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The MSLGROUP goes to SXSW every year with digital specialists from all over the world – Germany, France, India, Singapore, Brazil, the US, etc. – to network, witness new trends, collaborate and share ideas.
MSL Germany's Adrian Rosenthal, Head of Digital & Social Media, and Heiko Geibig, Head of Consumer Practice, joined the world's biggest conference on digital technologies this year.
They had a closer look at the communication trends and give an overview about the meta trends of the SXSW 2016:
Trend Report SXSW 2016
SXSW 2016 – How we roll
• From VR to AI: The Three Mega Trends of SXSW 2016
• Empathetic Stories, GIFs and Food trucks: The Communication Trends of
• Bratwurst, Beer & Start-ups: Meet the Germans @ SXSW 2016
From VR to AI:
The Three Mega Trends of SXSW 2016
• Virtual Reality
• Social Messaging
• Robotics & Artificial Intelligence
Virtual Reality is for Real.
Yes. VR will break into the mainstream if all predictions and all the buzz surrounding it at SXSW 2016 (and
earlier at MWC in Barcelona as well) hold true. At SXSW, there were more than 250 results in the database on VR:
keynotes, workshops, panels, networking events. Furthermore, there was also a dedicated VR track, showing the
high expectations everybody has for the mainstream adaption of this technology.
For PR, Virtual Reality has vast possibilities with regard to creating immersive experiences and
opportunities for new forms of virtual storytelling, which companies like Toms have already used in creative
ways. Sectors such as tourism, retail, (sports) entertainment are natural targets to adopt VR, while the gaming
industry is already deeply involved in using it.
MSLGROUP also conducted a panel on VR at SXSW 2016, showing Loftshift (a VR catalogue developed by
German digital agency demodern) and talking about anything from possible KPIs to measuring success (smiles per
minute ) to when VR will be adopted by consumers. VR visionary Robert Scoble stated that this moment
will still be at least 18 months away. However, with big telecommunications brands and social networks like
Facebook pushing VR this trend will not go away. We as PR agencies want to steer the creative process in
creatively adapting this new technology for our clients.
From Social Media to Social Messaging.
Not just anybody, but pretty much everybody. And many other social messengers as well. #SXSW2016 visibly
underlined a trend which we have witnessed for a while now: the move from social media to social messaging.
Apps like Snapchat and Tinder are built around an internal messaging system, WhatsApp – with more than 1
billion users worldwide – and WeChat dominate mobile communications, Quartz aims to bring messaging into
news – and existing networks such as Facebook and Twitter (which just now announced that it will implement
changes to trigger more direct messages as well) are looking to increase usage of their messengers as well. Not
surprisingly, six of the Top 10 apps worldwide are messengers.
2016 will likely be the year in which Snapchat becomes mainstream – even in Germany. With more users than
Facebook, WhatsApp is already the embodiment of mainstream when it comes to digital mobile usage.
Consequently, Brands need to adapt to these new modes of communication and need to leverage social
messaging. It’s getting more personal, there is a dedicated focus on conversation instead of content – and
consumers are consciously pushing this trend with their choices of what channels they use.
Brands need to be aware of this development, adapt their strategies and embrace these new possibilities of
engaging with their target groups.
AI & Intelligent Robots.
Yes! At SXSW 2016, you could meet robots on nearly every street corner – some more human than others. These
new types of robots are interactive, they speak and they learn through each interaction they have with humans –
and are thus artificially intelligent.
Meet for instance, Pepper, a household robot who is already a steady presence in thousands of Japanese
homes – and not much more expensive that a pet. Furthermore, Pepper is being tested as a presence in
workplaces, offices and public institutions all over Japan. And Watson, a robot developed by IBM, already works
as a concierge in Hilton hotels.
In the future, robots will likely become part of our daily life, at work, when traveling, at home. But artificial intelligence
is indeed already here and around us – just think about Siri. However, at a time when Google’s AI computer beats
the world’s best “Go” player, a lot of discussions at SXSW basically revolved around the question if AI/robots
will augment or destroy humanity. Thus, ethical as well as philosophical and plain practical questions on how we
will live and interact with robots and artificially intelligent entities need to be resolved now and in the future under the
impression of the ever-changing digitalized world. It is not immediately threatening to think of a smart
computer/robot diagnosing your health – as long as humans still confirm and ultimately decide. However, robots
could also replace millions of jobs. And can they get too smart for us as well? All this needs to be taken into
account. Yet in any case, artificial intelligence is an unstoppable trend that shapes our daily lives and societies.
Empathetic Stories, GIFs and Food trucks:
The Communication Trends of SXSW 2016
• The Power of Stories and the Rise of Empathy
• The How of Storytelling: From text to visual to video
• Gifs and Emojis: New forms or new languages?
• Snapchat is not a hype anymore
• Food is everywhere
1. The Power of
Storytelling has always been a crucial tool for communication professionals, although it has become
sort of a overused buzzword a few years ago. However, in the end, this is what we set out to do in PR.
