OnBrand Conference

Finally, a great conference about branding! OnBrand has been around for a couple of years, but this year they really managed to provide a solid experience. It was amazing: from the location and inspiring world-class speakers to the overall tribal feeling outside by the food trucks.


OnBrand ’18 again took place at the Sugar Factory in Amsterdam. This location has a nightclub flair that actually works! For the first few minutes, I had to remind myself that I was not entering my favourite disco in Lisbon, but that it was 8 o’clock in the morning and I was attending the best branding conference in Europe. But once you immerse yourself in this environment, you feel open and eager for new information.

As a brand manager and marketer, I could not help but view the event with an analytic eye: how do they manage the check-in? How do they introduce the event sponsors to you? What about the schedule? And – of course – where can I get coffee!? Everything was there, and done with amazing style and care.

With three main stages and more than 30 speakers overall, it was impossible to be everywhere at once, so I had to carefully choose where I wanted to be. And I want to share my insights from my favourite two talks with you, as these still resonate with me today.

The first one was by Emanuele Madeddu, the brand strategist from National Geographic. This well-known brand is 130 years old, and the #1 brand on social media and Instagram. There is a reason for this position of strength, and Emanuele summarized the 5 key aspects needed to achieve a strong and relevant brand today:

  1. Authenticity:


It is important to stay true to who you are. People can spot Bullshit immediately. People today are also interested in brands that help them with their personal growth. So, to be authentic, National Geographic chose to allow their workers to post directly on Instagram, without the need for any curating. This works because their photographers know the brand so well that there is trust and space for creativity.

  1. Communities:


When posts are made on Instagram, people immediately ask questions and interact. There is a live community returning regularly, engaging with one another and forming smaller communities. This year, National geographic launched the Facebook campaign Women of Impact, portraying female explorers and scientists at National Geographic. They also initiated the Your shot campaign, which lets amateur photographers share their pictures in an online pool, one of which gets chosen and printed on the last page of the magazine.

  1. Impact:


Brands that want to stand out must deliver an impact. You need to have a voice that is clear, loud and has an opinion. People want to relate to brands that have a point of view and stand for something. They want to feel part of the solution, to participate, and have an impact. To deliver this impact, National Geographic started the Planet or Plastic? initiative, because we all can do better to reduce the amount of single-use plastic. For this initiative, National Geographic partnered with influencers; but – top tip –  pick your influencers very carefully. People also readily share their email address with the company, as they are actually interested in the subject, and in driving change.

  1. Good Stories:


A cycle is created: the more impact, the more stories to tell, the more people are interested and invest time and money in National Geographic. This, in turn, allows the company to deliver a bigger impact. But one other thing is also very important: telling good stories. The story does not need to be about something good, but it needs to be a good story, something memorable. One of National Geographic’s best stories is their new documentary film Free Solo, about free solo climber Alex Honnold.

  1. Partnerships:


National Geographic entered into a partnership with Nike to create the documentary, about breaking the 2-hour record in the Marathon.

 Resuming, trust your path and stick to it.

The second talk that I did not wanted to miss was the one by Lisa Hogg, TOMS Marketing Director. TOMS is the company that donates a new pair of TOMS shoes to a child in need for each pair of shoes bought. Lisa Hogg talked to us about the TOMS mission, which is simply to do Business for Good. It all started with the revolutionary concept of being a One for One company. Today they are no longer unique in doing this, so they have had to stop and re-evaluate themselves as a brand.

They knew who they were, they just had to find out how they wanted to develop. They decided they wanted to continue with their mission, but now seeing themselves as a bridge. A bridge from the consumer to the realization of projects that fit their shared values. TOMS wants to be a platform because they truly believe that citizens can change the world. Besides donating shoes, TOMS is now helping to give sight, improve access to water, provide safe births and prevent bullying. Lisa Hogg underlines the importance of being able to prove the impact you are having with data. She also shared with us their campaign Hairdresser to the Homeless featuring Joshua Coombes, the founder of the movement #DoSomethingForNothing.

This conference made me feel proud of the work that we have been doing to improve the TechTalk  brand awareness.

Early this year we launched our #WEPARTY campaign, inviting developers from all over the world to join us on the rooftop of our building to connect. Then our 25 Years of TechTalk party followed in the summer, where we could celebrate with colleagues and business partners and simply say “Thank you”.

And just recently we launched the recruiting campaign Help us and we help together that clearly shows who we are, this time in a partnership with Caritas Wien. As part of this campaign, for each person that recommends our company to a friend who ends up joining us, TechTalk makes two donations: one to the person that recommended us, and another to a non-profit organization.

Well enough said, I’ll close as the conference started – “Let’s Brand on!”

Conference Speakers Book Tips:

Let My People Go Surfing, by Yvon Chouinard, the founder and owner of Patagonia

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari

Conference Links:

OnBrand 18 WebsiteThe social media wrap-up of #OnBrand18 OnBrand LinkedIn