Most Contagious 2022

I had the privilege of attending Most Contagious 2022 yesterday. I’m very cynical when it come to these things, but it was brilliant. I left inspired, invigorated and optimistic, so I thought I’d share some of the reasons why.

Brutal Simplicity has never been more relevant.

It was probably the most common phrase used all day.

Samsung said they need to be ‘Brutally Simple’ when it comes to data. They know too much about their consumers, which sometimes means they lose sight of human insight.

Felipe Thomaz mentioned ‘Brutal Simplicity’ being necessary when it comes to understanding market complexity. If you don’t know him, he’s amazing, look him up.

Marcel agency presented ‘Brutal Simplicity’ as their approach to strategy (see above). Their website also says ‘WE MAKE THINGS THAT CHANGE THINGS’. Someone should phone them.

Hellmann’s global marketing director said the most important thing she looked for in creative work was ‘Brutal Simplicity’.

The winner of the Most Contagious Campaign of the year was praised for being a ‘Brutally simple’ idea.

Meaningful Change, anybody?

It’s not Purpose, it’s Activism.

Every brand’s purpose is to influence choice (Felipe Thomaz).

The purpose of the Hellmans brand is to convince people to choose to buy mayonnaise from Unilever.

The purpose of the Sheba brand is to convince people to choose to buy cat food from Mars.

Combining purpose with activism (or not …) is a way to differentiate a brand within a category, and positively impact choice.

Activism means taking action ie. doing something, not saying something. Backup Ukraine (Polycam & Unesco) made an brilliantly compelling case for this.

When the link between purpose and activism is clear e.g. ‘Buy Hellmans and make leftover food taste better’ it can be rocket fuel for growth. Hellmann’s are the biggest brand activist when it comes to fighting food waste, and also the fastest growing global brand in the Unilever portfolio.

But when the link between purpose and activism isn’t clear e.g. ‘Buy Sheba to grow more coral reefs’ the commercial impact of activism over advertising is extremely unclear. The Hope Reef campaign almost certainly cost more than the uplift it created in brand preference & sales.

Despite how straightforward the above seems, almost every speaker talked about brand purpose in different, confusing ways. We really don’t help ourselves sometimes.

There’s nothing tactical about Innovation.

It took Dentsu Webchutney and Vice more than 18 months to create Unfiltered History.

Backmarket’s Hackmarket campaign took over 3 years from brief. It was technically illegal.

Hope Reef took more than 4 years. AMV did more than 50 creative presentations. The original brief was for a campaign to ‘tell people our cat food is made from 100% sustainably sourced fish’. Mars have now committed to funding ocean conservation for the next 10 years.

All of the Cannes Grand Prix winning work presented began with agencies and clients agreeing what they would ‘do’ (see activism, above), before they began work on advertising campaigns.

Marcel agency said the secret behind all their award winning ‘innovative’ work was the trust earned in long term client relationships. They do their most innovative work for their oldest clients.

Felipe Thomaz made an extremely compelling case for brands that constantly disrupt their category creating more commercial value over a longer period of time, than those which just try to achieve memorability & distinctiveness. He has Safi Bahcall’s Innovation Equation tattooed on his arm.

Recession makes all brands challenger brands.

There’s going to be a mild recession in the USA, a painful one in Europe and a long one in the UK (Tom Stander, editor of The Economist).

Just 9% of companies emerged from the last global recession (2007-08) stronger than they entered it.

Every category is different but generally speaking, the most successful companies in the last recession reduced operational costs better than their rivals, and invested in the future by spending on marketing, R&D and new assets. (Nitin Nohria, Harvard Business School).

Since the last global recession the correlation between buying excess share of voice and share of market growth has dropped from 60% to 9%. It’s now almost impossible to buy a greater share of market through salience alone. (Mark Holden, PHD)

Capitalising on other brands’ mistakes is the most proven and effective way to increase your share of a declining market. This means being disruptive, not just distinctive (Felipe Thomaz).

In the words of Ray Krok, founder of McDonald’s “If any of my competitors were drowning, I’d stick a hose in their mouth and turn on the water. It’s survival of the fittest.”

Funny works.

There is a correlation between the effectiveness of ‘non-rational’ messaging versus ‘rational’. Funny, strange or emotional ads are simply more memorable. (Mark Holden, PHD)

Creative campaigns have an 11x higher ROI than rational campaigns (James Hurman).

Liquid Death was announced the Most Contagious Brand of the Year.

Whatever you think about their macho (and sexist IMO) brand, they have used all the marketing weaponry available to steal a huge share of a very crowded bottled water market in the USA.

Their brand positioning is uniquely distinctive – ‘murder your thirst’.

They’ve disrupted the bottled water category. Bottling their water in what looks like beer cans isn’t just a brand idea, it’s a brilliant example of combining Purpose (selling water) & Activism (reducing plastic). They’re not the first water brand to do this but using a porn star as your sustainability spokesperson is a pretty memorable way to earn reach with new customers.

Despite being just 3 years old, they have already expanded the brand into new markets, diversifying their product range and selling as much branded merchandise (jewellery, candles, yoga mats..) this year as they did water in their first year of trading.

They subvert advertising norms like not showing children in beer ads and influencer marketing in order to build trust with customers who ‘hate corporate marketing as much as we do’. They have as many followers as Nike on TikTok, and almost twice as many likes.

There’s loads of good work out there if you look hard enough.

Some of the work shared was brilliant. Enjoy. 

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