Thus, this year we again witnessed multiple panels focusing on the power of stories and why good
stories are so powerful.
In a nutshell, the answer is simple: We are humans and our brains want to believe in good stories.
Our ability to use stories to trigger emotions is a critical success driver for individuals, brands, and
technologies alike. Combining a good story with a true understanding of the audience – empathy! – is a big
success factor in this new age of communication. With the emergence of Virtual Reality – the ultimate
empathy machine – a whole new world of storytelling is currently opening up.
2. The How of
Snapchat, Instagram, data visualizations, GIFs, 360˚ videos, the power of YouTubers as influencers –
visual storytelling has been on the rise in the past years.And it still is.
Big digital media houses like Buzzfeed, Vox or Mashable announced that they will continue to heavily
invest into visual storytelling and video production. Unlike traditional broadcasters, they produce at a fast
pace and very cost-effectively and adapt their video content to each of the social platforms. If you
have not started thinking about and investing in multimedia content for multiple platforms and formats, the
time is now.
3. The Emojification
One of the most-packed sessions at #SXSW2016 dealt with the linguistic secrets found in emojis. This
interest was hardly surprising when considering that we in total send more than six billions emojis
around the world per day. Emojis have become the signifying symbols of our messaging culture and a
global form of communication in a record time.
The panel not only revealed the most used emoji worldwide (😂), it also tried to answer the question
whether emojis are an own new and distinct language (answer was no). In a separate panel,Alex
Chung (founder of the GIF search platform Giphy), begged to differ – when it comes to GIFs. He indeed
regards GIFs as a new world language, a universal sign system.
Our prognosis: The emoji alphabet will continue to expand in the future – and brands will create
their own set of emojis to use for brand building and visual recognition.
4. Do believe the
It can be a sign when there are only very few panels on a supposedly trendy app/platform: either the
bubble has burst already or the app/platform in question has entered the mainstream.
With regard to Snapchat, we would go for the latter option. Why? More and more SXSW participants used
Snapchat naturally as their new social diary and the few Snapchat panels focused on successful case
studies. Dear Non-digital natives, if you haven‘t used it – try it and learn the codes of this new
5. Food is
It is not a coincidence that SXSW had an own Food track called Southbites. Food is something everybody
deals with on a daily basis. Food also is one of the most shared and talked about topics in social media as
this panel revealed. Just look at your Instagram feed. Furthermore, the digital media houses also bet on
food: Buzzfeed‘s Tasty, Vox‘s Eater and the live cooking platform Nom – launched at SXSW from YouTube
co-founder Steve Chen – are three great examples of the trend. Whereas these platform focus on video,
Anthony Bourdain, chef and television personality, presented a digital food and travel platform which aims
to tell sophisticated and surprising stories – in long form. These days, everything seems possible with
regard to food.
Bratwurst, Beer & Start-ups:
Meet the Germans @ SXSW 2016
• SXSW in Numbers & Helpful Links
MSLGROUP @ SXSW
MSLGROUP goes to SXSW every year with digital specialists from all over the world – Germany,
France, India, Singapore, Brazil, the US, etc. – to network, witness new trends, collaborate and
This year, we also hosted a panel on VR to lay out the potential of this new technology for PR. As
creative enablers for our clients, we want to be leading the charge in the adoption of new trends
and technologies. SXSW is thus the perfect environment for this aspiration of ours.
Watch selected sessions on the SXSW YouTube Channel
Listen to tons of sessions on SXSW Soundcloud
We also reported for the German magazine w&v from SXSW 2016.
Here are the links to the articles:
• 5 Gründe, warum ich mich auf die SXSW freue
• Im Zeichen von Obama und VR
• Die SXSW aus deutscher Sicht
Get in Touch With Us.
Adrian Rosenthal – Head of Digital & Social Media
Adrian Rosenthal joined MSL Germany in 2012 and leads the digital and social media
practice, developing digital strategies for clients from various industries with a focus on
social media campaigning, the adoption of digital trends and digital public affairs. 2016
was his fifth SXSW – and he is looking forward to many more visits to SXSW.
Leibnizstraße 65, 10629 Berlin
Tel: 030 820 82-522, Fax: 030 820 82-511
Heiko Geibig – Head of Consumer Practice
A key team player at MSLGROUP Germany since 2006, Heiko leads the practice for
Consumer Communications. His expertise ranges from big consumer brands to tech
companies and start-ups. His clients include Netflix, Uber, P&G and spirit giant Rémy
Cointreau Group. Heiko is a media strategy and media relations specialist with an
affinity for fast-paced and disruptive businesses.
Leibnizstraße 65, 10629 Berlin
Tel: 030 820 82-579, Fax: 030 820 82-511
Slide 6: Jill Giardino for
Slide 13: getemoji.com
Slide 17: http://bit.ly/1Uhl1EA
All other photos via Creative
Commons or screenshots from