. You can watch Bob’s interview with Lord Chadlington at about 33:15 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amy von Walter, EVP Global Communications and Public Relations, Toys ‘R’ Us
    During Aaron’s introduction, he shared the news that Amy is now EVP at Toys ‘R’ Us. Amy gave a powerful talk about first impressions. She’s passionate about encouraging confidence in her employees. It’s an extension of her confidence which comes from her experiences overcoming first impressions.  And she’s an expert there, based on her reality of being from South Korea and raised in Minnesota by her adopted parents. She referenced the work of Dr. Hendrie Weisenger’s about the many ways you can build confidence. You can watch Amy’s session at 58:04 in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Manny Kostas, SVP and Global Head of Platforms & Future Technology, HP
    Manny discussed breaking through silos to get into more conversations with customers. He’s a person with unique perspective since he’s been CMO at both Symantec and a division of HP and now he’s responsible for 3,000 engineers working to reinvent HP’s printer business. Manny’s passionate about not imposing our business structure on our customers, which breaks the dialog with our customers. You can watch Manny’s session at about the 1:07 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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Before the first panel, my friend and someone I really respect, Robert Scoble joined Aaron on stage to share his recent news that he will be joining UploadVR as their Entrepreneur in Residence. All the best to you in the new gig Robert. Your early work at your Channel 9 days at Microsoft and you (and Shel’s) book Naked Conversations helped me prepare for taking the reins as Dell’s chief blogger back in 2006, Onward and upward, my friend! You can watch Scoble’s news at about the 1:24 mark in the PreCommerce livestream. Thanks to Jeremiah Owyang for the live pic.

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  • Susan Glasser, Editor in Chief, Politico and Peter Cherukuri, EVP Audience Solutions & President, Politico
    Susan and Peter discussed the evolution of sponsored content. Interesting perspective from the two of them and how they’ve made a new publishing model work for Politico. To do it, they re-invented what it means to be an online news platform in an era where journalistic speed a given in the space. That meant diving deep into new types of stories and experiences to stay ahead of their competition. You can watch their session at about the 2:16 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • David Kirkpatrick, CEO, Techonomy, author of The Facebook Effect and Graham Weston, Founder/Chairman, Rackspace
    David sat down with Graham to get his take on where the cloud was headed. Before jumping into the conversation, Graham took a minute to thanks Robert Scoble for his 7 years at Rackspace. Rackspace is a $2B company who provides cloud infrastructure and integration services for AWS and Azure clients. His company’s still focused on providing “fanatical” support in the midst of a changing competitive landscape. Lastly, David asked Graham about his considerable community efforts in the city of San Antonio and beyond. You can watch their fireside chat about the 2:47 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Jeremiah Owyang, Founder/CEO, Crowd Companies
    My good friend Jeremiah spent a few minutes getting into the future of Crowd business models. He shared examples of how the collaborative economy is already disrupting traditional businesses and also shared his take on how it would evolve moving forward . Key takeaways 1) Common digital technologies empower people to get what they need from each other. 2) The crowd is becoming like a company—bypassing  inefficient corporations. 3) Like the Internet and social, corporations must use the same digital strategies to regain relevancy 4) This requires a business model change: Product>Service>Marketplace>Repeat. You can watch Jeremiah’s session at about the 4:08 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Greg McCullough, Senior Director Partnerships, Medtronic and Gail Day, VP, Publisher Harvard Business Review
    Greg and Gail sat down to discuss what’s next in brand/ media partnerships. Gail attributed part of HBR’s success to the organization’s commitment to a goal to rid the world of bad management. That focus also extends to their partnerships. They’re strict about working with their brand, and that’s why they choose to work with limited partners. Medtronic was one of those partners. Their collaboration resulted iYou can watch their session at about the 4:31 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Becky Brown, VP Digital Marketing & Media Group, Intel
    Becky spent a few minutes discussing The New Digital. Becky reiterated that marketers are all aware of consumers’ aversion to ads—look no further than ad blockers and the fact that they are willing to pay a premium for services without ads. Intel is answering this co-creating with companies like Buzzfeed and Mashable. And now, taking that idea with new ESPN where they integrated technology into the X Games, which allowed both companies to create new kinds of content. And they are building on the success of their online magazine called Intel IQ, where they will introduce original programming next month. You can watch Becky at about the 5:28 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amy Hoopes, CMO, Wente Vineyards
    Amy took some time to discuss how user experience is becoming the new marketing. The family Amy works for has been in the wine industry for 133 years, in the Livermore Valley area of California. They were always good at making great wines. To understand the history of Wente Vineyards, Amy did extensive interviews with the family. Through that research, it was clear that the Wente family had been doing many innovative things, like operating a full-service white tablecloth restaurant that recently celebrated it’s 30th birthday. Amy talked about here SMS strategy: Simplify, Motivate and Share. You can watch Amy’s session at about the 5:43 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • The third panel of the day, All Hype Aside featured 1) Michael Putnam, SVP Consumer Marketing, AmericanWell 2) Lorie Fiber, Global Corporate Communications, IBM Health and 3) Jeroen Brouwer Director of Marketing, Sales and Business Development, Philips
    Our own Rob Cronin moderated this esteemed panel of guests to discuss how digital health will impact our lives in the future. You can watch the panel discussion at about the 6:20 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Alex Gruzen, CEO, WiTricity Corporation
    Alex discussed the future of wireless charging and how it will impact us with all the smart devices we carry with us every day. When he says wireless, he means it. Their technology doesn’t require a charging pad to be plugged into on outlet. It’s about moving power over a distance. WiTricity Corporation’s technology works with all kinds of devices: from Bluetooth headsets, to laptops and tablets, and event electric cars. You can watch Alex’s session at about the 6:56 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amber Naslund, SVP Marketing & Chief Evangelist, Sysomos
    Amber used her time to discuss the Future  of Analytics: Social Data and Beyond. She started by talking about how much customer expectations have changed. They expect answers in 30 – 60 mins, and they also expect those answers on nights and weekends. She  also talked about how creative design is even more important as a way to reach customers. Then, she discussed the importance of bridging the gap between data scientists and marketers or communicators. Analytics is currently a specialized skillset. But back in the 50s, typing was a job that was done via dedicated employees. Amber argued that data analysis will ultimately become a core skill just like typing did. You can watch Amber’s session at about the 7:10  mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Shiv Singh, SVP Global Head of Digital & Marketing Transformation, Visa
    Shiv discussed how to open source your brand.  He started with a simple but painful premise: that customers don’t trust your brand. And then he offered examples of how Visa reached out to the startup community for innovative ideas. One outcome: they are opening up the Visa network as an API for developers. You can watch their session at about the 7:20 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Hugh Forrest, Director, SXSW Interactive and John Battelle, CEO of NewCo and co-founder of Wired Magazine & The Industry Standard
    This fireside chat was a blast. John interviewed Hugh on the past, present and future of SXSW. See my earlier blog post here for a much more detailed summary of that lively discussion. The interview covered a lot of ground. My favorite quote from Hugh? “TED is this finely curated meal. And that’s wonderful. [SXSW] is a 24-hour all-you can eat buffet, and that’s wonderful at times too.” You can watch Hugh Forrest’s interview at about the 7:40 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Make sure to tune into W2O Group’s Movers & Shapers event.

