Here, Richard Wilson, CEO of storytelling agency CLICKON shares the latest trends that affect how brand storytelling will evolve in the next few years.

Richard Wilson



SXSW 2019 has always generally been a showcase of experiential marketing, shaped by brand storytelling in all its forms. As a storytelling business, exploring and uncovering these trends was the primary purpose of our visit. 2019 covered an enormous range of interests, providing interesting insight and experiences for everyone from health to education and more mainstream media.

This is the appeal of heading to SXSW: you’re guaranteed to experience and see things that don't really exist anywhere else in the world. The event has risen in popularity off the back of its experiential credentials, so much so that many brands head there desperate to earn a similar reputation to the event itself. The rare sights and sounds of global brands taking over random houses in residential streets still feels bizarre but creates some memorable moments!

This year there were a wide range of things being covered, almost too many to follow. As a storytelling marketing partner our role was alongside clients, showcasing at the event. This was whilst also looking and listening to the latest trends that affect how brand storytelling will evolve in the next few years. We’ve outlined a few below.

Elizabeth Warren at SXSW Ph. Amy E. Price/Getty Images

Trend 1 - Conquering an Era of Digital Distrust

Most interesting was the paradoxical increasing awareness / suspicion of technology alongside our complete dependence on it. Conversations around Facebook naturally led the way, as users become more aware of data privacy, first in Europe, now more so in the US.

Echo chambers and election tampering encompassed the most serious topics, facilitated by social networks and the bad actors who continually find ways to abuse the system. Tools to combat the spread of fake news, mainly through AI were widely discussed and touted. However, with Facebook's most recent blunder in New Zealand and YouTube’s issues monitoring content, the state of AI is becoming an industry myth and more of a loosely used buzzword few actually understand. If Facebook struggle to develop a workable tool as a billion-dollar company, it seems like a stretch that most of the smaller companies at SXSW had a credible silver arrow to solve this enormous problem.

Meanwhile, in an era of continuing platform and industry distrust, brands were presented with the option to start creating their own ‘original content’. Effectively investing and becoming their own micro-Netflix. This removes brand safety concerns and allows them to own audiences and data alongside valuable, informative content.

Trend 2 - Rapid rise of subscription services

One of the largest trends we’ve been watching over the past few years has been the explosion of OTT services like Netflix and Hulu. The subscription model is looking like the model of the future however it does come with its issues for consumers as media companies begin to silo content into their own ecosystems. With new players Disney, Apple and Warner Media joining Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, this is about to become an extremely competitive battleground as companies go to war for original content and users. Conversations at SXSW focused on the ultimate outcome for the end users who may find themselves paying for subscriptions to multiple OTT services and ultimately becoming disgruntled.

Alongside this explosion of growth comes a decrease in interruptive ad formats for brands as users move to OTT from both online and TV. In the era of long form content, brands might have a unique opportunity to embrace producing their own informative original content and being part of cultural conversations. After all, it’s what audiences want.

Are scooters the future of city transport? Ph. Spectrum News

Trend 3 - The Gig Economy

The continuing rapid development of technology, robotics and automation are heralding a new-era, new format of work with huge implications for local communities and unskilled workforces who lack digital training or core skills.

Flexible employment and irregular incomes were being touted as the model of the future as employees trade fixed, regular salaries for gig economy work and flexible working hours. In such an unprecedented era of individual activism and social change, organisations will need to adapt to thrive and survive as these changes begin to take hold.

High on the agenda was remote working, growing over 115% in the last decade. Companies might miss out if they don’t adapt to this new trend, but many speaking were struggling to successfully implement it. Companies including Dell offered strategy and advice to brand leaders on strategies of the future and best practice. Whilst remote working makes sense in practice for larger corporations, it still presents challenges for more agile, smaller growth companies where in person interactions are critical for growth and problem solving. Certainly, the case across a business like ours with high YoY growth and ambitious plans for the future.

Trend 4 - Scooters and Transport

The evolution of transport and delivery was widely discussed spanning curb side, doorstep and aerial-based businesses, slated to become a trillion-dollar industry. Most interesting to us were the thousands of scooters around Austin, definitely by far one of the most talked about parts of SXSW. Even the initial cynics, after giving them a go, realised just how convenient they were, despite occasionally being an eyesore littering the streets. For us, it was a clear vision of what city commuting of the future might look like. Every city in the world should be using ‘Uberised’ pay-as-you-go scooters and reaping the benefits of fewer cars and less pollution. Scooters could well be the transport model for the cities of the future and Austin is leading the way!


CLICKON was founded in 2014 by business entrepreneur Richard Wilson alongside childhood friend and award-winning filmmaker Benjamin Potter. CLICKON Studios then launched in late 2016 after noticing early trends toward storytelling and authentic content amidst the explosion of digital advertising. CLICKON’s offering has grown to include Studios, Social LABS, Origin, Tech, Creative and our game changing tech platform called iQ. With over four awards in 2019 (including a coveted ADWEEK ARC award in only three years) and clients including US Navy, Adidas, Special Olympics, Red Bull, SeaFish, Eurotunnel and many more, CLICKON’s journey has only just begun. Richard acts as CEO from CLICKON’s London office and Benjamin Potter as Global Creative Director based in Los Angeles.

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