My Wish for SXSW Interactive: Diversity

3 years ago by in Featured Articles, Marketing Tagged: , ,

Having had my trip to SXSW Interactive cut short due to a minor family emergency back home, I only spent a few days on the ground in Austin this time around. Being my fifth trip to the event, I’ve seen it grow and I’ve been happy and disappointed in it over the years.

This year was a bit different for me. For the first time I attended as a marketing and communications pro more focused on B2B and B2B2C marketing. Every other time I’ve attended, I’ve been a straight consumer marketer. Now, having joined up with a hot enterprise mobile developer, my focus and interests completely changed.

More and more people are starting to question what SXSW Interactive is actually about. For years it was about emerging technology and the start-up space. Those were fun years, but now its much more a marketing innovation conference than it is a technology conference. That was bound to happen as the corporate sponsorship dollars poured in – especially over the past 3-4 years.

Even more folks are questioning if SXSW Interactive is even worth the trouble. The thought it has “lost its way” is becoming more prevalent. Still more people think it’s become too big; a victim of its own success. I mused about this in relation to its beautiful and quirky location – Austin – a few years ago in this post.

This trip was enlightening as I looked at it from a different angle. The last day I was in Austin was “Mobile Saturday” at SXSW Interactive. Luckily, there were a few – and I do mean a very few – sessions and panels on enterprise mobile; my new business space. The sessions were interesting and well done. But that was two out of thousands. When your focus is helping companies build a truly mobile supply chain, sessions on how sex can be better with mobile apps doesn’t cut it. That’s not to say SXSWi shouldn’t have those panels but where is the diversity? Why aren’t the selection committee and the Board at SXSWi looking to diversify its content?

“This year’s Interactive felt like a cesspool of persistent advertisers, bad marketing, and misleading panels.” – Kevin Smith, Actor & Director

Not all conferences can be all things to all people. I get that. But, especially in the mobile space, the lines are now blurring and disappearing between enterprise mobile and consumer mobile. They live and work together so why aren’t we talking more about it at a place like SXSW?

What I would like to see is more diversity to include this reality where B2B and B2C are converging. Why not build out tracts for each audience? Imagine consumer marketers and innovators working and mingling closely with these B2B innovators and companies. The outcome and value derived from the networking and collaboration could be very special.

This is not just another “SXSW has jumped the shark” posts. I think it’s at a tipping point and it can become a more valuable and influential event. Sure, the party scene will never change, but for business people looking to learn, innovate and collaborate, to make its content and focus more diverse would keep me going back. As of now, I’m not sure it’s worth the time and money.



Scott Gulbransen

Scott is Global Head of Digital Content at Haymon Boxing - the world's premier boxing management firm. He's the former Vice President of Digital Marketing at DSI, and ran social media and PR at brands like Applebee's, and Intuit's TurboTax. He's a regular contributor for Social Media Today,,, and in 2011 ranked #21 in the list of “Top 50 Daddy Bloggers” in the USA by Cision. His award-winning social marketing campaigns are known for their engaging content, humor and real results.

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