 

Out of all the great speakers that took part in W2O Group’s 2016, PreCommerce Summit, the fireside chat between Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive Festival and NewCo CEO John Battelle was one that I personally was most excited to hear about. Though it’s huge now, it didn’t start that way. Beginning a few years ago, it surpassed the music festival in terms of attendees—a trend that continues in 2015 and probably beyond.

Hearing the humble beginnings (Interactive started as the SXSW Multimedia festival in 1994… anyone rememeber CD-ROMs? Heh!) from Hugh’s perspective to what it’s grown into now (Hugh expects about 35,000 will attend Interactive this year) was worth the wait in my book. He covers a lot of the history and the evolution of the festival. And maybe next year we can expect a single ticket for all SXSW? And BTW, Mr. Robot fans can check out the Ferris wheel(!) on 4th and Congress.

If you want to watch John’s interview of Hugh, tune into the #SXW2O livestream at just about the 7 hour 40 minute mark.

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Here’s an edited summary of the Q&A between John and Hugh.

Q: When was the first year of SXSW Interactive?

A: The Music part started in 1987. In 1994, we added SXSW Multimedia because we thought multimedia was the future back then. With CD-ROMs, there was a lot of potential there, wasn’t there? 🙂

Q: In 1994, how many people attended?

A: That first year, we combined it with the Film part, so it was SXSW Film and Multimedia. If you counted all the volunteers, we had about 1,000 attendees combined. We thought at the time it was a good first showing. After that, we split it into two separate events, one for Film and the other for Multimedia. In the startup world you have concept known as the Valley of Death. For startups that survive, it’s usually a period of  about a year to 18 months. We had about a 10-year Valley of Death, where we were really struggling to find our voice, to find our market to understand what we were doing. The reason we survived during that 10 years was  of the success of the SXSW Music event. It was paying the bills during that time. If we’d have been a standalone event, we would not have survived that difficult period.

Q: During that period, did you have a lot of difficult meetings where people thought. Maybe this multimedia thing isn’t working. Did they ever think: maybe we should just stop doing it?

A: Many things keep me humble. This was one of them. I remember an above the banner headline in the Austin American Statesman from 1998 that was something like “Excitement Coming to Austin: Music, Film, Rodeo, Multimedia!” No disrespect to the Austin Rodeo, it’s a cool event. But we were slightly below that. In terms of meetings, it was more me wondering to my boss, why are we doing this Multimedia thing? It doesn’t make any sense. We can’t find our audience. The Music festival brings the rockstars from all over the world. We’ve got this film event that brings in movie stars, and all I’ve got is a bunch of geeks.

Q: When did it tip?

