FOR nearly two decades, students from all over the world have streamed into a former military prison on the island of Stumholmen in Karlskrona, south-eastern Sweden, to study digital strategy.
This school is Hyper Island. Transforming an old prison into a school was the brainchild of pioneers Lars Lundh and his business partners Jonathan Briggs and David Erixon.
These guys realised early on that organisations were going to need to evolve accordingly to adjust to the changing needs of the digital age, and that’s where they saw the opportunity to build a new institution of professional learning designed based on flexibility in anticipating and dealing with change.
The learning centre, which offers full-time master classes, part-time programmes and intensive courses, has learning hubs – besides Karlskrona – in Stockholm, Sweden; Manchester, England; New York, the United States; Sao Paulo, Brazil and Singapore. The organisation also tours the world offering short courses.
Last month, creative agency Naga DDB Sdn Bhd invited the Hyper Island team to train its staff and clients over a four-day Social Lab in Kuala Lumpur.
“An agency is only as good as its clients. It’s important for the marketing and advertising industry in Malaysia to adapt to the fast-changing scene in the industry. It’s about learning to change your approach as the industry needs to be up-to-date on the latest trends and developments,” Naga DDB chief executive officer David Mitchell tells StarBizWeek.
The lab in Kuala Lumpur, as the lab frequently held in Hyper Island’s Singapore hub, was facilitated as an interactive environment, where client and agency representatives were able to team up in small groups and work on tasks assigned by Hyper Island digital strategy & tactics in marketing, sales and public relations speaker Jesper Astrom, an internationally renowned consultant in digital tactics.
These labs are a four-day intensive course, where participants learn to design social engagement strategies and plans for actual client briefs.
That way, all parties can elevate their understanding of the challenges in the industry and reflect on how, as partners, they could explore other ways to engage the modern consumer, Mitchell says.
Hyper Island sessions are unconventional. There are no traditional teachers, homework, textbooks or tests.
“We plan for every day and present it to students on Day One. As the days progress, we change the agenda to suit the participants’ needs.
“Hyper Island sessions are structured in a way that includes plenty of reflection time, where participants are constantly challenged to learn and be analytical. Energisers (activities) may look weird but these sessions quicken the learning process. It may seem like a waste of time to sit around and be asked to feel but the point is to drive you towards a deeper understanding, which is a process that saves you a lot of money and time on the business,” says Astrom, who has worked closely with brands such as Pepsi-Cola, H&M and Google.
In terms of returns on investment from these courses, Hyper Island has helped Pepsi in the Nordics double its distribution volumes to restaurants and outlets, Astrom says.
“That was impressive, given that the latter is the underdog in Sweden,” he adds.
Similarly, independent electrical retailer Euronics was able to increase its bottom line by 300% by simply changing the copy on their website, as fashion retailer H&M made substantial savings by redirecting its search ranking,” explains Astrom, who runs a company in Stockholm and is developing Hyper Island’s Social Lab in Singapore.
Hyper Island’s office in Singapore offers Masters in Digital Media Management part-time and full-time programmes, as well as labs, masterclasses and tailored business solutions.
“Generally, the lab agenda is planned and presented to students on the first day. As the days progress, we change the agenda to suit the participants’ needs,” Astrom says.
As a participant in another Hyper Island lab in Singapore in March, Naga DDB digital strategist Lo Wei Tzen Wei Zen expected to be barraged with plenty of information.
But the sessions ran like a discovery, he says, as the different experiences that participants bring add to a collective learning for all.
Essentially, it helped participants break down campaigns and helped them look beyond the numbers into the sentiments behind them.
Fellow attendee Astro Malaysia senior associate Matthew Pak concurs, saying: “I think we as advertisers and marketers are blinded by the vanity metrics where we focus too much on the number of likes, views and shares, when in fact there is a lot more to social media marketing. This training really brought us back to basics and got us to rethink matters we thought we already knew.”
Mitchell says: “Increasingly as creative agencies, it is essential that we find opportunities to collaborate with our clients and agency partners outside daily working environments where the chance to free our minds and truly understand each other needs will be able to better manifest. Moving forward, we may engage Hyper Island again for further collaboration for the benefit of the advertising industry in Malaysia.”