DAY 2 @ SXSW 2017

3 Things Worth Putting On Your Radar From Today In Austin

  1. Breakthroughs Come From Partnerships Built Upon Trust and Courage

Google ATAP and Levi’s came together to make Project Jacquard — or simply the first Google Trucker Jacket. It’s the first wearable tech that looks wearable yet has product features integrated into the jacket that allows you to interact with maps, messaging and phone calls via gestures with your jacket. This story has been out for a year and you can watch the video below, but the product isn’t the story we’re talking about today.

What makes this partnership so exciting and successful is the working partnership formed between both brands in order to make this collaboration happen. Both Google and Levi’s were quick to admit that when you do a “First In the World” type-venture, you really need both partners to bring their expertise to the table. And more importantly, for each partner to respect the other’s expertise, even though it might seem counterintuitive to the way they usually work.

The invisibility of tech in the jacket is a prime example of this trust. Google engineers admit that their first instinct is to make the sensors and conductive yarn highly visible on the garment. Levi’s, staying true to the nature of the garment and the requirements of the wearer, pushed back and fought for the tech to be invisible and stay purposeful to the garment’s design (i.e. help riders be more ‘present’ and not distracted when they rode, while still looking cool).

Levi’s designers embraced processes common to tech in the process and built in testing and iteration phases for the garment, after it had gone into market. Product testing before launch is common for fashion designers, but rarely have they sought out user feedback and user data post-launch to iterate and evolve the product design.

Project Jacquard — Levi’s X Google

2. Bots Are On The Rise, But How Do Brands Play In the Space & Not Ruin It?

There is no short or long answer to this question. The landscape of bots is changing rapidly. Two years ago, there were only a handful of players helping brands create bots to better service their customers. This number swelled to over 250 companies a year later, with a significant number of those companies disappearing overnight in the last few months.

The learning curve will be high for brands as they enter the bot space. To reduce the volume of inevitable mistakes and oversights, partners like Facebook, Assist and Pandorabot recommend the following:

  • Start with the outcomes and define these as best as possible
  • Align your effort to a larger strategy for bots that includes planning for acquisition, engagement and retention for your bot
  • Plan for iterating (What are we trying to learn with this pilot?) and focus on iterating toward features that drive outcomes

Bots require similar planning and resourcing as found in existing digital products and services that companies already support. Just like existing products and services, bots suffer from issues around discovery and user uptake.

3. Top Brands Stay On the Emerging Side of Technology

Brands like Disney invest in new technologies across their business (in-park, consumer-side environments) to stay ahead of the competition and evolving consumer tastes.

Exploring new technologies like machine learning, chatbots and invisible interfaces (i.e. Amazon Echo) require Disney to continuously iterate across multiple versions as the technology matures, but the long term benefits outweigh the short-term hiccups that come with experimenting with new technology.

To keep the organisations and teams on track, Disney puts their brand purpose values before the technology. Technology in their eyes is always in service of the story and the character — whether it is too incite your imagine, stimulate your curiosity or bring together around characters and stories. Technology is always treated as the set of tools that artists use to put emotion and humanity into Disney’s characters.

Overall, the feeling at Disney, is that emergent technology is poised for significant breakthrough as we approach a tipping point:

“We are approaching a decade of staggering innovation.” — Jon Snoddy Imagineering at Disney

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Written by Mathieu Dauner

Associate Strategy Director, White Agency