A: Certainly the biggest tipping point was 2007 with Twitter. But, we started to see a little bit of an uptick in growth in 2004. A keynote speaker that year was a guy named Jonathan Abrams from Friendster.  I had seen him on a late night TV show, and I thought this guys kind of interesting, let’s try to get him for SXSW. He turned out to offend about half the audience. That’s a common theme in many of our keynotes.

John: I remember in the early keynotes, those people in the audience were really quick to tell you if they weren’t pleased with what you were saying.

Hugh: Are you saying that from personal experience?

John: I’m saying it from watching it happen to someone I interviewed onstage. I don’t remember all the specifics, but that person answered a question and got hisses and jeers from the audience.

Hugh: It’s a tough crowd, not like this one… Jonathan’s keynote in 2004… when he offended some people here coincidentally or not, that was about when Friendster hit it’s peak uaage in the US. I think it is still popular in Asia. But that was our first real foray into social media. Who could have known in 2004? I mean, in retrospect it makes sense, but we didn’t know back then that social media was going to be such a big deal, so much a part of our lives. Many things contributed to our eventual growth after 10 years of non-growth. I would say that startups and social media are two of the biggest things. Again, particularly Twitter in 2007 [was the big turning point]. The irony of the Twitter story is Ev and Biz have always credited SXSW as the place they launched, but the fact is they actually launched about 6 months earlier. Thanks to both of them for that.

John: I know I wasn’t there that year, but I was following what was going on, somehow, before Twitter… maybe e-mail. Everyone was talking about Twitter. I knew it, because I knew Ev, but it became a big deal here…

Hugh: Yes.

Q: So, how many people are copmong this year

A: Probably about 35,000 total.

John: So about 35x growth, with most of it coming in the last 10 years?

Hugh: We were lucky enough to experience a hockey-stick level growth from about 2004 – 2014. It leveled off at that point simply because we really hit capacity in Austin. There were some years where the growth numbers were crazy. On the one hand you’re happy after not growing, after struggling so much for so many years. But it’s just as mystifying [to think] why are we growing now when we couldn’t grow before?  Now, it’s the challenges of growth, of scale, of trying to retain the user experience that helped growth is very significant in and of itself.

Q: What year did the marketers show up?

A: You should ask these guys in the crowd… they’re the ones who know.

Q: The startups obviously caught on at some point. Was there a tip to that piece?

A: There wasn’t a Twitter-like tip there, but again, Twitter just changed things so much for us. More startups wanted to come to SXSW to be like Twitter, more venture capitalists came looking got the next Twitter. Branding and Marketing people wanted to come to discover the next big thing before their competitors did. Twitter was 2007. 2009 was Gowalla… remember them? And 4square actually launching the same day at SXSW.

John: Yeah, it was like a duel for the location-based services with the local favorite, less highly-funded Gowalla.

Hugh: Right. And Gowalla is in the digital graveyard at this point. What’s interesting here and even going back last year to Meerkat is the products, apps, services, startups that get the most buzz out of SXSW are the ones that help people digest SXSW. Twitter got so much use because people used it to find which parties their friends were going to, where they were eating breakfast or lunch, what panels they were going to… it helped the crowd digest a large event. Same thing with 4square and Gowalla… and Meerkat. You can broadcast you’re in a session that’s great or horrible. It’s simple, but it can be complex. If you want the most buzz at SXSW, figure out something that helps people better digest the event.

Q: Do you see anything this year that is an emerging possibility to break out the way those did?

A: It’s interesting on the eve of their one year success at SXSW, that Meerkat announced that they were pivoting, essentially changing direction, changing business models. Facebook Live is certainly doing a big push here, and it’s essentially an updating of that type of app. Again, we’re seeing more functionality with mobile devices that take advantage of increased broadband in terms of personal broadcasting. I think that if something breaks out, it could be that. We were surprised as anyone that Meerkat got so much buzz at SXSW. It was a perfect storm for them. I remember the Apple Watch press conference had been on Monday before SXSW. People were using it there, it got featured on Product Hunt. It had some buzz going into the event. It kind of broke all the rules that we thought had become rules in the sense that it didn’t have a whole lot of money, was a relatively small startup, and all the sudden it got huge traction out of the event. The common wisdom at that point was that SXSW had grown so big… to rise above the noise you have to have a huge budget, it’s impossible to do. But again, something that hits that sweet spot that helps registrants better absorb, digest or discover the event is what popped. Who knows if that will happen this year?

Q: How has Interactive grown compared to Film and Music and is it the muscle that’s driving the business as much as Music was before?

A; Interactive is the biggest industry portion of the event in terms of people buying badges. The tables have turned around from 15 years ago. Part of that growth came from people who were buying badges for Music started buying badges for Interactive to understand how they could navigate the change in the [music] content industry. Over the last 15 years, geeks have become the rock stars. That narrative of Mark Zuckerberg dropping out of Harvard, creating a startup, getting crazy rich… that so much powers the startup ecosystem, the startup mindset of people much younger than us doing cool stuff out there.

Q: Has Interactive has kind of consumed the film and entertainment industry?

