A presentation by a corporate product manager-turned-cartoonist Tom Fishburne, senior marketing director of Europe at Method Products, captured the complex vibe of this week's SXSW Interactive conference.
Angry at the way “blood-sucking corporations” systematically dull the sharpest ideas, the Harvard MBA grad, cartoonist, and author of the Brand Camp blog has earned a sizable following. His session struck a chord among attendees, as seen in the live Twitter feed of the event.
@escapetochengdu: Most organizations are better equipped w/ cutting tools than with growing tools
@brianrudolph Ideas are like a muscle. The more you work and exercise it, the more you get out of it
@jenn__chen The criticism sandwich - start and end with good, keep the bad in between
@frenkie the remarkability of a cartoon is determined by its simplicity, comparable to Apple's innovative designs
Fishburne recounted his frustration working at consumer products companies that spurred the creative process through highly structured "ideations.” Following the retreats, Fishburne said remarkable ideas were systematically whittled away by his risk-averse colleagues.
Despite the bitter start, Fishburne's cartooning session was uplifting. He attributed his career happiness to being "deliberately exclusive" to connect with a highly targeted audience and a day job where collaboration on product development is encouraged. Tools he uses at Method include floor-to-ceiling white boards and a 3D printer capable of churning out prototypes of new laundry detergent bottles overnight.
SXSW has long had a knack for melding technology, design, music, and filmmaking in a way that's irresistible for marketers. A milestone this year is the explosive growth of its interactive portion. Registration was up 40% over last year's 11,000 attendees versus a 25% rise for film and flat attendance at music.
Fishburne's presentation was just one example of the juxtaposition of deep-pocketed corporate sponsors trying to be edgy and the starving artists that provided the foundation for SXSW.
Dave Armon is VP of strategic accounts at Context Optional.