Not even the rain or cold could dampen the spirits of the thousands of enthusiastic SXSW-attendees who descended on Austin, Texas for the infamous tech festival. The crowd: compact, cheerful, eager for novelty, and not yet tired of the public transportation, fast food and conferences.

One of the best things about SXSW is its ability to create multidisciplinary panels that provide unique insights on marketing issues. “Brand as Patterns,” a panel comprised of Marc Shillum, Robin Lanahan of Microsoft, and composer Walter Werzowa (he created the famous Intel Mnemonic) is the perfect example of this. Each with their own views and experience, they point to a major challenge facing brands both old and new: the inherent conflict between building a brand (authority, consistency, repetition and identity), and ownership by individuals (freedom, diversity and uniqueness).

Resolving this conflict will require a profound change in the way we think of brands. Brands must be thought of as an interface; they must be designed as an object that is relevant trough its ability to solve problems, not trough a logo. Only then will they find the necessary flexibility and adaptability.

The first step to achieve this is to abandon the culture of message and embrace one of action. As stated by Greg Johnson, the Global Creative Director at HP, “The value of a brand lies in what it does.” Brands need to learn to adapt to change, adapt to the rhythm of individuals. They need to be in real time. No more three-year plans, but an ability to respond tomorrow.

Finally, we should install a new brand governance that puts the emphasis on the substance instead of the form (one that asks why? instead what? and how?), builds and enforces the principles (the “bible” of a series, the theme of a jazz piece, the pattern of a tissue), and encourage variations that build brand relevance for everyone.

For everyone here, it’s time to move from “Making people want things” to “Making things people want.”

The French version of Henri Jeantet’s article, Special SXSW: l’âge du faire, first appeared on Influencia.