One of the themes the team heard from a variety of speakers at SXSW this year was the increasing importance of local, hyper-tailored action – not only for the benefit of individuals or small brands, or even activists and politicians, but for mainstream brands and global concerns.

Caring about one’s immediate community is human nature. For example, SXSW always sees a spate of “Don’t move to Austin” shirts and signs, as residents, half joking, attempt to dissuade smitten visitors from diluting its character. We crave belonging and personal relevance. And at SXSW, we saw many ways this impulse to build local bonds can be specifically helped by digital technology.

Rather than using digital to send a broadcast message to an enormous audience, and then possibly segmenting, many groups are discovering that it pays to start from the bottom. The Tea Party movement discovered this nearly a decade ago. The high school students of the anti-gun-violence Never Again movement are demonstrating it now.

Digital communities gather like-minded locals and move them to real-life action, and take small niche groups and make them global forces. Digital localism takes shape in many ways:

  • National news outlets like the Huffington Post teamed with local publications across America to create storytelling partnerships, as we learned in “How National Media Can Be a Good Partner to Local.”
  • As the session “New Localism: Reimagining Power in a Populist Age” said, “this new locus of power — this new localism — is emerging by necessity to solve the grand challenges characteristic of modern societies: economic competitiveness, social inclusion and opportunity; a renewed public life; the challenge of diversity; and the imperative of environmental sustainability.”
  • In “The Anatomy of a Trend,” we learned about the increasing wave of localization-related efforts, from shopping local, to the sharing economy. (Listen to the presentation in full here.) “Localvists” are one of the new consumer tribes to watch, as Carla Buzasi, former founding editor in chief of HuffPo UK, and now managing director of trend forecasters WGSN, put it.

How does this trend affect us as pharma marketers, and what should we be doing?

  • Influencers are the go-to sales force, we heard – and one with no overhead. Even enormous CPG brands are spending their marketing budgets on influencer efforts.
  • Most Rx brands can segment their likely audiences geographically quite well. Local events in those physical communities can bring together peers – patients, caregivers, or HCPs.
  • Corporate philanthropy can begin in your headquarters’ city. Pharma worries about its reputation; it can act on that concern by becoming a better neighbor.
  • Information can be gleaned not only from data, but also from human connections: going out into communities to speak to individuals and learn their stories.
  • Localism and community can reflect our own needs as professionals, too. If we keep our work too isolated, our work won’t succeed.

Intouch went all in on the idea of localism last year with our #ALLin program, in which we traveled the country with a mobile studio in an Airstream trailer, learning from patients and caregivers across America.)

And localism took an even more important role earlier this year, when we launched Forever Welcome, in partnership with our employee Sunayana Dumala. The program aims to promote a message of unity in response to the hate crime in which Sunayana’s husband, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was murdered. In addition to a growing Facebook community that encourages and educates on the importance of diversity, the program sponsors events such as the recent Peace Walk on the anniversary of Srinivas’s passing.

At Intouch, we fully believe in the vital importance of human relationship in all of our work, and appreciated seeing that importance reflected at SXSW.