The truth(s) about Most Contagious 2020

2 min read
Feb 17, 2020 12:00:00 AM

Inspirational. Aspirational. Motivational. These are some of the words I heard people using at the recent NYC Most Contagious event.

Each year, Contagious identifies what they believe is the best of the best marketing efforts, and then invites the bold and brave responsible for developing this work, to share their behind the scenes perspective.

The speakers ranged from Oatly to the New York Times to Country Time lemonade (take a look at their brilliant Legal Ade ads), as well as fascinating talks on challenger brands, the digital reboot and the consumption crisis.

And while the topics and marketing activities varied considerably, I kept coming back to one consistent idea that underpinned each of these success stories.

At the end of the day, it’s still all about insights – the deep human truths that exist at the core of what gets us to great.

Identifying and honing in on how consumers think, what they need, how they behave, and how they might be willing to change that behavior, is essential.

We applaud creative bravery, but without a deep understanding of our audience, that bravery is at risk of missing the mark.

For example, Black & Abroad might have started out with the idea of overcoming hate speech with their provocative “Go Back to Africa” tourism campaign. But they also sought to understand their target audience, who felt a deep bond with the country and, more importantly, a desire to share their heritage with others.


That human connection formed the basis of their messaging, and even informed their marketing, encouraging and magnifying user generated content as a key communication platform. Without that insight, it’s easy to see how this campaign could have ended poorly.

We heard from Microsoft about the launch of their adaptable controllers – making gaming accessible to those with a variety of physical challenges. Rather than focusing on product functionality or benefits, they spent substantial time with kids who would benefit from the product. What they heard? “The only time I get to be my true self is in gaming”, i.e., that gaming allows everyone, regardless of disability, to be on an equal playing field.

Their heartwarming “when everybody plays, we all win” advertising, built around this insight, is not only inspiring, but resulted in expansion of accessibility to a variety of other categories.


Finally, no article about Most Contagious is complete without a shout-out to Burger King, who has taken trolling to a whole new level. Sure, offering 1 cent Whoppers is a powerful way to drive trial. But they built on their insight that people enjoyed “getting a deal”, even if that meant additional friction in the buying process.

Hence the use of geofencing to identify customers headed to McDonald’s, tagging them, and making them go through the process at McDonald’s first before heading to Burger King to receive their 1 cent Whopper. The live videos, not to mention the sales spikes and earned media, are irreplaceable.


Don’t be fooled by these great examples – uncovering meaningful human truths is not so simple. You must be willing to dig deep, to invest the time and resources needed to identify insights that matter, and are relevant to your situation.

And even when armed with great insights, you must be willing to be uncomfortable in striving for creative bravery.

As Fernando Machado said: "We are not fearless. We’re scared all the time. But we identify the ideas and do it anyway."

At Oxford, we believe in getting to great insights and putting consumers at the heart, and have seen the positive business impact from helping our clients do that.

Please reach out to me if you’d like to learn more.

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think