The next big thing

Games and gizmos at #SXSW

Wearables, social biz and gamification on Lean back Live's video chat

The weighty side of games and gizmos took center stage during Day Two of Lean back Live at South by Southwest, The Economist Group’s interactive video chat, powered by Shindig. Webcasting live from the floor of the SXSW Interactive show at the Austin Convention Center, The Economist Group’s Nick Blunden hosted the second of three days of conversations on marketing and branding where participants can join in the conversation via video chat.

SXSWStoryLeading marketers from Coke and IBM and gamification maven Rajat Paharia of Bunchball tackled the state of social media, wearable technologies and next-generation game-based consumer engagement. A few of the highlights:

From Pong to Call of Duty, video game designers have refined their way of knowing and predicting our behavior based on our actions in a game, and that is powering the next generation of consumer engagement, said Rajat Paharia, founder of Bunchball. The author of Loyalty 3.0: How to Revolutionize Customer and Employee Engagement with Big Data and Gamification explained that “loyalty” has lost its meaning as consumers have been swamped with too many points-collecting, buy-10-get-one-free programs; the next generation of Loyalty programs will have to leverage a stronger understanding of behaviors and motivations, powered by Big Data and game elements.

“Gamification” is a misunderstood term, said Paharia. Marketers hear the term and think of games and time-wasting, but in reality, it is all about capturing data and using it to motivate better performance from consumers or stakeholders, he said.

 “It’s all bout business and business results and nothing about games,” he said. “Gamification is not about entertainment at all, it’s all about driving a business outcome.”

Gamification can also be used to drive collaboration between businesses and consumers and among internal stakeholders within those businesses, said Andrew Grill, IBM global social business partner. The gamification of social sharing is one area where business can drive behavior; by using game features to incentivize knowledge sharing, businesses can break through the cultural barriers to collaboration, he said.

The nature of sharing and collaboration is not natural to people, who believe power is built by having information others don’t have, said Grill. But in the social business environment, shared information gains value, so companies need to change their cultures and reward people who share with internal collaborators. IBM for example, has 430,000 employees, said Grill: “I could not do my job if I didn’t collaborate.” Social media have become “the go-to resource” to share ideas, he said.

Social sharing can help even industries that don’t have consumer-facing social efforts, Industries such as mining, for example, may not have much of an outside social media, but they have people scattered around the world that can benefit greattly from connecting on social media among them, said Grill: “They see the power of collaboration.”

Collaboration is also boosting new developments in technology, most notably wearable devices. Wearable technology is still pretty new, but it’s already showing potential in some areas, said Bachir Zeroual, marketing director of global ventures, Coca-Cola Co. For Coca-Cola wearables are part of its health and wellness efforts to build awareness of the benefits of physical activity. The beverage giant has invested in the manufacturer Misfit Wearables as a first step, he said. 

The data trail created by wearables is valuable and the first-mover advanatge is helpful, he said, but the key factor to the success of wearable-based efforts is usefulness, Zeroual explained. Like most marketing efforts, it needs to show a payoff to the consumer and the experience is more important than the technology around it.

“Data is great, devices are fantastic, but what is important to users and consumers is what is the experience they will get out of it,” he said. That is where marketers can come in, he said.

“There’s that fist step of building the technology and what helps adoption from a user perspective is when you build the experience,” said Zeroual. “That’s how we get to the iPod, how we get to any revolution.” 

Zeroual, who’s on his third SXSW show, noted this year’s vibe is  less about hardware and more about about marketing those technologies and bringing them into the user experience.

“It is beyond the next shiny thing. It is helping us as brands see not only where the trends are going,” said Zeroual “It’s great connections in better context. ‘

Lean back Live closes today with three insightful sessions:

March 11, Noon EDT/11 a.m.CDT—Let’s talk about the weather: Do we buy beer when we’re thirsty, or just because it’s hot outside? Vikram Somaya, general manager of Weather Co.’s WeatherFX, on how weather data can help marketers craft the right offer for the right climate—literally.

March 11, 12:30pm EDT/11:30am CDT—Tweet this, I hate you: Dave Evans, VP of social strategy at Lithium,  explores the pros and cons of using social media for customer service.  

March 11, 1pm EDT/12pm CDT—SXSW to go: Jesse Suchmann, VP/Director of DigitasLBi wraps up the lessons and takeaways from this year’s Geek Spring Break. 

 Check out today’s action at Shindig’s booth #1045-47 on the convention center floor, or join online at

 Interactive Chat Reminder: Click “Raise Hand” to share the virtual stage and ask speakers questions or simply type a question by clicking the “Ask Question” button.