In a technology conference as vast and cutting-edge as SXSW, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of learning and technology and opportunities that surround you. And agencies like ours are working daily to keep up to date with today’s software and tomorrow’s next innovation. Even personally, many of us have divided our real and digital selves into smaller — often less effective and less happy — fragments. As our Google presenters said today, “We’re all on the same spaceship, and it seems to be speeding up.”

Image source: Shutterstock

This was the third day of SXSW 2013, and I realized I had heard the term “north star” several times. I’ve also heard “purpose” and “core values” several times as well. Because the spaceship IS speeding up, it’s all the more important for brands and people to clearly decide what they stand for and where they are going. This helps you avoid trying to keep up with a myriad of false paths, and gets you focused your own. Two of my sessions today fell right within this groove:

I love the Swiss Miss!
Today’s keynote speaker was Tina Roth Eisenberg, aka the “Swiss Miss” design blogger, and Creative Mornings founder, and overall delightful person. Her “rules I live by” presentation included things like “invest your life in things you love, embrace enthusiasm, collaborate, and make time to think and breathe.” Her talk described how the exercise of defining the values of your life is beneficial to both your life AND your career, and many of the choices she has made since defining these values have led to unexpected and wonderful things. We tell stories, we make art, we build things, we help people. Bring joy and enthusiasm to the work, and the work will get better.


Google re-imagines advertising
Actually, they want us to re-imagine it and share the experience with them. A new platform/project called “Art, Copy & Code” is a call to make messages and advertising that contributes something to users. How can a banner ad not just be a message that links to a website? How can a pair of athletic shoes encourage activity and conversation? One of the wonderful things about this is the fact that the largest digital brand on the planet knows that successful advertising has always been, and will always be, about stories.

The site is brand new, and launched with several projects in beta just to get those creative juices flowing. The most charming of which is Smileage from Volkswagen. If you have a VW, you open the app, put it back in your pocket, and go for a drive. Smileage measures how far you’ve gone, stores the photos you took of that roadside fruit stand, and give you a “slug-bug” credit when you pass another VW. Even though the brand is using today’s web and mobile tools, they are staying true to the same core values they’ve always had. Which is a good lesson for all of us who help brands craft their own image and personality.