Hugh: Is this your Marc Andreessen moment where you say software is eating the world?

Q: I notice you have a Convergence Track where you’re sewing the two together. So people who have both (Film and Interactive) badges can go to both?

A: Yes. We have more and more convergence stuff that tries to bring these industries together. The idea being that 25 years ago,  it was easy to tell the difference between Music and Film, and this weird thing called Multimedia. Now, years later it is all so interwoven and blended together. We argue, discuss converse within our staff: if you have a session about a YouTube or Vine star. Is that Interactive because they’re using technology? No it’s film because they are the film stars of 2016. Or it’s Music a song that way. These lines are completely blurred at this point.

Q: Will it come to the point that you just sell one ticket to the whole deal?

A: That’s a pretty good idea, John.

Q: So will we hear about that more next year?

A: I’m saying there’s a lot of good ideas that come out of this event on March 10 right?

Q: What lessons do you have for marketers or brands who are looking to make the most at SXSW?

A: We’ve seen lots of interesting, crazy, fun, weird promotions at SXSW over the years. This year it’s the Ferris Wheel on 4th and Congress creating the buzz. But the things that will create the most buzz with this audience. the visual trend setters, the forward thinkers, the people with huge social media followings  are things that help people better absorb the event. We’ve been lucky to have automobile sponsors like Chevy and Mazda. The thing they do best? Provide rides to people. That solves a problem for people since it’s so difficult to get around. The program was called Catch a Chevy and they provided free rides to people. That’s where they got the most buzz out of the event.

Q: Without naming names, I’ve seen some [brand] activations that seem a bit off… do you or a team approve how marketers get to activate?

A: We’ve taking a much more active role here.. in the wake of some activations that weren’t quite right.

John: Can you give us examples?

Hugh: No, there are too many people tweeting in here. I don’t want to do that. But we do try to give brands guidelines to help them be successful here. As the event has gotten bigger, we know there is more noise. Now, rising above that noise is always a challenge. It’s harder and harder for a brand or startup like Meerkat to gain traction. A story that I still love is that when foursquare launched when we thought location-based apps were the next big thing, the promotion that Dennis Crowley did was he drew a four square with a piece of chalk outside the Convention Center. He was playing foursquare with people.  I mean you’re playing four square with the founder of foursquare. It wasn’t reaching huge numbers of people, but it was reaching people who could create buzz about it. It’s harder to do that now since we are more strict about brands using chalk on the sidewalk, but…

John: Admit it. This year, you would have kicked Dennis off the sidewalk.

Hugh: I like Dennis. I wouldn’t kick him off. Maybe others.

Q: What people find most valuable are the vast number of get-togethers that happen all over town. So much good stuff. What’s your point of view? Is there an official view toward the unofficial side of SXSW?

A: We are much more aggressive in terms of trying to control unofficial events. That’s mainly due to safety, since we take safety more seriously than some of the pop-up events do. As organizers, we try to bring those unofficial things in. But, most attendees can’t tell the difference between what’s official or unofficial. Attendees know, I went to Austin, had a great time at SXSW, went to a party, met great people, I made connections, I got business opportunities out of it, it was a worthwhile experience. It’ s a cops and robbers game. As soon as we bring them in, other unofficial things come up.

Q: SXSW really lights up the city.

A: It does take over the city. That’s a good thing for a lot of people. But lots of people don’t like this week because it’s a huge traffic disruption. For many years, some will tell me, “I’m not a huge fan of SXSW, but I rent my place out via Airbnb that week, so you paid for my vacation. There’s a thriving under-the-radar economy there.

Q: Lastly, tell us the story about President Obama speaking here:

A: We have been working, cultivated relationships in the White House, particularly in the Obama administration, for many, many years. There have been speakers from the White House who have participated in panels, other speakers who’ve moved onto the White House. We’ve had pretty strong context there. There has been interest in previous years, but the timing didn’t quite work out. This year it did work out… I will say that the White House was very easy to work with throughout this process. There was very positive conversations. It wasn’t confirmed until we announced it last week, so we were sweating it out. I’ve said before that in the State of the Union address in January this year, the president mentioned Austin, at one point, while talking about startups.

Q: What’s President Obama going to talk about?

A: He’s going to talk about 21st century civic engagement. That geeks should go to Washington D.C., help reinvent government, help make it more efficient and effective. I think it’s a really good message for SXSW. We’ve pushed community good social causes for a while, and this fits well into that. That said, we also know a lot of the audience isn’t particularly political and believes that the government doesn’t understand technology all that well. They’ll be somewhat skeptical of this message.

Questions from the audience:

Jessica Federer, Global Head of Comms and PR Bayer Healthcare Animal Health:

Question for John: Are we going to ever see NewCo Austin together with SXSW?

