Caroline Gosney



IFA tech, LinkedIn but cooler, Octopus growth and how not to approach crisis comms.

The best tech from the IFA showfloor

IFA Berlin continued its strong tradition of being a launch pad for the hottest new tech for the next six months – The 2023 show was a fish market of household appliances, connectivity, entertainment, eco-friendly power, robotics, transport, and wearables. We wanted to pick out a few of the most interesting trends and products to watch in the year ahead. 

Tech heavyweight Samsung spent much of the show touting its sustainability credentials – highlighting how the brand’s home appliances, TVs, heat pumps, fridges, mobile phones and more can work together to make your life more efficient. 

The standout was its Samsung Food App, which will apparently be able to analyse your meal’s nutritional values and recommend dishes day-to-day thanks to AI. 

On the hardware side, we saw The Honor Magic V2 continuing the trend of foldable yet affordable phones. Folding to just 9.9mm thick, so that’s basically the same size as a regular “candy bar” phone.

There was also the LG Stanby ME Go TV in a suitcase – which sounds exactly like what it is – and the adorable Enabot Ebo X, a robot that runs around your house for you, checking in on your pets whenever you’re out of the house. 

Away from the novelty, though, one trend loomed large over the entire show – AI in all its forms. Whether it was powering the latest innovations or simply causing a headache for career-conscious marketers, everyone at IFA had an opinion about what was next for AI, audiences, and the world at large. 

You can read about some of those opinions here.

Can we build a “cooler” LinkedIn

In an interesting series of posts on the X platform, controversy lightning rod Elon Musk laid out some of his issues with LinkedIn, and what a potential competitor might look like. 

Replying to a user complaining about Microsoft’s business social media platform, Musk said he sometimes receives LinkedIn links for job applications, but prefers a resume or bio to be emailed because “the cringe level is so high that I just can’t bring myself to use it.” 

“We will make sure that the X competitor to LinkedIn is cool,” Musk said. 

Never a man to move slowly (unless it’s towards a cage fight with Mark Zuckerberg), Elon has already launched a beta of X’s recruitment platform “X Hiring” – a service available only to organisations that have X’s $1,000-a-month gold-tick verification. 

Depicted in a sample screenshot, “X Hiring” allows companies to display a “We’re Hiring” section on their profile pages, with no further details currently available. LinkedIn’s owners at Microsoft must be absolutely terrified.

To be slightly more charitable to Musk, the move does indicate he might be serious about making X a true “everything app”. Exactly how far this goes remains to be seen, with the world’s most erratic man quickly moving on to post about how one of his companies has killed several terminally ill monkeys

Octopus extends is tentacles 

In brighter, greener news, Octopus Energy has announced its plans to buy Shell Energy in the UK and Germany – a move which will see the renewable energy giant take on over two million new customers. 

It follows on from Octopus buying Bulb after its collapse last year. 

This acquisition will make Octopus the UK’s second largest domestic energy provider, just behind the longtime frontrunner British Gas. 

Why does this matter if you’re not a Shell or Octopus customer? Well put simply, it’s rare for a popular, green-centric company to be this successful in the traditionally cut-throat, monopolistic and exploitative world of energy suppliers. 

With memories of massive price hikes on gas and electricity still fresh in people’s minds, energy companies in the UK have experienced intense backlash from customers, politicians and the media. 

Despite this, they’ve managed to rake in massive profits from people left without much of a choice. However, even through this period, Octopus’s optics and reputation have emerged relatively unscathed – thanks to competitive pricing and superior customer service.

Combine that with its 100% renewable energy generation policy, and we might dare to dream of some real competition in the energy space that benefits not only consumers, but also the planet.

Hiring crisis communications communicates crisis

With the writers’ and actors’ strike in Hollywood still ongoing with no end in sight, the collection of studios that make up the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) appear to be repositioning.

Perhaps realising that statements like “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and houses” is not a good look, the AMPTP trade body has hired the crisis-management specialist Levinson Group.

The firm’s goal is to reframe the big picture for studio and streamer CEOs who have been characterised as greedy, imperious and out-of-touch in the long-running picket line battle with the writers’ and actors’ unions. 

Case and point – Disney CEO Bob Iger (estimated salary: $27 million) says writers and actors are not being “realistic” with strikes: “It’s very disturbing to me”. We’ll likely see PR plans in place to mute outbursts like this in the near future, but for the time being, the hiring of The Levinson Group raises broader questions about hiring crisis comms firms in general. 

Is it a sign of weakness, or a sign that an organisation is truly “in crisis” – as so many striking workers are keen to assume? Is it just a normal business move to manage reputation in an incredibly sensitive time, when support for striking workers remains high? Are there better ways to frame hiring a crisis communications agency? Metacommunications if you will? 

Only time will tell what tactics will work when it comes to shifting opinions of the strikes. But for the time being, it is interesting to know that the months-long PR train crash has a new conductor at the helm.