NEXT recap – Berlin is the town!


With WiFi problems and the need to let all of the impressions sink in, here’s a delayed recap of NEXT Berlin, and as I predicted, there were some clear highlights…

After an enthusiastic introudction from Matthias Schrader, the organiser of NEXT – Mr. René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, took the stage.

Mr. Obermann delivered a speech about the current state of the digital infrastructure in Germany and the latest developments at Deutsche Telekom. One of  the highlights was the announcement of Telekom’s very own digital incubator, hub:raum. Located in Berlin (the up and coming centre of digital creativity in Germany) it will support up to 15 new projects each year. In addition to the knowledge of Telekom experts and their infrastructure, the startups who get to be part of the incubator will also have the chance of seed financing of up to €300,000. The idea behind it: to open Deutsche Telekom to external innovation and new business ideas.

While this is certainly great news, his comments about the “regulatory regime” keeping the Deutsche Telekom from investing into the infrastructure were, frankly, slightly unnerving. Both sides of this debate, the government and Deutsche Telekom, are both to blame for a noticeable number of blank spots on the German map, where digital is anything but a commodity (Germany ranks 16th in the Networked Readiness Index 2012).

To move on to less serious and more entertaining talks. One of these was the session held by two guys from Greenkern and Goodstein & Partners who introduced the campaign they worked on for Volkswagen China (together – as the rightly noticed and stated – with a hell of a lot of partners): Putting people back into the people’s car!

Let’s start with an introductory look at the campaign:

The main idea: they took the brand’s name seriously and decided to not only make cars for the people (which is the direct translation of “Volkswagen”) but began to make cars with the people, by building the biggest open innovation platform in China – If you ever worked on open innovation you know that the motivational and communicational difficulties far outweigh the technical challenges. Here are some insights from the campaign that should help you tackle these difficulties:

#1 Participation needs easy access: The Platform has to work for everyone. Not only for geeks.
With over 120.000 ideas submitted by the participants of the project, it seems like the guys tackled that problem. Easy access is only part of the solution though. The project owners quickly found out that

#2 Participation needs push: Open innovation is not advertising, but needs campaigning.
And if you want to move into an authentic conversation that boosts the buzz (while at the same time keeping the media budget in reasonable borders), you’ll soon find out that

#3 Participation needs followers: Opinion leaders boost the buzz.
Something that only happens if your engagement – and the subsequent engagement of the opinion leaders – has a solid foundation.

#4 Participation needs fertile ground: Engagement grows from strong social media roots.
If you have any doubts about the strong digital and social roots of the Chinese netizens, you should talk to my colleague Simon Kemp from our Singapore office – he will be more than happy to guide you and your brand successfully through the jungle of Chinese social media platforms. If fertile ground is the solid foundation for such a campaign, you won’t get far without insight number 5:

#5 Participation needs interest: Create relevant content
It’s an ongoing mantra of ours that without relevancy for the users, social engagement is (best case) just going to cease, once you stop pushing or (worst case) backfire at you and create a shitstorm.

One more insight before I leave you with another video that truly shows how seriously they have taken this approach (and how closely they have acknowledged the fact that China is different also) is this one:

#6 Participation needs motivation: User acknowledgement keeps the wheel spinning.
And here is how they did it …

Thanks guys for that marvellous case study – for me having worked on something similar for BMW, these were great insights…