A roundup of Contagious - Now/Next/Why

Written by
Andreea Nastase

Some people might remember Contagious for their glossy magazines full of curated news and trends alongside a CD filled with work in high quality format - the curated trends are very much still there, but their events are going stronger and stronger.

Now/Next/Why on the 21st of London was an entire day dedicated to the ‘obsessing experience’: a word often used and abused but nevertheless important, especially as word has travelled in some parts of the world that we should focus on acquiring experiences, rather than 'things'. Experiences are the new talking points and building blocks for our identities.

For us it’s hugely important: we create, define and craft unforgettable digital experiences and if there’s one thing the day made crystal clear is that digital experiences too often lack charm. We have a lot of work to do!

To start off with, Matt and Will from Contagious encouraged us to think about the best and worst brand experiences as of lately, and how transference of experience expectation happens without us knowing: the last great experience you have with a brand will then go on to shape how you feel about other things in your life. You might have had a terrific experience with Uber, where you can sync your Spotify playlist with the car you’re about to board, and then reasonably wonder why you can’t do the same thing with, perhaps, a restaurant you've bookde for a special dinner out. You start to wish other brands or services in seemingly unrelated industries offered the same level of personalisation.

Experiences at Contagious Now/Next/Why covered everything from the physical world, like Lush’s newest and biggest shop opening on Oxford Street or IDEO’s Holiday Inn smart traveller experience in the US, to virtual reality and Framestore’s ventures into simulating driving for Volvo.

Contagious’ Katrina Dodd talked about how companies and brands are often good at talking about what they do and how they do it, but rarely about why. This is a common strategic challenge we guide our clients through: few of them are lucky to have well-defined brands to begin with, while others sense that they've lost sight of the raison d’être they started out with and can't quite figure out how their brand should look or behave in the myriad digital channels at our disposal. 

Pedigree was a good example of a brand that unlocked creativity the moment it spelled out its ‘why’ in the form of “We’re for dogs”. Ideas like the recently awarded K9FM, "Dog Doppelganger"  (where you can find and adopt a dog that looks just like you) and Pedigree Tracks  (the ‘pocket dog advisor’ that helps you create a tailored menu for your dog based on logging daily exercise levels) would not have been possible without it. Pedigree have successfully managed to transition from a company simply providing dog food to one that’s changing what it means to be a dog owner, inserting itself into people’s (digital) lives where previously there was no role for them.

The day finished off with a lot of excitement around virtual reality and its possibilities, some real trials of Framestore VR gear, as well as a beautifully delivered roundup of ten principles for great customer experiences from Matt Watkinson.  

Matt argued that there are a lot of CXOs in companies: marketing officers, information officers, finance officers, but no one in charge of experience. It’s no surprise that CMOs realise that in the absence of a ‘Chief Experience Officer’, they’ll be the ones responsible for it in the near future. This is a tough nut to crack given that 68% of marketers feel that the rest of their company thinks of them simply as a cost centre according to a recent survey by Marketo and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

On an end note, here are two things we didn’t know before Tuesday:

  • First, that Periscope’s original ambition was to build ‘the closest thing to teleportation’ - not quite there, but given Obama is periscoping (n.a. verb, "to livestream via Periscope") these days not a bad ambition to have.
  • Secondly, and unrelated - that Lush sells about 9 million bath bombs each year in the UK. "That's a lot of baths for a time-poor country," you might think. We were told that some people hack them and use them in the washing machine*


* Something LUSH and all other washing machine manufacturers don’t encourage. ​You didn't hear it from us.

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