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SxSW Sunday: It’s all about convergence

Today was a great day at SxSW. I had the pleasure of attending three different sessions on payments and mobile wallets, one on the future of retail and a most inspiring session that looked at updating classic iconic ads for today’s technology.

I was prepared to write a very payments-focused post. But as I was thinking about today, I realize the key lessons for PR and business professionals transcend the payments market. Every presenter today, in their own way, was talking about convergence.

What do I mean?

Too often communications, marketing and business professionals think about communications and sales channels. Despite our best efforts we silo our thoughts. What does mobile allow us to do for payments, what business use can we get from mobile devices, what is the future of digital video?

While that thinking is important, it can also be limiting. It was expressed in different ways on the different panels, but it came down to a few observations.

Mobile payments isn’t about payments. If all you think about is taking a contactless card and putting it on a smartphone, you are missing the bigger opportunity and the market won’t grow. Isis is taking it a step further and realizing that for mobile to succeed it needs to be better, faster and cheaper. As I discussed yesterday, they are betting on loyalty, security and a better shopping experience to be the growth drivers.

But the discussion at the FutureShop panel made me realize there is more to it than what even Isis is saying. We need convergence and to see how all the channels can work best together. The retailers on this panel were nowhere near as optimistic about NFC as the payments players in other sessions. But they saw an even bigger picture. Convenience and loyalty offers are great. But that is just looking at one side of the opportunity. When retailers configure their stores to take advantage of mobile technology, it will prosper. The speakers gave examples of one company that had a scavenger hunt like game that lead people through the store to daily specials. These retailers see the iPhone turning into the helpful sales clerk of years gone by.

Seth Priebatsch of Scvngr challenged the status quo, but he added another piece to the puzzle. With loyalty blending with analytics businesses and communicators can adjust consumer shopping habits using game theory. In Philadelphia they ran a 45-day test that showed rainy days correlated to significantly less restaurant revenue. So they designed dynamic deals to encourage people to visit a restaurant on rainy days and saw a significant business lift.

It is only by putting the wallet vision of ISIS together with the bricks and mortar innovations of Future Shop and some of Scvngr’s futuristic ideas that we truly can see the shape of the future of mobile payments come together. Without all three perspectives, without the gestalt of the different perspectives the success will not be complete.

This transcends payments. This is a lesson that communications professionals should take to heart. We need to make sure we are not narrowing our vision to influencer channels, social media strategy or analyst relations. Sure those can drive results. But we need to look not just at how they work together and challenge ourselves to find at new ways in which they can work together.

Google and Coke did just that with (along with other brands). The project  updated four iconic ads for today’s mediums.

The premise was powerful, yet simple. We don’t want to do social media campaign. We want to do a campaign that is social. What Coke did is amazing. They made it possible for someone to actually send the world a Coke. Consumers could record a video on the site, and send a free Coke to a number of machines around the world. Someone would receive your message in less than 90 seconds (after it was reviewed for content) and could then thank you. You would receive that video a minute later.

It is powerful. It is social and it harnesses physical, digital and social channels to create a result much greater than the sum of the individual parts. More communicators need to think like that. If we do so, our programs will be much more compelling, we will gain better understanding of consumers and drive greater business results.

So join me in always looking for ways to advance convergence. We won’t regret it.

It was so popular yesterday, I decided to end with it again today. The five most quotable observations from Sunday at SxSW:

  • Pharma is not bad. Pharma is probably going to save your life
  • Security is not a selling point for consumers. Criminals will find ways, and consumers think the  phone is less secure even if it is more secure.
  • We are on the precipice of shopper 3.0 – The combination of Wed, brick & mortar, and mobile.
  • Tools today are an extension of our mental, not physical self. The shape of technology tools has changed dramatically over time, this is not the case with many physical tools.
  • If you want to drive consumer engagement, get people to look forward, not back.

If you have any questions in this post, leave a comment or tweet me at @mcclennan to meet up at SxSWi.

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Mark McClennan

Mark McClennan

Senior Vice President at MSLGROUP

For the past 20 years, Mark has led teams working with innovative technology and healthcare clients for MSLGROUP. He is also the national chair-elect for PRSA.

Mark McClennan

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