A: We avoided SXSW. I’ll tell a story. I thought in 2007 or 2008, I noticed marketers were coming to SXSW when I was with Federated Media and we were doing events. One of them was called Signal. I actually called it Signal SXSW. Big mistake. I had Marissa Mayer come and asked other people to come a day early. It was kind of like the PreCommerce Summit. I reached out to Hugh. We worked it out. I changed the name to Signal Austin. Ever since that time I was one of the unofficial events and I was making such a bad mistake… Fortunately, I got pulled into the tent. From that point on I made sure I got Hugh’s permission and that I didn’t schedule anything around SXSW. Now, NewCo Austin will happen in July.

Rohit Bharghava, CEO & Founder, Influential Marketing Group

Question for Hugh: With so much activity in terms of content sessions, are you looking at the TED kind of model of making video stream recordings available?

A: We do record audio of the sessions and make them available as podcasts after the event. We’re doing more with livestreaming. TED is this finely curated meal. And that’s wonderful. [SXSW] is a 24-hour all-you can eat buffet, and that’s wonderful at times too. Presentations and panels are great, but ultimately what people come to events to meet other people, make connections, have face-to-face conversations that happen outside the panels, at the bar, happy hour. Panels are just the hook to get people in and to market the thing.

As I mentioned in my kickoff post, we will host a series of blog interviews over the next two weeks with speakers from our upcoming PreCommerce Summit (March 10) and Movers & Shapers Summit (March 12). Today’s interview is with Lord Peter Chadlington, former CEO of Huntsworth and founder/former Chairman of Shandwick Int. Peter will sit down with our own, Bob Pearson, at the PreCommerce Summit on Thursday, March 10 for a fireside chat focused on global digital trends in EMEA.a - Peter Chadlington

According to Peter’s LinkedIn profile, he has spent his “entire working life in communications, as a journalist after graduating from Cambridge University and later in Public Relations both in-house and consultancy. [He] founded Shandwick in 1974, which [he] then developed into the largest PR consultancy in the UK, holding that position for 17 years. [He] built the firm overseas and sold it to The Interpublic Group of Companies in 1998, forming the group that became the largest PR consultancy in the world. ” Some of the skills he’s been endorsed for by his peers are public relations and business strategy.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into our six questions:

  1. Aaron: How do you define innovation?
    Peter: An improved or new solution that adds value – it could be totally new idea, a marginal improvement, or something more radical that disrupts a market.
  2. Aaron: What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
    Peter: Leaders can influence by setting the tone for how risk taking will be tolerated …and as importantly, how failure will be managed.
  3. Aaron: Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire? Why?
    Peter: Baroness Martha Lane Fox. She epitomizes my motto ‘never give up’! She is a successful entrepreneur, charity campaigner …and a wonderful person!
  4. Aaron: Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
    Peter: The boundaries between the traditional marketing elements will continue to blur and at the same time there will be increasing specialization in specific areas, like analytics.
  5. Aaron: What book are you reading right now? How did you choose it?
    Peter: I’m re-reading The Spark by Kristine Barnett. It’s amazing what the human brain can do!
  6. For fun: what three things would you make sure you brought with you in a zombie apocalypse?
    My family! My Ferrari and an endless supply of crumpets with marmite.

We look forward to hearing more from you this week Peter. And in the meantime, marmite lovers UNITE!

As I mentioned in my kickoff post, we will host a series of blog interviews over the next two weeks with speakers from our upcoming PreCommerce Summit (March 10) and Movers & Shapers Summit (March 12). Today’s interview is with long time friend, author and Principal Analyst at Altimeter, Brian Solis. Brian will be doing a featured fireside chat at our Movers & Shapers event on Saturday. His session is will be right after lunch at approximately 1:15 PM CT.
a - BrianSolis

According to Brian’s LinkedIn profile, he is “globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders, speakers, and published authors in new technology, digital marketing and culture shifts. His new book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, explores the importance of experiences and how to design them for customers, employees and human beings everywhere. Solis also designed the book to be an experience as a physical example of what’s possible when you take a step back to rethink products, services and models in a new economy (and world).” Some of the skills he’s been endorsed for by his peers are social media, digital strategy and marketing.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into our five questions:

    1. Aaron: How do you define innovation?
      Brian: I believe we live in a time where we need a balance of iteration and innovation to break free from “business as usual.”
      – Iteration is doing the same things better.
      – Innovation is doing new things that creates new value.
      – Disruption is doing new things that make the old things obsolete.
    2. Aaron: What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
      Brian: I start by observing technology’s impact on business and society. I then look at how behavior, expectations and values are evolving. I study problems and approaches to solving them. I also study how innovation plays out in terms of challenges, opportunities, successes, people, etc. I then share my perspective on everything in the form of research reports, books and speeches to inspire people to drive change.
    3. Aaron: Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire? Why?
      Brian: I admire anyone in any organization stepping outside of their roles to take on the great task of change. It’s political. It can be demeaning. It’s frustrating. It makes you want to quit. But it is because of these people that any form of transformation can see the light of day.
    4. Aaron: Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
      Brian: Change is now a constant. Disruption is now a choice. We either disrupt ourselves or the gift of disruption is given to us. Here are some of the things I’m thinking about over the next 10 years (also embedded below).
    5. Aaron: For fun: what three things would you make sure you brought with you in a zombie apocalypse?
    • Milla Jovovich aka Alice
    • Water
    • Perishables
    • Tools/supplies
    • Documentation
    • First aid supplies
    • Effective weapons
    • Delorean

Okay, that’s eight. But always a good choice to pick more rather than less. And smart vehicle choice with the Delorean. Assume that’s because it runs on nuclear power.

