At Hotwire, one of the key things we always aim for when we start working for clients is to identify a "red thread" which can run through all communications for a client, regardless of platform, execution or channel. To find that kernel of truth for a brand, more creative and clever people than me will usually sift through quantitative and qualitative research from a panoply of different sources, including a miasma of social media content from influential people.
Sitting in the afternoon session of Silicon Beach this afternoon, I felt rather a lot like one of our Research and Insights team, desperately seeking the red thread which can tie the highly eclectic set of speakers and topics together. For those of you who haven't uncovered this jewel in the conference calendar for the year, Silicon Beach is a two day conference curated by the mercurial Matt Desmier. It is, unapologetically, the most selfish conference in the world. Matt invites 20 or so speakers from all over the globe that he is most interested to hear talk. No running order is given, scant (another "s" word was used today) detail is given on the speaker, and they have 20 minutes to educate and entertain the audience of 100 or so creative types from agencies and in-house.
Today saw everything from a presentation from a "Digital Mindfulness" company which showed us how major online businesses like AirBnB and Facebook grab our attention online, to a talk from one of the founders of Crack and Cider, an eCommerce charitable gifting site for the homeless. The day was topped off with a Black Mirror-style performance art piece from a dystopian virtual future where the currency was "influence" with a population universally enslaved to shopping. If it sounds slightly bonkers, it's because it is. Admittedly, all of this was peppered with the more standard-issue marketing conference fodder of influencer marketing presentations, but this was few and far between.Highlights of day one were definitely a speech from a Montenegrin management consultant on the changing workplace and need for new models of leadership, and Apprentice alumnus Dr Sophie Kain on Nanotechnology and its potential impact on the world, and the need for Governance in his highly dynamic but largely ungoverned sector.
What, I thought to myself, is the red thread that ties all of this together? I'm still not sure. And I suspect Matt Desmier isn't either. But what came across strongly in all the talks was a need for authenticity. Whether it was influencers needing to recognise the impact they have on the "influenced" and post more realistic images of themselves, or brands needing to engage with their audiences more deeply in a digital environment, or managers needing to be more authentic and true to the 21st century staff they manage, and eschew management practices of the 19th century.
A stat quoted from a Gallup "State of the Workplace" poll brought this sharply into focus for me - only 13% of employees are "engaged", 63% are "not engaged" and 24% are "actively disengaged" - which, our Montenegrin friend told us, is "management speak for 'hate your guts'".
Maybe the red thread for today is "authenticity" and the need for genuine, authentic experiences for consumers, customers, colleagues and employees alike. And there is no more authentically unique experience than to be beside the sea side, hearing how nanotechnology may one day dissolve everything around us into grey goo. Roll on day two of Silicon Beach!
Silicon Beach, a conference for brand, agencies and other businesses, attracting high quality keynote speakers from September 27-29. This year’s delegates will include those from Ted Baker, Graze and Booking.com.