10 years ago, the agency I was working for at the time sent me and some other colleagues to SXSW in Austin. It was a pretty common practice back then for bigger agencies to load up their “traditional” copywriters and art directors and ship them off for a week to “learn digital.” For all you millennials reading this, there was a strange McCarthy-like purge going on in our industry to determine which of us would become digital creatives and which would be left behind as traditional. Because no one could possibly do both.

SXSW was quite a spectacle, and the promise of digital enlightenment was kept. I saw a touch surface for the first time. I learned about hashtags and heard tales of augmented reality, QR Codes, the impending mobile revolution, content management systems, and so much more. I heard a guy who swore like a sailor tell us how he used the Internet to grow his little wine business. (Gary Vee, you were just as f ‘ing awesome Tuesday night). I listened to the founder of Zappos share his vision for creating an exceptional shoe buying experience using this World Wide Web. By the end of the week I had seen one technological wonder after another. The creativity and ingenuity astounded me. Indeed, the world was about to get really digital, really fast.

But sadly, the only thing that made a lasting impression on me was the barbecue from Stubbs.

Fast forward to tonight, where I sit in a hotel room in Boston attending INBOUND 2016. Once again, I’m not really here by choice. I had only joined Red Clay Interactive three years ago, so I knew a crash course in Inbound Marketing would benefit me, and our agency, a lot. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. (I’m smiling).

The vibe I’m getting here is what I had desperately hoped to feel in Austin. There are 19,000 people here from 62 different countries. Yet the vast majority of discussions have revolved around topics such as strategy, conveying brand voice in the digital space, and influencing consumer behavior with technology. I’m hearing questions about aligning analytics with business objectives and how the customer journey is evolving daily. The breakout sessions have celebrated the timeless power of storytelling, as well as the sanctity of ideas and their ability to radically change businesses.

Now, this is more like it. There are no “traditional” or “digital” tags to be handed out this time around. This time, we’re all just marketers. Austin was about technology. Boston is about communication. Austin centered around what we could do. Boston wants to know why we’re doing it. Austin was visiting a giant music store and looking at shiny guitars. Boston is hanging out with other song writers and making music.

We’re heading home tomorrow with inspiration, fresh ideas and a newfound confidence in knowing that the next decade could be the most dynamic and exciting time in our industry’s history. Over the next few weeks I’ll dig deeper into the topics and trends I believe will offer tremendous advantages for marketers who get on board and take full advantage of these wonderful opportunities we now have to engage with customers.

Maybe next year I’ll get back to SXSW. I fully suspect the conversation there has evolved quite radically over the past decade. But hopefully, Stubbs is the one thing there that hasn’t changed at all.

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