As some of you know, we host a series of events leading up to (and slightly overlapping) SXSW Interactive. Two of our most popular events are our PreCommerce Summit held on Thursday, March 10 and our new(ish) Movers & Shapers event on Saturday, March 12. Both feature a variety of brand leaders and thought partners — all focusing on how business is changing. Or put in simpler terms, innovation.

Over the next two weeks, I will feature a variety of those speakers here. First up is from Mark Young who is the CMO of Sysomos, one of this year’s premier sponsors and a close partner of W2O Group’s. I’ve asked each of our speakers the same five questions (plus a fun/bonus question). Of course some will adjust the questions to be more germane to their talks/business but ideally at least in the neighborhood of what I asked.

Here’s the list so far along with a few I know who will be contributing over the next couple of days:

  • Mark Young, CMO, Sysomos [interview here]
  • Javier Boix, Senior Director, StoryLab, AbbVie  [interview here]
  • Brian Solis, Author & Principal Analyst, Altimeter [interview here]
  • Lord Peter Chadlington, former CEO of Huntsworth PLC and founder/former Chairman of Shandwick Int, PLC [interview here]
  • Chris Heuer, CEO of Alynd and founder of Will Someone [interview here]
  • Patrick Moorhead, Founder of Moor Insights & Strategy [interview here]
  • Julie Borlaug, Associate Director, Borlaug Institute [interview here]
  • Kyle Flaherty, VP Solutions Marketing, Rapid7 [interview here]
  • Amy von Walter, VP, Best Buy
  • Alex Gruzen, CEO, WiTricity
  • Manny Kostas, SVP and Global Head of Platforms & Future Technology, HP

It is that time of year again… South by Southwest (SXSW). Once again, our company will be hosting some awesome events leading up to (and slightly overlapping with) SXSW Interactive. For those not familiar, SXSW is a giant conference/festival comprised of three parts: Interactive, Film and Music. Given the importance of Interactive or “digital” to our clients’ business, we take this opportunity to invite many of our clients and partners to town to learn, network and celebrate.

Recap video from our awesome 2015 events

Our signature event, the PreCommerce Summit, takes place on Thursday, March 10 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is packed with speakers from well-known brands like Bayer, Hewlett Packard, Best Buy, Medtronic, Intel and Overstock.com. We will also have thought leaders from companies like Techonomy, Politico, NewCo and Crowd Companies providing a look at what the future holds in store. This event focuses squarely on innovation and its fast-paced formats (10 to 20 minute TED-like talks, power panels and pithy fireside chats) allow for learning on steroids. And of course there is the networking.

This event will be attended by about 450 plus customers, partners and other industry thought leaders. A cocktail reception will follow with special WILCO side project, Autumn Defense. The event is complementary, but invite only. If you are interested in attending, please email us at info@w2ogroup.com. In that email, be sure to provide name, title and company. We will also be live streaming the event if you can’t physically be there. Registration is open to the public.

In addition to PreCommerce, we also host a digital brunch at our swank offices located in East Austin. If you like food trucks, cold-brewed coffee, music, cocktails, cool demos and lost of interesting people, you will enjoy this. We have also ordered sunny weather so this is a good opportunity to work on your tan.

Every SXSW, we do our best to cover “what’s next” in the world of  business. This year, we’re planning to host an event called “Movers and Shapers” (formerly GeekFest) on Saturday at CB’s (the new VIP event space at Stubbs) from 10:00 A.M – 2:00 P.M. Speakers include senior level marketers and thought leaders from companies like Intel, AbbVie, Galderma, Techonomy and Bayer. Featured speakers will include Ray Kerins, SVP Comms. & Govt. Relations at Bayer and Robert Scoble, Futurist at Rackspace.

In addition to these three amazing events, we will also host our seventh annual Geekacue Saturday night at iconic Stubbs BBQ on Red River. This year, we’ve booked Red Bull Sound Select artist, Not in the Face along with new festival darling, Black Pistol Fire (check out their video below).

If you need more proof that these events are amazing, check out my 2015 wrap up post.

Eventbrite links/details for each event (official link to our events pages here):

Thursday, March 10th: Sixth Annual PreCommerce Summit –  It will be a series of 10 minute TED-style talks, panels, and fire side chats.

  • Eventbrite here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Topfer Theatre at Zach — 202 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
  • Sessions run 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.
  • Cocktail Hour from 5:00-6:00PM featuring band, Autumn Defense
  • Live stream available for those not able to attend coming soon
  • Complementary but invite only.

