A Review of Planning-Ness SF: A Strategy “Un-conference” by Chin Lu


Last week my coworker Wells Wallace and I attended the annual conference Planning-Ness for the first time. Originally meant for advertising and marketing strategists, recently it has expanded to cater to “creative thinkers and doers” at large. We were surprised that each speaker’s presentation is accompanied by group brainstorming and discussion, but leave it to strategists to have “work sessions,” amirite?

Below are highlights of this “un-conference”:


a beautiful constraintKicking off the event, Mark Barden took us through the big-picture ideas of his book “A Beautiful Constraint.” He provided us with real-life examples of how companies redirected potentially disastrous situations or problems into opportunities. Wells and I were delighted to re-hear a story about one of our clients: For the notoriously long Le Mans race, Audi knew their competitors’ vehicles were faster, so instead Audi kept their cars on the track longer with more efficient fuel and won.

Some of the re-frameworks he listed sound like they could work for dealing with life in general, tbh:

  • How could we break a pattern of decency on certain paths or elements?
  • What kind of questions could we ask to get additional information to help us think about the issue at hand from a different angle?
  • Could we remove or substitute something? What could we add to the process to change the outcome, whether it’s another person’s expertise, a new product dimension, or added service? What if we combine two seemingly irrelevant elements together?
  • What other form of resources are available for us to use? (A remedy for all the low-budget projects out there)
  • Really, what are we trying to achieve here? “Our job is to define the right level of ambitions for our clients.”

Ana Andjelic 1

Our favorite session has to be Ana Andjelic on modern luxury marketing started off with the statement of “fashion used to bring newness but now it is the tech world that brings innovation.”

Andjelic explains that old school luxury relies on namesake, logos, and fantastical brand universes to inspire desire, and it caters to those who have already achieved. On the other hand, modern luxury inspires people to achieve more by offering holistic wellness, fulfilling experiences, and seamless service power by tech integration.  Providing users intangible things like more time, autonomy, convenience, andexperiences are the new standards for modern luxury brands. While old school luxury is great for badging, modern luxury goes one step further with self-betterment and offering to improve one’s life in general.


Douglas Atkin the global director of community at Airbnb is also a published author. While he didn’t go into details about all the religious cult leaders and members he researched, he explained the high-level concepts of “The Culting of Brands” with some tips on how to scale up 1-on-1 intimate relationships:

  • Find something either inspirational or problematic for a group of people to rally around
  • Building a community takes a long time to ramp up because commitment grows exponentially (This is a good one to bring up to manage client expectations)
  • In general, it’s not a good idea to pay someone to participate in a community
  • It’s impossible to make everyone join your community so focus on those who want in
  • Beware of “community fatigue” and try not to repeat with asks
  • If a group is for profit, provide transparency of benefits for both the community and the brand
  • If a brand betrays its community, it is very easy for love to turn into hate
  • Instead of kicking out violators of rules right away, try giving them a grace period and warn them of the consequences if they don’t comply by a certain time

For further reading and a video of Atkin’s speaking on the same subject: Link here.

IMG_2890Gabrielle Tenaglia’s talk on the evolving relationship between brands and consumers had three parts: Minecraft, Twitch, and “Modern Creators.” The common theme tying all three together is how digital users want to go beyond simply consuming content by influencing the content or even creating their own.

Minecraft started with no rules and an incomplete system on purpose for users to figure out and fill in on their own, and after conducting research, Tenaglia found that people actually spend more time on the content around the game than actually playing the game itself because users are curious to see what others have made and done.

Twitch is often compared to YouTube or other livestreaming platforms, but Tenaglia stresses the uniqueness of the community there. For example, many YouTube gamer stars trying making the transition to Twitch found the livecasting aspect emotionally draining and gave up.

Twitch should not be thought of as one giant community; instead, it is thousands of communities with different interests. The content creators there have no scripts and do no post-production edits so they adapt according to the viewers’ comments on the fly—This makes Twitch “living entertainment” instead of just “live entertainment.” One Twitch influencer Tenaglia interviewed has a team of 14 people working for him in order to maintain the quality and quantity of his content. On Twitch, users are able to watch for free so they pay really out of love for the community to sustain it.

In the same vein, Tenaglia referenced Kanye West’s recent album and “Doctor Who” as other examples of modern creators. “The Life of Pablo” was released as a version with intention to be updated often based on feedback just like software. “Doctor Who” is a TV show that uses fan theories and reactions as a source of inspiration for the plot. Personally I also would have been interested to hear about the trend of self-publishing in books as well.

Overall, Planning-Ness was an insightful and fun interactive event, and Wells and I were happy to see that majority of attendees were other women. Looking forward to seeing the conference grow and evolve in the future!