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Most Contagious 2021 - the top 3 takeaways

20th December, 2021

Most contagious report 2021 website cover

A New Year is coming, and with it, lot's of ‘good resolutions’. Now seems the perfect time to pause and reflect to prepare ourselves - to look back in order to better plan ahead.

Most Contagious is the annual signature event by our partner Contagious, experts in creative and strategic intelligence, where they showcase the big brand movements of the year and key trends to be aware of for the year ahead.

The event showcased a plethora of brilliant brand campaigns that have inspired the world of marketing with their empathy, creativity, purpose and talk-ability.

If we had to summarise the campaigns that made us truly pause and reflect in just 3 words, we'd choose the following: Interdependence, Respect and Dream.

1/ Acknowledging the fundamental interdependence between people, organisations and systems is what will drive success at scale

In a world as complex and interconnected as it is today, it’s daft to think that one person, team, function, or organisation has THE answer.

And we heard this from almost every speaker: the key driver of their success was the team, the collaboration, the partnership, the coalition.

The Mastercard 'purpose' campaign "True Name" was only made possible by their partnership with banks.

The launch of Tide Hygienic Clean was the brand’s most successful innovation due to their partnership with the NFL.

At Oxford, we look at the world through the lens of interdependence since, irrespective of sector or geography, success at scale is now dependent on globally interconnected sets of people, organisations and systems.

The days of finding problems, analysing them, solving them and moving on to the next one, like a global game of professional whack-a-mole, are gone!

The most inspiring example of interdependence was Adidas. It’s a company used to partnering, especially when it comes to drive sustainability, for example to develop recycled cotton or plant-based leather.

They humbly believe that ‘to solve the ecological crisis, we can’t do it alone. It needs a systemic approach’ especially as the whole industry shares the same supply chain. Their ambition is to change the industry, not just their brand. They are ready to partner not only with suppliers, or companies from other industries, but also with their direct competitors, like they did with Allbirds. An unprecedented collaboration to create a sneaker with the “lowest ever carbon footprint”.

Brands will need to learn to partner more, to join forces to push boundaries even further, to amplify the resonance of their work. Especially when it comes to purpose and sustainability, will brands be brave enough to embrace interdependence in service of the common good?

Adidas and Allbirds have shown that when fighting an opponent as formidable as the climate crisis, unlikely alliances working towards a shared goal is perhaps the smartest way to win.

The world of marketing is shifting towards the unfiltered, brands are becoming more ‘authentic’. And this means much more than just looking real.

The concept of authenticity is not new. It has been one of those marketing buzz words that we’ve all been guilty of over-using in the past years. It has featured in every trend report, creeping into more and more advertising and packaging briefs.

We’re entering a new area of ‘cut the sh*t advertising’

At the risk of being controversial, I would say that authenticity so far has just focused on ‘looking real’ in the aim to drive more appeal. Fake dirt on a carrot to make it look like it’s coming out of the field, or fake paper-looking packaging actually made of plastic. The world of advertising has been particularly guilty of ‘fake authenticity’ but today it seems to be taking a different turn, especially as more and more brands are finding their purpose.

Be it Bodyform talking about periods, Tommee Tipee talking about ‘Boob Life’ when breastfeeding or La Roche Posay showing REAL skin issues, ads no longer gloss over reality anymore. Periods are no longer blue.

We’re entering a new area of ‘cut the sh*t advertising’.

Being authentic has proven to be successful for the brands who dare to be true, simple, honest - in other words, human. People can see that brands are on ‘their side’ and it re-humanises the relationship.

But what is authenticity truly about?

To answer this question, I have to talk about the truly inspiring Anti-Knife Crime campaign ‘Long Live the Prince’ created by Engine for the Kiyan Prince Foundation, which was established in 2008 in memory of Kiyan Prince, a 15-year-old talented footballer who lost his life to violence.

It’s not easy to engage on this topic with a desensitised audience of children. The team wanted to avoid using the traditional didactic and fearful tonality of anti-violence messages.

What they did instead was to give hope by celebrating who Kiyan would have become.

They even reached out to his football coaches to understand how he used to play as a boy, in order to simulate his moves and football performances. And they gave him the career and fame he could have had.

At what would have been his 30th birthday, Kiyan succeeded in signing a contract with The Queens Park Rangers club, entered the FIFA game as a top player and featured on Match Attax playing cards.

The campaign raised four times more money in 24hours than what they usually do in a full year. It brought tears to a dad ‘seeing’ his boy again. But more importantly it inspired many to get away from knife crime.

This campaign did really make me pause and reflect on what Authenticity truly means. It is not the opposite of virtual reality. It is not about looking real. It’s about caring so much that no shortcut is ever taken. It’s about showing respect. A genuine respect for the people we serve.

Let’s not fall in the trap though and believe that respect means only seriousness and gravity. How can you talk with authenticity about purpose or sustainability without sounding depressing or dare we say boring?

The Save Salla campaign or the Channel 4 campaign on the Paralympics are shining examples that humour and provocation can be used while being authentic and respectful.

The provocative tagline ‘To be a Paralympian there must be something wrong with you’ only works because it is deeply rooted in respect.

3/ The future belongs to those bold enough to define their dream and work to make it happen

We can’t talk about future trends without talking technology, metaverse or NFTs. Without entering into the details of their definition or functioning (we could write an entire article about it!), it is fair to say that they are the tech giants’ big bet for tomorrow, so much that Facebook even rebranded itself Meta this year.

The Metaverse will take us way beyond AR, VR or Avatar. It’s about connecting different worlds, physical and virtual, leveraging NFTs to turn it into a fully functional economy. It has the potential to completely redefine marketing, reinvent how we do business and transform our lifestyles.

Yet we have no idea how this will work, because it doesn’t even exist yet! What Meta or Microsoft and others are investing into today goes beyond strategic thinking. It is about setting an unprecedented vision, a dream.

The best visions, those that truly transformed brands, companies and industries are those that began as bold dreams, without any roadmap. At first. Because when we believe, we find a way. Of course, it comes with its lot of explorations, failures, discoveries, pivots, and a good dose of courage.

And it’s not just in the field of technology that we find dreams.

Ikea has a dream to become climate positive and transform their value chain from a linear to a circular business, leading to their brilliant #BuyBackFriday global initiative.

Adidas’ dream of sustainability started as early as in the 90s, when sustainability was a true disruption. They explored, made mistakes, learnt to let go of traditional way of thinking. They were bold enough to believe in their dreams, take strong pledges and stick with them – e.g. using only recycled plastic by 2024.

The Financial Times is another great example: they completely reset their positioning around their dream to redefine capitalism as a positive driver of progress and development.

So for this coming year, what best to make us pause and reflect but to ask ourselves: what is our dream?

Interdependence, Respect, Dream – here are my 3 takeaways to fuel and navigate 2022. What are yours? We’d love to hear from you, please share your thoughts - we'd love to hear from you!

To download a free copy of the Most Contagious 2021 report click here

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