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5 of the Most Contagious ideas of 2018

From embracing risk to admitting your imperfections and taking a stand

/ Introduction

A day well spent at Most Contagious. Bravo to Paul Kemp-Robertson and team for putting together such a relentlessly captivating ride of insights. Here are just a handful of my many take-outs.

  1. Fortune favours the brave

Easier said than done but Contagious make a compelling case that the most effective work comes from taking risks. Consumers and companies both lose out from an industry hardwired to risk aversion. KFC’s 2018 FCK masterclass in crisis communications and Bodyform’s quest to stop treating sanitary pads like ‘Class A’ drugs (‘Blood Normal’) emphatically demonstrate the potential business and social impact of throwing caution to the wind, following your instinct and challenging conventional thinking.


  1. Admit your imperfections

The ‘Pratfall effect’ dictates that people and products that admit a flaw are more appealing. Advertisers might benefit from not striving to portray perfection, says Richard Shotton of Manning Gottlieb OMD. Create a sense of believability but make sure your weakness masks a strength. Listerine, the taste you hate twice a day (but we care about oral hygiene); Buckley’s cough medicine, the bottle is 200ml as any more would be cruel (but, crikey, it works); VW, yes we’re ugly (but we care about technological brilliance); Stella, reassuringly expensive… the list goes on. But safe career progression and the fear of failing more often than not inhibit risk taking.

  1. Burgers will save the world

By 2025, 20% of meat will be man-made, says Contagious’s Sophia Epstein. 56% of Brits no longer see meat as an essential ingredient. Lab-grown meat is now cheap, tastes good and is way more ecologically friendly (livestock emissions are greater than all the world’s vehicles!). Unilever is investing heavily and others are likely to follow suit.

  1. The message is the medium

Over 100bn messages are sent every day across Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, five times more than when SMS was at its peak. It’s a big opportunity for brands if they can get it right. KLM is one company balancing that fine line between adding value (your flight is leaving soon from this gate etc.) and being intrusive across a medium that is notoriously hard to navigate. Will we see Message teams joining Social and Search teams? It’s the Contagious idea for 2019 and certainly one to watch.

  1. Take a stand

The world is increasingly polarised but Chloe Markowicz, Contagious editor, reassures us that the world is moving in the direction of more liberal values. Edelman reckon that 64% of consumers will choose, switch or reject brands on the basis of what they stand for. Longer term, not taking a position on contentious issues and you run the risk of irrelevance. Coca-Cola (“this Coke is a Fanta” on gay rights in Brazil), Nike (“Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything”) and Patagonia (“The President stole your land”) have all seen financial returns on taking a stand on political and social issues.  

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