PreCommerce 2016 Speakers Include:

Friday, March 11th: Digital Brunch (350+ director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (no password required)
  • 3000 East Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX
  • 10:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M.
  • Food trucks, music, innovative demos, coffee, brunch, and mimosa/Bloody Marys to fuel your first festival day
  • Shuttles available from the Stephen F. Austin Hotel starting at 9:45am

Saturday, March 12th: Movers & Shapers Summit (150 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (password required — email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Stubbs BBQ — VIP area called CB’s — 801 Red River St, Austin, TX

Movers & Shapers Summit Speakers Include:

7th Annual Geekacue: Saturday, March 12th:  (800 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Stubbs BBQ – 801 Red River St, Austin, TX
  • 6:00 P.M. – 10:00 P.M.
  • Roundtrip shuttle available from the Stephan F. Austin Hotel starting at 4:45 PM

As you can imagine, space is limited at these events so please make sure to RSVP soon. And if you do RSVP and decide after that you can’t make it, please be courteous and let us/me know that your slot is available.

We are over-the-moon excited to have Bayer and SysomosDynamic Signal, Synthesio as our sponsors this year. We greatly appreciate their support.

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It’s rare that we have an opportunity to find out more about what makes CMOs tick, and more importantly to share what’s on their minds. Today, we had the rare privilege of having our W2o Group President and Chief Innovation Officer, Bob Pearson, sit down with three marketing leaders at Overstock.com, Interstate Batteries and Accel Partners at the Holmes Report’s In2Summit.

Here are quick questions and answers (with a huge infusion of wisdom) from Natalie Malaszenko (Overstock), Dorothy Jones (Interstate Batteries) and Larry Yu (Accel). Enjoy!

in2summit panel pic

 

Background and Thoughts on Being a CMO

Natalie: Over my career I have realized the importance of following my heart. Early on, I underestimated how important it was to be happy and passionate about your work. Having that alignment with your job is critical to getting to the next level. During my time at Hewlett Packard, I also learned how important it was to stay focused. Ignore the politics. Do a great job and concentrate on leading the people you lead courageously.

Dorothy: I have led marketing in three very diverse business. My key learning over those three opportunities has been to work with a purpose and to maintain a work life balance. It took me taking two years off to really understand what I wanted to do. During that time, I realized I had a choice regarding the people I wanted to work with/for.

Larry: The length of time people stay at organizations has changed. Making sure that you are picking companies to work for on paper as much as you are picking the people you will work for is underestimated. I’ll talk more about this later but during my early days of Facebook, it was clear that Facebook had a real mission and I now realize the criticality of this to a successful company.

Scouting Emerging Talent (Keys to)

  • No “one type” of marketer. Key to find story tellers. (Natalie)
  • Find people that have flexibility and multidisciplinary experience. Other key is leadership. Can’t teach people to have drive or to think ten steps ahead. When you see the raw gem, you take it. (Dorothy)
  • I have a communications background with a marketing title which speaks to the ambiguity of marketing these days. I like to look at people’s ability to take in data and translate that into the best possible story. Problem solving is also a needed skill. Do employees have the mental agility to figure things out? (Larry)

As we shift toward digital, what are we learning?

  • Everything is measurable which is a good and bad thing. And we are now looking at experience and journey versus single channels/pathways. Sometimes we can over-analyze and make the wrong decisions. (Natalie)
  • Data is your friend. But you can spin it however you want. And Digital is changing so rapidly, it’s critical to stay on top of it/out ahead of it. The whole purchase life cycle has changed. It is more important than ever to be in tune with what’s happening. Brand trust/positive sentiment can change overnight. I learned this firsthand at Susan G. Komen. (Dorothy)
  • How do you protect certain brand assets online? Example: trying to update your company’s logo on Wikipedia. (Larry)

What do you read? How do you learn?

  • I never miss an opportunity to learn from m,y network. At the same time, time is precious. I can’t read my daily “8,000” emails. Instead, I rely on my team to help me filter/seek out the most relevant topical ideas and news. (Dorothy)
  • When I am teaching classes/companies, I tell teams that if you aren’t willing to say, “I don’t know the answer,” you aren’t really learning. (Bob)
  • I ask experts, “who are three other people I should meet/talk to” about a particular topic. I also leans on social/aggregators to stay abreast of current topics. I have also found out how important it is to pick the people with whom you spend your time. (Larry)
  • Everything impacts ecommerce these days (Superbowl, Star Wars, David Bowie’s death so I am a student of pop culture. I also study business people intensely. (Natalie)

Additional Keys to Picking Best Talent

  • Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. (Natalie)
  • Keep language simple and being mindful of not using terms like, “change management” while doing change management (it’s construed as a negative term). I also think about using language I would use with my grandmother who was not college educated to explain things. (Dorothy)
  • Great leaders keep messages clear and simple to make them understandable and repeatable. (Bob)
  • Organizations are very decentralized these days. People work from home more than ever. Orgs are also global. So it’s very important for companies to lock down the values and clearly communicate them. As an example, when Facebook did their IPO, it didn’t go well and employees were rattled. What helped keep the troops together was having  values (and a mission) as a touchstone. Even the leaders at the time were scared and didn’t want to let employees down. But the leaders got out there and helped bring everyone along. One other point is that values need to be organic. They can’t be handed down from the top leaders. (Larry)

