Five trends that emerged at SXSW 2016

Ollie Silverton, GMR Marketing's Ultimate Sports & Entertainment Apprentice, has returned from his two-month trip to North America, and reflects on the top five trends from SXSW 2016.

SXSW 2016 proved virtual reality remains a key tech trend
SXSW 2016 proved virtual reality remains a key tech trend

Virtual reality

It was nearly impossible to speak to anyone at SXSW without the subject of virtual reality (VR) being raised, and it wasn’t just the technology companies showcasing the latest craze. The likes of Gillette and McDonald’s had some of the most popular activations at the festival with a VR rollercoaster and paint your own Happy Meal box respectively, both being big hits with visitors.

The phrase ‘new world’ media was thrown around when talking about the space - VR's ability to provide an alternative and surprisingly affordable way to consume content without advertising proved particularly appealing to the general public.


In 2013 Snapchat famously turned down a purchase offer of around $3 billion from Facebook, and now with it reportedly worth over $15 billion it appears to be one of the best decisions CEO Evan Spiegel has made.

Snapchat was a huge talking point during the festival, with the creation of geo-filters and other add-ons immensely popular among both consumers and brands. The rare ability to share unique, un-edited moments is opening up a huge opportunity for brands to communicate with their audience in an intimate nature. All signs indicate the only way is up for the social media giant.

Live streaming

Live video streaming app Meerkat was the talk of the town in 2015, however it has struggled to compete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter now that the platforms have introduced their own live streaming functions. On-demand video was once again a hot topic in 2016 with more non-traditional methods of streaming content arising.

Frank Cooper, CMO and CCO of Buzzfeed said: "Empathy and human connection are the new superpowers for building media empires". In other words, brands are looking to have conversations with consumers, and this platform allows for exactly that.


Despite looking quite robotic when wearing an Oculus headset in VR exhibits, they weren’t as popular as Sophia, a robot created by Hanson Robotics. Artificial Intelligence is still mightily expensive, but some experts predict that it could take over 50% of human jobs in the next 30 years.

Speaking of 2046, Chris Urmson, project director at Google stated that the compny's 'fully autonomous cars' might not be ready until then. It’s later than some thought, but still a rather terrifying yet exciting concept, with testing well underway.

Food trucks

There was a talk at SXSW entitled ‘Food Trucks: The Unicorns of the Restaurant World’ and after spending a week in Austin they do seem fairly magical, or at least that is what the attendees would have you believe.

The food truck industry is now worth over US $800m, and they appear to be much more than just a fad. They are understandably far cheaper to run than restaurants, and their ability to supply almost any cuisine at very affordable prices in any location means there were enormous, but crucially fast moving queues at every four wheeled food dispenser in Texas.

More: Five takeaways from SXSW 2016: Reflections of 'living' virtually

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