14 June 2019
Contagious Magazine Issue 59 is out now /
Editor Chloe Markowicz explains why our latest issue is all about asking uncomfortable questions
Please don’t burn us at the stake for admitting this, but we at Contagious consider ourselves to be heretics. Not religious ones – we profoundly object to the dogma that marketing needs to follow a set of conventions.
That’s why we champion brands unafraid to do things differently. These are the brands that don’t shy away from heretical questions – questions that Contagious lead strategist Chris Barth and co-founder Paul Kemp-Robertson describe as the ones ‘that would chill the air if you brought them up in a meeting of senior stakeholders’ in their piece in our latest magazine. Barth and Kemp-Robertson argue that asking these very questions leads to discomfort and dissonance, but also to remarkable creativity.
Our entire issue is, in fact, peppered with brands that have asked such questions. We dig into the outcome of a brand asking itself, ‘What if we publicised the fact that people hate the taste of our beer?’ If someone tweeted that your product tasted like ‘the bath water that your nan died in’, no brand manager’s instinct would be to promote it, but that’s what Carlsberg did. This counter-intuitive approach saw it sidestepping the advertising clichés of the lager category.
While Carlsberg’s campaign was about confronting people’s dislike of its product, in his op-ed, our editorial director Alex Jenkins investigates what happens when people really dislike your advertising. The blasphemy here lies less in the question,‘Should we make people hate our ads?’ and more in his answer: a nonchalant shrug.
There’s more heresy when we explore the result of a slew of brands asking, ‘What if we admitted this is an ad?’ Turns out, giving up the charade with campaigns that are both entertaining and authentic can better appeal to young people.
In our spotlights on KFC China and cannabis brand MedMen (fried chicken and weed, could there be a more perfect combo?), we profile brands that are taking a heretical approach not just to advertising, but to business too. Senior writer James Swift reports on how MedMen is rejecting stoner stereotypes and reveals what happened when it asked, ‘Why can’t cannabis be luxurious?’
Staff writer George Wyndham’s deep-dive into KFC China is just one heretical question after another: ‘Why can’t a fast food brand be healthy? Why can’t a US brand with an old white man as its mascot represent Chinese youth? Why can’t a brand famous for selling chicken and mash also sell crayfish and congee?’
So, challenge the status quo and take heed from philosopher Bertrand Russell: ‘It’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.’
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