Most Contagious 2012
Posted: December 20, 2012 | 10:43 ET by Nick Parish

Last week was one of the most epic days in the short history of Contagious. Our entire company gathered in London and had our first ever live debut of Most Contagious.

Every December, we've released Most Contagious as a free PDF report, and later microsite, as our holiday gift to the creative community. It's open to everyone, and free of charge, so those who can't access our work at other times have a chance to hear about what we loved.

The thick reports contain what we thought were the most crucial projects of the year, organized in sections. It's been tremendously popular, and is our week or so of mainstream fame every year, before we lurk back to our position somewhere west of the branding and communications world, where only the motivated seekers can find us.

The reports have been very influential. One planner admitted to missing the beginning of her family's Christmas lunch because she was holed up with MoCo.

So, this year, we decided to bring the report to life. We teamed up with corporate PR firm Fleishmann Hillard and created a massive event at King's Place in London, where we could talk about the biggest lessons from the report, and show off the great campaigns we love. And it was great. We talked about the biggest trends. We invited collaborators like Sir John Hegarty from BBH and Richard Powell from Seymourpowell. We brought the Small But Perfectly Formed section of the magazine to life, with three-minute pitches from startups like Sir Richard's Condoms, Hiut Denim and Percolate. Best of all, we gave out awards to our favorite campaigns, design elements, startups and more.

It was truly an epic day.

So, before you check back through the event hashtag, or go to read the whole report, I wanted to give you three major takeaways from the day.

Innovation isnít limited to social media

The most interesting parts of the Most Contagious event for many people were the Small But Perfectly Formed pitches. But they werenít all startups trying to be the next Twitter. We had companies manufacturing things: condoms (Sir Richardís) computers (Raspberry Pi) jeans (Hiut Denim) toilet paper (Who Gives a Crap) and razors (Dollar Shave Club). What differed was the delivery mechanism, and meaning. Sir Richardís and Who Gives a Crap both have give-get models, where your condom purchase helps fund safe sex in Haiti, or where your toilet paper dollars help fund hygiene projects in Africa. Dollar Shave Club and Who Gives a Crap offer subscription services as well, so the bathroom tissue and razors just show up when you need them. For others, the power is in the story. Raspberry Pi and Hiut Denim are bringing manufacturing back to Britain, for both jeans and computers. Hiut, meanwhile, is trying to give each pair of its jeans a chronicle of its life with its History Tag feature. So, innovation is not just about finding new ways to communicate. Old categories can be given life just by talking about them in different ways.

Image is everything

The growth of pictures continues to astound. Thereís something about the web thatís just viscerally visual. Late in 2011, blog 1000memories calculated 10% of all the photos ever snapped were taken that year. Three hundred million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day. So, similarly, weíve found brands that can give people image-making power, or inject themselves into that culture, are thriving. (See Amplified Live, earlier in this series, for more on that.) Brands like Tiffany, Leviís and even in the commerce space shopping brands like ASOS are thriving by playing to the visual aspects of their brand culture and products. Secondary behaviors to this image culture are only starting to emerge, such as Zapposí Pinpointing, which has people enter a loved oneís Pinterest username to get gift suggestions based on their pinning activity.

Ya Gotta Have Purpose

We structured the event in London in terms of the lifecycle of a Contagious idea: Purpose, Service, Making, Sharing, Selling. Without a doubt the first phase was the most important.

Brands no longer exist in the perfect shiny states their managers may envision. They no longer sparkle with the unreality of the happy marketer and the glistening logo. They get tarnished. They bruise. They most certainly lose their way.

Purpose recognizes the most important beginning point of this process, where a brandís role in the universe is turned outward from that impossibly sterile PowerPoint ideal.

This year, we featured Kenyan telco Safaricom, which tried to make a difference among its furthest customers. Safaricom joined forces with Dial-a-Doc Ltd, an organization specializing in the dissemination of medical information to improve access to medical advice for those living in rural areas and relieve pressure on overstretched outpatient departments. The Daktari 1525 service enabled Safaricom customers to dial 1525 on their mobiles 24/7 to be connected, via Safaricom call centers, to one of 50 qualified doctors recruited by Dial-a-Doc. The call charge of Kshs20 per minute (to cover the doctorsí fees, rather than the connection charge) is subsidized by Safaricom, which recently slashed it in half to widen access. The service currently handles around 2,000 calls per day.

Itís just one of many ways brands are reimagining themselves: from helping people make phone calls to creating links to health and well-being for those in the most remote parts of the world.

Hopefully your 2012 was fruitful and healthy. Have a look at Most Contagious and let me know what you think. Until next year!

Read the full report and buy a hard copy!

Nick Parish is Contagiousí North American Editor, based in New York. He tweets @paryshnikov and @contagiousmag. Sign up for Contagiousí free weekly newsletter at
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