News & Views

Now / Next / Why / Event Debrief

by Contagious Team

What you missed at Contagious' London and New York events

We've recently hosted our annual Now Next Why session both in London and New York. We had some stellar talks from excellent guest speakers and Contagious team members alike -- here's a summary of some of the topics and ideas we covered, from new currencies to beyond screen interfaces.

In London, Decoded co-founder Steve Henry stressed that a nimble attitude to developing new products was paramount, stating that 'no good digital product is ever launched slowly'. The internet, he added is the best tool ever created for business and creativity. The wide range of freely available tools has democratised opportunities to become digitally literate, resulting in tech-savvy consumers who expect more from brands. 'Ask what your brand can do for your customers. But then ask what they can so for you,' he advised.

Seconding the influence of the internet, of course, was Wayra Academy's Simon Devonshire: 'The transition to a digital economy is more profound than what happened in industrial revolution.' He stressed the importance to brands and institutions of creating a value exchange that people are willing to pay for, rather than always expecting everything for free. 

Insider consultant Will Sansom's talk on Adaptive Innovation covered why companies need to evolve to suit the changing preferences of consumers. In a bid not to fall behind when it comes to technological advances, corporations need to become more nimble.

Jeremy Ettinghausen from BBH Labs, London, highlighted the positive effects of a R&D lab by pointing out that the research process is about finding value in new forms of marketing. Ultimately, a research and development department is about looking for wider possibilities and then, crucially, sharing those with the agency. Agencies, he noted, work and thrive on confidence, to which research contributes.

BERG's Matt Webb stunned the audience with the latest product to come out of the London-based studio: The BERG CLOUD developer board, which enables anyone to create internet-connected products.
Contagious' Katrina Dodd explored the importance of time and urgency. In our constantly connected daily lives, consumers are especially susceptible to mobile and digital artificially-induced feelings of urgency. Visualising time, she concludes, can lend a sense of compulsion to a call to action -- used for example by McDonald's QR code mobile voucher for an ice cream that 'melted' away as time passed. Razorfish's William Lidstone, the agency behind the campaign, mentioned that keeping the behavioural patterns and preferences of the audience in mind is paramount -- after all knowing the consumers' preferences that can make a brand initiative successful.
In the New Currencies session, Dan Southern and Arwa Mahdawi, in London and New York respectively, explored the rapid how technological developments change our perception of value and currencies. Original research conducted by Opinium for Contagious showed that 15% of people in the UK and 21% in the US would be comfortable with traditional sovereign currencies being abandoned in favour of independent currencies, such as the hotly debated crypto-currency BitCoin.

In the Beyond Screens session and workshop, Chloe Markowicz & Ed White as well as Nick Parish explored the latest developments in non-screen based interfaces. Wearable tech such as Google's Project Glass will play a greater role in our lives -- as will privacy concerns. Companies, the speakers concluded, needed to carefully demonstrate what information they're gathering, and need to show people the tangible benefits that this data provides.
In collaboration with our friends at moustache growing charity Movember, we got the audience thinking around how post-screen communications can be used to raise awareness for the charity and its causes. Read here about the best ideas that came out of the workshop. 

Meanwhile, in New York...

'The future of technology is exciting because it is difficult to predict,' said Disney Research Scientist Ivan Poupyrev, capping off a New York City NNW event that paired stunning views of the city with exciting exploration of what that future might hold. Held on the 40th floor of the New York Academy of Science, the day was a perfect complement to its across-the-pond cousin. In addition to presentations by Contagious Insiders from London and NYC, a slate of experts and practitioners added their insights to the day's topics.

Poupyrev and IBM Research's Claudio Pinhanez joined Contagious America's Editor Nick Parish in urging the audience to consider a 'more human' future in which brands move beyond screens, outlining not just what that may look like, but how and why the marketing industry needs to embrace the change. Coca-Cola senior vice president Wendy Clark advised brands to stay true to themselves as they push into the future, becoming 'a better you, not a worse them.' She unveiled Fanta's latest global campaign with panache, describing how the brand built on existing infrastructure to launch simultaneously in 190 markets. 'Start with what got you here,' said Clark. 'Too often we shake the Etch-A-Sketch and destroy the equity we've already built.

Meanwhile, Howard Pyle, VP of IBM's Digital Strategy & Design Lab, encouraged attendees to practice 'pragmatic innovation,' asking three questions through every process: What are we doing, with who, and why? 'Constraints are the defining elements of the creative solution,' he said, quoting Charles Eames.

In New York's morning session, Enliken's Marc Guldimann pushed for better, smarter use of data throughout the industry. He believes marketers should be more upfront about what they're delivering via data, noting that Pricewaterhouse Coopers found 73% of people are willing to share data if they get a benefit in return. Later, Codecademy's Leng Lee laid out the case for learning to code, citing work the company has done with brands like Amex and Accenture. Comparing programming to writing, he told the audience, 'the power now is in the hands of those who can code.'

All in all, a fantastic pair of 2013 Now / Next / Why events on both sides of the Atlantic. Next up: Most Contagious. Mark December 11th on your calendar, and we hope to see you there!

Photo by @SuperSizeArt / Morgan Howell