Most pivotal part of your career

  • Mine wasn’t magical but was pivotal. “Peace in the midst of a storm” during time at Pepsico in the middle of a divorce. Had a baby (single mom) and working 75+ hours a week. Running a $2 billion division. Remembers running to pick up daughter from daycare, went to networking event with her girl. Took her back to office. At midnight, couldn’t find her and panicked. Realized she had crawled up under desk and fallen asleep. This was not a good “mommy” moment. It was pivotal because it taught her balance. (Dorothy)
  • Got to leave everything digital at HP. No politics among digital leaders within all the divisions at the company. Digital people find digital people and work hard to avoid politics. Had one mission and one cause. Lesson was, independent of companies goals/mission, you can always find people with a common cause. (Natalie)
  • Don’t judge people too quickly. Remembers seeing Zuckerburg at Web 2.0. Saw him on stage with hoodie and was wondering, “who is this guy?!?” Fast-forward two years, I followed my boss to Facebook. I remember one of Mark’s first internal Q&A sessions and was blown away by what he heard. (Larry)

What do you want your department to focus on?

  • What is the mission? A lot of time is spent focused on product but not on the “why” of the brand. (Larry)
  • Be idea generators. Money follows ideas. (Dorothy)
  • Don’t be afraid to kill things that are stale. The world is constantly changing so it’s okay to pause and sometimes weed. (Natalie)

How do you mentor?

  • I make time on the front end while being mindful of time and I always try hard to be willing to take calls/emails or even set up 30 minutes meetings at Starbucks on the way into the office. Sometimes I find just referring someone to the right person or providing the right business insight can be enough. (Dorothy)
  • I choose people that I can ultimately help be happy. My message is keep it simple. And then I work to make them feel comfortable with the idea of finding their own path. (Natalie)

When I joined W2O Group in 2009, Jim Weiss said to me that I should write a book about the future of digital marketing and communications.  We talked about it a lot and what I realized is that I should write a series of books over time that reflect what we’re learning from our clients and our teams.  If you’re working with the most innovative people in an industry, the answers about what’s next are literally right in front of you.

This thinking led to the creation of PreCommerce, which came out in March, 2011.

PreCommerce centers around a very important and simple concept.  Less than 1% of the time we spend online for our entire lives will be transactional and involve ecommerce.  The other 99% is referred to as PreCommerce – a time where customers make their own decisions to buy or support a brand before and after the transaction, with or without a company’s involvement.  Our life’s work is to create the algorithms and models that give light to what is happening in our PreCommerce world.  Whether it is reaching influencers, generating ideas, improving customer experience or transforming the internal mindset of your team, the book touched on what was important to be successful.

Today, nearly five years later, the concepts and models in PreCommerce are more relevant today than they were even a few years ago.

During this time, I’ve been obsessed with what’s next beyond PreCommerce, the world of influencers and all we’ve done to shape conversations and behaviors.  Once again, our clients and our teams provided a series of answers that will reshape how we market and communicate in the years ahead.

The next book in this series is Storytizing, which is centered on how the marketing model (paid, earned, shared, owned) will flip on its head due to the birth of audience architecture.  The combination of technology advance, analytics expertise and a need to improve outdated models is leading to a new way to identify, architect and then learn from the specific audiences you care about.  If you can listen to what 25,000 cardiologists are thinking and doing online or what your customers are saying online or what your next million customers think, it changes how you prepare for the market.

It means that earned and shared media are becoming the lead dogs in how we shape a market and paid is still important, but it will start to be used far more strategically and at far less expense for our clients.  In addition, with our knowledge of how our audience really works, we can start to see new ways to deliver our story across the full ecosystem for a target audience.  What this means is we will consider broad-based advertising to be less impactful with time and we’ll look for ways to pull our story through multiple channels to penetrate our full audience.  We’ll be Storytizing.

Storytizing looks at how search, media, issues management, corporate reputation and other models of communications and marketing will have to evolve as a result.  It’s important in this book to take the time to look at each area in some level of depth to understand why this change is occurring.

Just like PreCommerce, Storytizing is also filled with awesome advice from 15+ leaders who share their thinking in side bars in nearly every chapter.  Whether it is Jeff Arnold, Chairman of Forbes Travel Guide or Rick Kaplan, who has 47 Emmies and was president of CNN or Natalie Malaszenko, CMO of Overstock.com, you will gain keen insights that further illustrate what is ahead of us.

Storytizing will serve as a roadmap of how our world will evolve over the next 3-5 years.  It will be out March 10, 2016 to coincide with our PreCommerce Summit right before SXSW.

It’s a lot of fun to share how our world is changing right in front of our eyes.  We see it every day through our work and it’s nice to step back now and then and realize how profound the changes actually are.

Hope you enjoy Storytizing, which is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Enjoy, Bob Pearson