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 Breaking 2, 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 WebsiteOnBrand 18 Agenda  | The social media wrap-up of #OnBrand18 |   OnBrand LinkedIn

Webexpo in Prague: 4 key-take-aways and the extension of my booklist

In mid of September I (Claudia Oster) visited the Webexpo in Prague. The program of the 2-day-conference is aimed at web developers as well as at designers and this year the topics were scattered from Design Thinking, Story Telling, AI and Machine Learning to AR / VR to ReactJS and Talks about Performance on the Web. I focused on the design-related talks.

Let me briefly summarize the many impressions in 4 key-take-aways:

  1. Divergent and Convergent working everywhere

In many talks, the use of Design Thinking or Double Diamond as the basis of the design process has been discussed both explicitly and implicitly – from IBM’s “Enterprise Design Thinking” to Firefox’s use of Event Storming and Facebook’s approach to the design process to using it as a basis for workshop design by MSD. It is always about the phases of concrete beginning (for example, clear vision) and then the broad search for ideas.

Design Thinking for designing a workshop by MSD.

Then it’s time to focus on selecting ideas, implementing them prototypically and testing them. The use of cross-functional teams is always seen as an important part in this process.

  1. Agile & UX – diverse maturity level

Agile behavior is perceived as standard in the community and even faster iterations are used, e.g. in design sprints to develop and test ideas with even faster feedback cycles. However, there are still companies in which the agile approach and the integration of UX in this process – including user research and user testing – are by no means the standard.

To illustrate this I want to tell you an example: a scrum masters commented in a project: “We do not need to ask people what they want. We are the experts. “- However, it should be clear to everyone in UX or product development that user involvement is the key to the success for every product.

Agile and User Research – not always best friends.

It was also difficult for the user researcher to understand the advantages the agile process can bring and that the user researcher should also be part of the agile team.

This example shows that it is important to get the entire team on board and to provide the whole team with basic knowledge – both on the subject of UX and in the field of agile methodology.

  1. Stories, Curiosity & Microcopy to connect with users

How can you get the user so that they “stay with you”? An example of this was the entire story about the “Dollar Shave Club” and the use of a consistent “tone of voice”.

In the talk by Kinneret Yifrah on “Microcopy – how users will fall in love”, she talked about the importance of interacting with the user as if in a conversation and gave the advice “Imagine the user is in front of you – how would you talk to her? “. And fun and joy should be considered when creating the content.

Instead of saying “Your browser is out of date”, a website could respond “Love your vintage browser! Unfortunately, it is a little bit too vintage … “.

  1. AI/ML & Design for Good

An important topic – which has accompanied me at conferences over the last 2 years – was the focus on “Design for Good”. Designing software is not just about solving a problem, but, as Dan Saffer said, it has a humane function as well:

„If your design makes people more generous, helpful, thoughtful, useful, beautiful, respectful, or kind, it’s good design.”

A real-life example was presented in another talk. Ondřej Machart talked about a social network app for the Czech Olympic team in Pyeongchang and how they tried not (!) to increase the usage of the app through notifications or info about likes. The goal of the app was about improving the sense of community for the Olympic team and the exchange of important information – regardless of whether this happens online via the app or offline.

Evil-free social network for the Czech Olympic Team.


Book List Expansion 

And of course, interesting books are mentioned in almost all talks and why should only my book list get longer 😉

  • The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What We Can Learn About Ourselves from Our Machines – Clifford Ness, Carina Yen (Amazon)
  • Conversational design – Erika Hall (Book Website)
  • Microcopy – Kinnereth Yifrah (Book Website, Amazon)
  • Weapons of math destruction – Cathy O’Neil (Book Website, Amazon)
  • Technically wrong – Sara Wachter-Boettcher (Book Website)
  • Design for real-life – Eric Meyer & Sara Wachter-Boettcher (Book Website)
  • Wired for speech – Clifford Nass, Scott Brave (Book Website, Amazon)
  • Newsjacking – Jan Burkhart, Grant Hunter (Amazon)

 Conference Review of WebExpo

Generally a very great event with interesting speakers and the value for money is very good. It was also the first conference that I noticed very much because of its family friendliness – some babies were there and for the older ones there were own workshops.

The collected recordings of the talks are also provided.


TechTalk at CraftConf Budapest: Session Tips

Projects come and go, Craftsmanship is forever!

As in previous years, a delegation from TechTalk again made the pilgrimage to Hungary to attend the Craft Conference in Budapest. The conference was first initiated by Hungarian start-ups Ustream and Prezi in 2014, before bigger players such as Ericsson were on board. Several hundred developers attended the 2016 conference.

The aim of the conference is for attendees to reflect on daily work activities in agile environments, to question their own approaches, and increase and strengthen their understanding of software development.

Videos of many of the talks can be viewed on the official website. The following summary provides you with a quick breakdown of the most interesting talks from this year’s conference.

Embracing Uncertainty (Dan North & Associates)

This year’s keynote speech was held by one of the best-known speakers in the world of software development, Dan North.

Dan North manages again and again to captivate his audience, this time while holding a talk on the various types of uncertainty that arise when planning and implementing projects. He offered a number of tips on how to deal with uncertainty, calm any associated fears, and develop successful software.

Staying ahead of the curve (Trisha Gee, JetBrains)

The importance of being on the cutting edge of technology is emphasised by Trisha Gee right at the start of her talk. But the fact that being on the cutting edge also brings its own risks is not immediately apparent to everyone. The JetBrains developer pointed out a number of possible complications and talked about which situations are best suited to new technologies.

What I wish I knew before scaling Uber to > 1000 Services (Matt Ranney, Uber)

A more technical presentation was held by Matt Rmney, developer at ridesharing company Uber. He talked about how the software behind Uber was split up into over 1000 different services, and the pros and cons of this approach. As much of what he talks about stems from personal experience, the talk contains a lot of valuable information that may be helpful within the context of your own projects.

Psychological Aspects of Estimating (Joseph Pelrine, MetaProg GmbH)

You can immediately tell that Joseph Pelrine is not just a computer scientist, but also a pyschology expert. And you can also immediately tell that he is not 100 percent convinced by many of the methods and strategies currently used to make estimates in project settings. During his thrilling excursion into the worlds of psychology and social science, he offers a number of tips for optimising everyday tasks and the methods used to make estimates.

Empathy – The hidden ingredient of Software Engineering (Daniel Bryant, OpenCredo)

Daniel Bryant, chief scientist at OpenCredo also delved into psychological aspects of software development in his talk. He emphasised the important of understanding a user’s perspective in order to develop quality software that is also accepted and used. The presentation also dealt with how superiors can develop and maintain a better rapport with their employees. Empathy, says Daniel Bryant, needs to be trained like a muscle to ensure that the capacity to empathise is not lost over time.

Under the hood of the C# Compiler (Bart De Smet, Microsoft Redmond)

Developer Bart De Smet gave the audience a preview of some of the new features you can expect to see in the upcoming version 7 of programming language C#. He also demonstrated using the open source C# Roslyn compiler and debugging the compiler in Visual Studio. Which of the features on show will actually make it into the final release is still in the stars, but the audience left the talk visibly impressed and with high expectations.

Hacking Monkeys (Tim Steigert, General Electric)

The final presentation at this year’s Craft Conference was held by Tim Steiger, head of Digital & Innovation Strategy at GE Germany. This talk was less technical in nature, and was intended to motivate attendees to make sure they do not simply fall back into old habits after the returning to their offices after conference, but instead try and actively apply what they have learnt. A very humorous presentation that is not just for techies.

Post from Felix Wagner (Developer at TechTalk)