Next09: The seven rules of the chief meaning officer

I just came back from the next09 conference in Hamburg, one of Europe's leading digital/creative/marketing forums that stands out in the conference circuit because of its unique German-international focus.

Tim Leberecht
Tim Leberecht is Frog Design's chief marketing officer. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET.
Tim Leberecht
4 min read

NEXT_things Next09
Credit: next09

I just came back from the next09 conference in Hamburg, one of Europe's leading digital/creative/marketing forums that stands out in the conference circuit because of its unique German-international focus (bilingual program, 80 percent international attendees, many international speakers). This year's theme was "Share Economy," and the 1,300 attendees comprised of European VCs and angel investors, Web 2.0 entrepreneurs, media, creative agencies, and executives from German corporations (from BMW to Deutsche Bank to Deutsche Telekom).

In talking to many German attendees, my impression was that the German creative community shows no signs of a downturn. The German start-up scene in particular, if that is any indicator, is alive and kicking. There are many new promising Web 2.0 firms run by smart entrepreneurs (many of them are funded by entrepreneurs who made a fortune during the dot-com heyday), and there is a lot of money to go around. Notwithstanding this newly found confidence, however, Germans still look to the U.S., and in particular to Silicon Valley, for technology trends and innovative business models--this is nothing new but next09 was a stark reminder of how powerful the Valley myth still is. Consequently, there was a large contingent of social media folks from the Bay Area.


I met several great people including Lane Becker, the founder of Adaptive Path and co-founder and president of Get Satisfaction (the "people-powered customer service" that seems to be everybody's darling these days), Natasha Friis Saxberg, the founder of Mentory, a Web-based mentoring network, Maria Sipla from social network marketplace Linqia, Daniel Reckling from Neckermann.de, Germany's largest online retailer, Stephan Loyen from Simyo (a German discount telco), Darius Miranda from Wells Fargo (which appears to have a pretty sophisticated social media B2B strategy), and many others.

In conversations with Jackson Bond and Johannes Haus from Xing, the European equivalent to LinkedIn, it became evident that for social networks and other Web players "conversations" are the next big frontier. The business world is ready to embrace an enterprise Twitter, and many business communities (social networks and intra-company networks alike) are working on proprietary internal micro-blogging services--micro micro-blogging, if you will, that can be better customized and controlled. Yammer for everyone. In one of the main stage sessions at next09, Stowe Boyd ("Unmarketing") presented the Open Enterprise 2009 study, which predicts that in a few years 80 percent of knowledge-based tasks in corporations will be happening outside of formal organizational boundaries and will be open-sourced, crowd-sourced, social, and conversational.

In this vein, I was invited to speak about "The Shrinking Brand--Marketing in a Small World," a talk I had given before at the eMarketing conference in San Francisco. But after listening to Jeff Jarvis' terrific key note on "The Great Restructuring," Umair Haque's pledge for "Constructive Capitalism," and Andrew Keen's passionate rebuttal of both, I felt the need to change the focus of my talk and approach it from a broader view. It was also more fun to present something new. And so I came up with the "Seven Rules of the Chief Meaning Officer" (I know, I know, 10 would have been better, but sometimes there are only seven...), based on a concept I've been blogging about over the past few months. This was the first time I ever shared it at a public forum.

My key points, in a nutshell: As brands face an unprecedented level of competition, transparency, and consumer empowerment on the social Web, "meaning" is becoming the new powerful currency that connects brands with their brandholders in the "share economy." The new marketing leader, the chief meaning officer, is a strategic activist, social media entrepreneur, constant innovator, and integrator. The chief meaning officer has the potential to transform business through meaningful marketing--marketing that consistently creates added social value, not as an afterthought but a sine qua non. While marketing has always been the art of turning friends into customers and customers into friends, it is now the art of finding, befriending, and activating the like-minded for a common cause, for the common good--and for profit. Brands that have a reason to exist, an argument to win, will be more appealing than ever.

The Seven Rules:
1. Listen and converse (and converge)
2. Atomize your brand
3. Activate your customers
4. Think and act like a media company
5. Give more than you take
6. Be the change
7. Be yourself

Here are the slides:

More about the other next09 talks--and the emerging 'Share Economy' (that you may also call a "Twitter Economy")--in the next couple of days…