News & Views

Event Debrief / Now Next Why

by Contagious Team

A run through of the hot topics that Contagious and our guest speakers covered at Now/Next/Why 2017 in London: Trust, Culture, Dark Social and Computational Creativity 

Tackling Trust

The first speaker of the day was Contagious’ head of trends, Patrick Jeffrey, who spoke about the shifting nature of trust in today’s society. Jeffrey had recently interviewed some of the world’s leading minds on the topic, such as Edelman’s Ben Boyd and the behavioural economist, Professor Dan Ariely. Contagious also partnered with J Walter Thompson in London to commission quant research that investigated US and UK consumers’ attitudes towards trust.

Jeffrey concluded that, in today’s fragile and polarised landscape, there are five core values that all brands must exhibit to be truly trusted: Expertise, Reliability, Purpose, Transparency and Honesty. Of those, the final three represent the greatest opportunity for marketers, who can build trust throughout any organisation by concentrating on those values. More information on this talk, plus the full breakdown of research from our survey, will be available on within the next few weeks.

Bank of Åland and RBK

Mathias Wikström, chief executive at RBK Communications in Stockholm, spoke about developing an index that tracks the carbon footprint of people’s spending habits for Bank of Åland. The bank was keen for a campaign like Patagonia’s Don’t Buy This Jacket ad, to communicate its approach to corporate social responsibility. The idea for the Åland Index sprang from the dismal state of the Baltic Sea – one of the most polluted in the world.

Wikström and his team imagined a biodegradable bank card and an index attached to every customer’s bank statement, detailing how their spending affected the environment. But RBK would have to clear significant hurdles to make it a reality, not least convincing MasterCard to shift its logo to the back of the card for once. But RBK persevered and the campaign attracted media coverage worth an estimated €350m, and has also become a mandatory case study at the Stockholm School for Economics. Creating the campaign taught Wikström two things, he says: trust is a brand’s most valuable asset, and transparency is its most effective tool.

Catching up with Culture

For the second Contagious session, Contagious Insider’s Georgia Malden explored another big challenge highlighted in our Genius Survey – how to stay relevant to culture today. You know this is a gnarly topic when Saturday Night Live starts mocking brands’ efforts to do so (above). And it’s no wonder it’s hot right now, with the volatile climate we’re living in. Furthermore, the speed with which culture is changing, and the democratisation of the way it is created and spread, are adding to the complexity. ‘There is now a bigger canvas where culture can be created,’ said Malden. ‘All our interactions with brands are opportunities to create experiences that live in and shape culture’.

But being relevant to culture, argued Malden, is subjective. This is about more than just being down with the kids; it’s a deliberate and systematic process of identifying the spaces you can legitimately play in. Culture encapsulates a broad spectrum made up of behaviours, values and interests. For some brands, staying relevant will be about adapting to new digital platforms; for others, it might be about doing things that demonstrate a clear set of values; and for others it will be about enriching the wider lifestyle around the product. The key is to identify the authentic and credible role for your brand, and then commit to the long game, not a quick fix TV campaign.

Edelman Deportivo

Edelman Deportivos creative strategist and chariman, Mattias Ronge and Anders Hallén, chief innovation officer, spoke about the idea of putting culture first and clients second. The pair, representing the top agency on Contagious 2017 Pioneers ranking, took the audience through why instead of starting with the product or brand, they start with what people are into and introduce the client into that.

Ronge and Hallén discussed how their process had helped them produce culturally relevant work for Renault, Absolut and Hövding. The pair advised agencies to stay curious, believe that being interesting is more powerful than being exactly right, to aim much higher than you think you need to, use technology to solve issues for your target audience and create fame to make marketing to become instantly chooseable. 

Dark Social 

Contagious writer Kristina Dimitrova offered an overview of the rising influence of dark social as well as the challenges and opportunities it presents for brands.

In 2016, 84% of consumers shared content through private, dark social channels such as email and instant messaging. Yet, according to eMarketer, 90% of social marketing ad budgets go directly to social networks. This represents a serious challenge for the industry. ‘Dark social makes tracking and measuring the impact or branded content extremely hard. In turn, this can result in spending time and money focusing on the wrong metrics,’ Dimitrova argued.

But these most personal channels also represent opportunities for brands to get closer to their customers, foster brand love and, ultimately, positively impact their bottom line. Dimitrova pointed towards Domino’s GIFEELINGS (above) as an example of a campaign that didn’t just talk at customers, but equipped them with tools so that people could become the ultimate media channel. Elsewhere, Nike created a service hosted on WhatsApp – Nike on Demand – which helped keep customers motivated to work out. With the project, Nike proved brands can enter the mysterious world of dark social by providing something people genuinely need.

So while dark social still represents a lot of challenges, with the right type of presence companies can benefit from these ‘walled gardens’, where sharing has proved to be more valuable, more trusted and more influential.

Computational Creativity

Closing the day, Contagious editor Alex Jenkins explored the potential of computers to generate creative marketing content. The session outlined the role and rise of machine learning in equipping computers to be creative. Referencing Alan Turing’s belief that a computer’s inability to imitate how humans think should not rule out their ability to be intelligent, Jenkins suggested that the same logic could also be applied to creativity. He then demonstrated a host of technologies that could be used in the creation of marketing, including AI-based narrative, voice and music generators, alongside tools that could evaluate creative work.

While some of these technologies are nascent, being digital means they are subject to the various exponential effects of the digital world and will improve significantly. ‘These technologies are no longer prohibitively expensive and they are getting better rapidly. The same can’t be said about humans,’ Jenkins observed. Although job losses through automation are a genuine concern, his advice was to think of computational creativity as a tool for a new breed of creative to wield.