It’s that time again! Another year has passed and it’s time for another fantastic Silicon Beach UK conference. Another exciting lineup of fascinating speakers and another outlandish shorts-suit from the inimitable Matt Desmier. I couldn’t wait to get down by Bournemouth seafront this morning, despite the typically poor weather, for one of my favourite events of the year! Here’s a brief summary of day one which I hope does at least a little justice to how interesting and engaging the speakers were today.
Day one kicked off with a fascinating talk from Lauren Bowker about seeing the unseen, visualising data and combining design, fashion and technology together seamlessly for a variety of applications. From genetically modifying gemstones so that they change colour based on brain activity to creating clothing and accessories that respond to the environment around them, every part of Lauren’s talk was mind-blowing and left me wanting to know more. I also have to mention how brilliant I thought it was that Lauren held a funeral for a business that she killed before starting The Unseen Emporium and has worn black ever since. Brilliant! Visualising data in all these ways has implications across fashion, retail, medicine and even space travel and all of this was beautifully explained as part of a great start to Silicon Beach UK 2016.
Our second talk of the day came from an energetic and enthused Will Harvey about celebrating our internal teams and in particular, the rise of the ‘Intrapreneur’. The people in our businesses that naturally think outside of the box, innovate and quite often simply say “fu*k it, I’ll do it”. Will talked us through the characteristics of intrapreneurs, how to spot them, how to harness their value and most importantly, why they’re so important. I’m also interested to talk more to Will about why Ogilvy closed their research and development lab and hoping it was based on a belief that innovation should run throughout a business and not just be one department. Another great session with a lot to take away and a feeling that I should be a little more intrapreneurial myself.
The third talk of the day came with props as Phil Adams took to the stage with a silicone gun and a disclaimer that the talk we were about to see was a work of fiction. Phil explained his role as the CEO of KBSMA (Kitchen & Bathroom Sealant Manufacturers Association) and then outlined the difference between silicon and silicone in what was one of the funniest and engaging talks I’ve heard in a long time. Not only was Phil’s talk hilarious, it delivered some interesting and useful points about marketers minding our language, being selective with our content, disruptive technology not always needing to be digital and the perils of data legends. I particularly liked the analysis of ‘shareable’ content and I will not be able to hear that buzzword again without thinking ‘it doesn’t mean good though’!
After the morning break we were invited on a journey to the ‘sharing economy’ which started for Benita Matofska back in 1986, with a USA road trip! The talk started with a simple question; WTF is the sharing economy? The answer that Benita walked us through wasn’t quite as simple but was certainly eye-opening for me. With an estimated £3.5 trillion of idle resources in the world, but still massive demand and poverty there is no need for waste and the social and environmental value of the sharing economy was clearly highlighted. Benita also talked us through some examples of brands already harnessing the power of sharing and I particularly liked the examples of promoting ‘access over ownership’. It was also nice to hear that 65% of the UK are already participating in the sharing economy in one way or another…who knew we were a sharing nation!
Our next talk came from Jody Orsborn, a self-proclaimed fixer who started by giving us an insight into the LA music industry and allowing us to learn from some of the issues she faced launching music festivals, DJ events, music blogs and creative sharing platforms before she launched The Backscratchers. She explained why experimenting and pivoting is good and that fixing can start small. The personal approach Jody adopts like handwritten letters to clients and fun sales dinners with prospects really resonated with me and I will certainly take away her idea that we should be obsessed with solving the client’s problem, not just obsessed with our solution! We also had a little task to do and the frustration and solution I wrote down, I will definitely be following up so thanks Jody!
The enthusiasm and passion Jess has for crowdfunding and the job she does was obvious from the moment she took to the stage in this brilliant talk. She started by showing us an inspirational video that highlights the amazing things that can be done using the power of crowdfunding and some great examples of work being done in the south west. Jess explained that brands, local authorities and individuals all working together on crowdfunded projects can deliver some amazing results and that the people behind big businesses and local councils are just like us. We were left with the thought provoking idea that the world is changing and that crowdfunding can open new doors to all of us and a question of how we were going to get involved? It’s certainly got me thinking.
After lunch there was a brief interlude when Dave Birss (@davebirss) explained a bit about the Silicon Beach filming that was being done and talked to us about Open For Ideas, the new online magazine coming next month. Check it out.
Neil Davidson and Dan Machen
I was really looking forward to hearing from the Hey Human guys after Dan’s fantastic talk last year on second-screen attention span, and they didn’t disappoint! Neil started by talking us candidly through the journey their agency has been on and the things they have adapted along the way. The main change was that focusing on making our customer’s lives easier is not always the best way and that friction is good sometimes, as proved by businesses like AirBnb. Building human brands by defining relationships, using human behaviour, connective friction and brain-friendly creative was insightful and useful advice. For me, brain-friendly thinking when it comes to client creative is something I will now be doing and as if all that wasn’t enough, we were also treated to the hilarious Geico pre-roll advert to make the point!
Following the afternoon break, Camilla Grey talked to us about some interesting research she had undertaken in career motivation and how employee wants and needs have changed over the years. The findings from the research were set against a brilliant backdrop of Sylvanian Families characters but the point that how we work, who we work with and why we work are now the important factors, wasn’t diluted. For most of us, the time has come to forget the traditional corporate ladders. Camilla explained how businesses can better align ourselves with these new motivations by thinking in the same way and left us with the notion that all of us, from a business or personal perspective, can and should choose our own adventure! Also, I heard that Sylvanian Families UK is now following Camilla on Twitter so that’s a pretty awesome endorsement!
Next, the head of content for UK parliament took the stage. If you had any preconceptions of what the talk might consist of based on her job title, Carrie quickly dispelled them with a hilarious start about her lack of interest in the olympics, their ridiculous sponsorship deals and their terribly designed logos! As she explained how her opinion was changed slightly through pictures and GIFs it became clear that as funny and engaging as the presentation was, the point was an interesting one. It’s not what we share, but how we share it! The role of head of content for UK parliament struck me as a difficult one but considering things like the language we use when we share content is something we could all do more of.
In the penultimate talk of Silicon Beach UK day one, Adah Parris talked to us about distractions and how they can stop us from being truly ourselves and truly being happy. This was a interesting and thought provoking talk that started with how Adah discovered the perils of distractions; by going to Burning Man and loads of other festivals for 7 years in a row in a bit to chase a sense of happiness. To try and recapture the afterglow of returning from a festival. Some inspiring ideas about stereotypes and perceptions followed along with some great TV recommendations but this really engaging talk left me thinking mainly about how we can create that afterglow feeling in our clients and in our clients customers.
As the end of day one approached Mark Earls got us all a bit more active for the final talk of the day! We did a few exercises to prove some really interesting points Mark was making about copying and how making errors in copying are a good thing and how an original way of doing something can be found. Mark dispelled some myths I had about Elvis Presley being original and pointed out some fantastic copying from David Bowie and a line that stood out particularly was “Originality is for people with short memories”. Although I quite often use other people’s ideas, this funny and interesting session made me feel a bit more comfortable about it and made me think more about iteration and allowing room for change and error when copying. I’ll definitely be checking out Mark’s book too.
So day one of Silicon Beach UK has come to an end. I’m looking forward to day two and applying these ideas to the work we do as an eCommerce agency!