I spent the majority of
my last Saturday at LTU. I was there to partake in a homegrown 1-day conference called Brand CampU. BCU is the brainchild of my buddy Hajj Flemings. In fact, the 2009 conference was the 2nd in a series of annual events. In truth, I had wanted to attend the '08 event, but I simply could not get away from previous obligations.
Nonetheless, I was able to attend this year and was quite glad that I did so. In a nutshell BrandCamp is social media discussion with a slant towards entrepreneurship. Hajj is very passionate about building the personal brand. There was also a fair amount of inspirational conversation which served to cajole people on the proverbial entrepreneurship fence. I am sure that I came away with a firm belief that I could also achieve greater heights. The only limitation is fear of the unknown or paradigm shift.
I was able to observe three talks:
- Ken Brown - McDonalds Franchisee
- Scott Monty - Global Digital and Communications Manager
- April Holmes - 2008 Paralympian Gold Medalist
Ken Brown's conversation was very down-to-earth. He reminded me of an ordained minister. Certainly was a crowd favorite, and really wanted to impart memorable one-liners. The use of acronyms was hysterical. I really appreciated is personal story of struggle and triumph.
Scott Monty's discussion centered around large companies engaging non-traditional media outlets. For obvious reasons, I found this topic very intriguing. What troubled me most about the dialogue was the persistent use of transparency. While I understand that large Fortune 100 have "discovered" the value of social media, very much in the way they discovered the World Wide Web (aka global interweb). I still think discovery does not translate to competence. Flavor of the month thinking is not sustainable in the long term. Regarding the use of transparency.. Methinks that for a company to be truly transparent, you must risk being unpopular. Some might even suggest that you must be unafraid to "lift up your skirt" and share the dirty laundry. I'm not sure that people really understand this fact. Though it's cool for a CEO to understand that Twitter exists. However, it is a totally different matter to have customers share design ideas with Product Development engineers. This is the place where true discovery takes place. More on this later. When I think about this particular discussion, I like to reference a very good text entitled, "The Cluetrain Manifesto - The end of business as usual". I remember Doc Searls talking about markets as conversations. If folks are unwilling to have meaningful and frank discussions about what is right and wrong about their business, no progress will ever be made. I could talk about this ad-nausea, but I will hold my tongue in cheek :-)
The last talk was perhaps the most inspiring. April Holmes is a world class athlete who happens to be a paralympian. She shared a tremendous a painful story that was quite poignant. If there was a means to move folks to action, I believe her Olympic dream was a classic.
Aside from her supreme struggle, I was also very impressed with her use of the crowd sourcing. Specifically utilizing her brand which is two-fold. The gold medal that she earned at Beijing is very much part of her successful personal brand. For instance, she purposely shared her gold medal with all of the conference participants. Clearly, most if not all of the attendees had neither wore nor been photographed with an Olympic gold medal. Of course, while medal was being passed around the conference hall people were taking photos or capturing a quick video for YouTube of their 5minutes of fame with an Olympic gold medal. In a clever use of social networking, her personal brand was advertised for free via flickr, Twitter, and whatever other social media conference attendees were utilizing during their stay at BrandcampU 2009. Very impressive indeed. I was happy to learn that she also collaborated with the Air Jordan brand. It will certainly help cement her status as mainstream business woman. She is clearly well-coached and very astute business person.
Definitely, enjoyed my first BrandCampU, it helped me understand the idea of personal branding in the context of social networking. I am clear that I could be doing more for my personal brand. First matter is defining where I wish to take my brand. Where is my digital footprint most popular? Who recognizes my expertise?
Additionally, it also helped me observe that while large companies might be "getting it", there is a fine line between adoption and true transparency. I like to think that you can't put on an afro and slacks and then say you've got soul. It takes hard work and much substance to really embrace social networking. In my mind blogging will always be the cornerstone, well after Facebook and Twitter disappear. I also think blogging and IRC will be the most functional and grassroots aspect of social networking (at least for me).