Now / Next / Why 2015

by Arianna Radji

This year's Now / Next / Why series saw events in London, New York, Chicago (thanks to our partners SOCIALDEVIANT) and San Francisco (thanks to our partners BSSP).

Now / Next / Why is a stimulating day covering the social, technological, media, and marketing shifts that are impacting brands. The day includes discussion and practical advice, setting the agenda for the year ahead with a mixture of Contagious consultants, expert external speakers, workshops and live debates.

This year's theme was all about Obsessing Experience:

We know you’ve heard about platforms proliferating and brands becoming atomised. Sure, as a marketer there are now countless touch points you need to spread your business across. But as far as your customer is concerned, there is only one experience. An experience can be fleeting or built across an entire lifetime – it’s both the brief encounter with and complete manifestation of a brand. It is at once tangible and intangible. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be understood and, most importantly, optimised.

In the 2015 installment of the agenda-setting Now / Next / Why series, Contagious challenged our industry’s preoccupation with ‘omnichannel’ and focus instead on what matters to real people: the interaction they have – anytime, anywhere or anyhow – with your brand. Designers, marketers, retailers, and scientists joined our consultancy and editorial teams on stage to explore how obsessing experience is the only answer to building great brands in the 21st century.

Drawing on the rich database of the Contagious I/O research platform, we shared best-practice case studies of experience design across key categories, including:

Immersive Content / Be it a six-second Vine or a six-hour YouTube preroll ad, video formats continue to diversify at both ends of the attention spectrum. But is video content always the best way to bring a brand’s story to life? With emerging technologies such as virtual reality finally being capable of adding value beyond mere novelty, are we about to usher in a new age of immersive content? Learn how brands can tell their stories, share their beliefs and manifest their promises through genuinely interactive, tangible experiences.

Lived Brands / Does a bank sell savings accounts or money management? Does a pet food company sell dog treats or the promise of a better life for your pets? As industries are disrupted and consumers' relationships with brands change, companies must redesign themselves around the lives and needs of their consumers to foster engagement. The result: experiences, or even ways of life, that are enabled by brands and unlocked when individuals buy into specific companies. In this session, Contagious explored the experience promises brands are making and examine how those brands are consequently evolving to deliver value-add services in addition to selling products.

Think like a Museum / Despite our interactions with brands increasingly bleeding across digital platforms, physical spaces are still the best places to deliver a visceral, lived experience. Retailers, events organisers and restaurateurs alike are striving to heighten the physical experience to encourage people to invest more time, attention and money in their brand. Museums and galleries are proving particularly deft in this area, creating rich, compelling experiences for visitors that bring the best of digital to the physical environment. What can other sectors and brands learn from these experts in curation?

Joined-up Digital / We’ve moved on from a predictable, 360-degree planning environment that prioritised 'matching luggage', and are now challenged to present a holistic yet varied brand experience made up of dozens of personalised interactions in unpredictable places. What are the day-to-day implications for brands? How can we be ready to deliver superior experiences in a coherent way across everything from paid media to internal-facing infrastructure and emerging social platforms? In this section Contagious explored how successful brand experiences result from addressing the operational cracks and crevices, as much as the headlining-grabbing marketing executions.

The day will concluded with a practical exploration of how you can implement an experience-dominant approach within your own organisation. This included both the operational and cultural changes that can be made, brought to life by some of the world's foremost authorities on experience design.

This session included an interactive challenge designed to take advantage of the diverse expertise and experience of the Now / Next / Why audience. Working together with our guest speakers, we collectively apply the day's learnings to figure out how to overcome some of the barriers that still stand between brands and willing consumers on a local charity/social enterprise. Here are the results:

London // Shakespeare Schools Festival: 

New York // Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Chicago // Chicago Idea Week's Youth Programme

San Francisco // coming soon!


‘Now / Next / Why on Experience delivered a really compelling argument for why experience really matters for brands.  I’m really sold on the idea that creating brands from the bottom up, experience by experience, will increasingly be the way we win consumers’ hearts.  A full day conference can sometimes sag, but the speakers were all incredibly engaging -  particularly from Contagious - and the case studies and examples were really inspiring – I can see myself stealing lots of the ideas shared on the day!'

Marie Stafford / Business Intelligence Director / J Walter Thompson


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