Diet Coke & Mentos: Sure they fizz, but can they walk on water?

April 8, 2009 in News & Events | Comments (0)


I’m back just a week from my (now) annual trek to Israel. For the last several years I’ve had the pleasure and honor of participating in a very special two-day confab that takes place along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It’s called KinnerNet, a play on the Hebrew word for this body of water, which is Kinneret
An homage to Tim O’Reilly’s FOO Camp, KinnerNet is the brainchild of Israeli investor Yossi Vardi (If you didn’t just click the previous link about Yossi, you should. And make sure to watch the “Local Warming” video. I make a cameo at the very very end.) As far as what KinnerNet is all about, that’s pretty simple. It’s summer camp for grownups. For starters, it takes place at a spot called Ohalo Manor – a collection of rustic, concrete buildings clustered along the southern shore of the Kinneret.
Much like FOO Camp and the off-shoot BarCamp, Kinnernet is wholly user-generated. The 250 or so attendees range from young, first-time entrepreneurs, to seasoned senior executives from some of the world’s largest companies. But that doesn’t matter because one of the few rules of engagement at Kinnernet is this – you’re not allowed to “do business” … This isn’t about Powerpoints or chalk talks, it’s not about executive memos and product demos, Kinnernet is about ideas and creativity. It’s also a lovely exercise in what happens when you take a bunch of super smart people, release them from some of the usual structures and conventions under which they usually gather, and let ’em loose.
It’s an amazing experience and hands-down my favorite “event” of the year that I attend. Imagine going from a morning run through richly scented pastoral scenery to a passionate discussion about the parallels between orchestral conducting and management, then trot off to discuss mobile advertising before taking a break to play Guitar Hero and then perhaps take your chances walking on water – like my friend Dan Dubno does here:

Every year the last afternoon of Kinnernet features a massive water fight, and so it was a bit surprising when we all walked onto the great lawn to find long tables set up with several hundred bottles of Coke … and Mentos.
Thanks to the folks at Coca Cola (who kindly donated the supply of fizzing fuel for the experiment), the Kinnernet crew orchestrated the largest Coke/Mentos spectacle in Israel.
The first part of the entertainment was a professionally choreographed carbonated beverage spray. While not exactly the Bellagio Fountain in Vegas, the always creative Didi Vardi (Yossi’s older brother) set the bar pretty high.

But soon enough it was time for the group activity and, as those of us who stood at a distance had suspected, it was messy.

I mused on the cola-tinged cascades and thought about the opportunity that exists for companies willing to step beyond their usual practices and expectations. After all, at a traditional event, we’d have been hammered with banners and signage blasting Coca Cola’s name. More than likely there’d have been a few executives milling about always at the ready for a pitch or a chat.
Not at Kinnernet. Coca Cola was acknowledged and thanked on several occasions for providing the beverages and fodder for entertainment, just as British Telecom was given a hearty huzzah for what has to be the most reliable and beefy Internet at an event I’ve ever experienced (three cheers to the fabulous Gary Shainberg!!). Granted not all 250 people were hammering on the bandwidth at once, but there was a hefty volume of video and photo upload at any given point in time and never once did the connection falter. Were we subjected to logo hats and pens, presentations and messaging from BT? Never a once.
As more and more brands seek to engage with core constituencies in ways that are qualitatively deeper than before, it will require a certain level of humility and willingness to set aside old school expectations, throw some care to the winds, and perhaps be ready to get a little sticky in the process.


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