SXSW 2017: The Year of Empathy

Since the ‘60s, the world of branding has been constantly evolving. Forward-looking brands have moved away from simply plastering their product over every available media space into a role where they are mission-led, helping customers identify with them, find common cause, and feel an affinity that leads naturally to purchase.

Yet with the advance of AI, predictive intelligence, emotional computing or whichever label you choose to apply to the emergent strains of data science, we could be about to see a new tier of brand emerge – brands who are inherently empathetic, who travel with you, who feel what you feel.

Alexa, through this lens, is just the tip of the iceberg. Customer care will know what you want before you do, shopping will be replaced by automatic replenishment, gifts will pick themselves based on social data.

So brands will no longer communicate by what they say, but in how they ARE. The implications for advertising, experience design and creativity could not be bigger.

It’s easy to ignore the hipsters of SXSW for making unrealistic predictions of the future. But let’s remember, 2009’s ‘breakout app’ was Twitter, and 2015’s was Meerkat, which blazed a trail for Facebook Live.

The idea of sentient brands may seem far off, but you would ignore it at your peril.

Read the recap here.