Three things I learned from small data at SXSW

Jack Blog

March 23rd, 2016 By Jack Morton

When we think about small data – the tiny behavioral clues around us that can signal huge trends and drive big change for brands – it’s predicated by the assumption that we are increasingly not present when experiencing the world. In our hyper-connected, second-screen world, this actually means we must make a conscious effort to fully observe what is around us, despite the constant overstimulation.

That’s why, as I reflect on my time spent at SXSW – perhaps one of the most overstimulated, hyper-connected events there is – I was struck by the all small data clues I encountered throughout my time there. They reflect on the state of our world today, and the connections we make with brands, technology, and most of all – with each other.

Insight #1:
The sharing economy encourages personal connections

SXSW | Jack Morton

During every Uber ride I took, I learned the life story of my driver – in this case an Iraq War vet, and an overall super friendly guy. When I showed up at my AirBnb, I quickly noticed the house was filled with Star Wars paraphernalia, and learned that my host was raising his little brother, who was a huge fan.

Insight #2:
People want brands with purpose

SXSW | Small data | Jack Morton

Everywhere I turned, brands were striving to make connections to causes and social issues that people care about. In this case, Hewlett Packard created a wall to highlight how faster ideas and technology can solve the world’s toughest challenges, 3M created purpose-driven promotional signage that linked the science behind the brand to social issues and causes facing people and the planet.

Insight #3:
Personalization through wearable tech isn’t a differentiator – it’s a given

SXSW | Small data | Jack Morton
Whether through asking questions to guide my experience and make cognitive predictions on choices and behavior at IBM’s activation, or by scanning my profile at each event through my SXSW badge – the integration of physical technology and personalized data was ever-present, and less a differentiator than a given.


Learn about how small data can lead to breakthrough ideas that transform brands in our white paper, Why marketers should think small before going big.