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65: Creating Contagion in Your Communications with Duke Greenhill
26th August 2019 • Water In Real Life • The H2duO
00:00:00 00:52:45

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Duke Greenhill is a leading advertising creative and strategist, writer, filmmaker, and omnichannel marketer. He’s known for being among the first to employ augmented reality gaming (ARG) and episodic transmedia marketing in the United States, and for being a thought leader in the luxury branding and advertising space. Duke has published articles on luxury brand strategy and storytelling in top-tier industry press including Fast Company, The Harvard Business Review, The Telegraph, HubSpot and others. His projects have won many industry awards, including Effies, One Shows, Ogilvy Awards, ADDYs, and others. According to, an organization that monitors the impact of published thought leaders, Greenhill is cited in nearly half a million journals and academic papers. He’s currently the chair of advertising and the chair of graphic design at the Savannah College of Arts & Design (SCAD)–the university for creative careers.

Top Takeaways

  1. Keep our message simple.
  2. Remember that our social currency is defined by the quality of our engagement and not necessarily the quantity of followers.
  3. At the end of the day, human beings make decisions emotionally. We use reason to rationalize a decision we’ve already made. If you can conjure up emotion in a target audience and that emotion is what drives them to take action, you’ve won.


[05:15]At the end of the day, I think water is sexy.

[5:53] I don’t see why there needs to be a distance between the way we market a Tiffany ring and the way we communicate about water.

[6:13] Stop thinking about water as a utility, as something people don’t want to hear about, as some second-rate product or service and start treating it with the respect it deserves.

[7:05] The book–Contagious: Why Things Catch On–breaks down certain components that make communications viral, shareable, sticky.

[7:23] The class–Creating Contagion: From Experience to Entertainment–discusses ways to be at the forefront of communications by focusing first on the entertainment value of the communication and the utility of it–what it provides the end-user, rather than the message and how to sell it.

[8:54] Five elements of story: Character, Plot, Setting, Tension/Conflict, and Resolution. Story is the fundamental thing that makes any kind of communication worth communicating.

[9:30] Story–it’s a drug, leverage the addiction.

[10:40] Communication is easy? HA! (Rabbit hole!)

[12:16] 360-degrees of sticky: a class project involving students to create an omnichannel campaign (which refers to using multiple channels – surround sound)

[14:38] Triggers–anything you can attach a “call to action” to–attaching the purchase or use of the product to smells, taste, shape, color to conjure top of mind thinking. When it’s top of mind they take action.

[18:22 ] Remarkability-anything worth remarking about, repeating, sharing.

[18:43] People are impressed with innovation–it’s a currency all on its own.

[18:56] An example of remarkable innovation–predictive audio

[22:42] Water nerds: we have to tell the story of our passion!

[23:05] Water should be a luxury brand.

[23:36] Currency of Clout: (social currency) the value that your followers place on whatever information it is you want to share with them–that beats the number of followers you have. Quality over quantity.

[24:40] Positive Influence: Fyre Festival

[27:49] Negative Influence: Snooki

[29:19] Gamification–application of gaming principles, competition, to a commercial communication. Think fit tech.

[30:20] How Dr. Dre and Beats by Dre teaches us about data and measurement.

[34:39] Keeping our messages simple.

[37:30] Campaigns vs. platforms.

[38:33] Platform vs your brand.

The brand is the foundation of everything. If you don’t have that together and if you’re not consistent with it, platforms and campaigns are a moot point.

[39:50] Scaling the viral mountains.

[43:10] Managing the emotion in human decision-making.


Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Duke’s all-time favorite)


This episode is powered by Moonshot Missions, the non-profit organization seeking to disrupt the current approach to delivering improvement to water systems. Led by seasoned and skilled experts, Moonshot Missions designs replicable models that help utilities overcome the challenges they face in order to move forward. Moonshot can help you assess your system, select solutions from a pre-vetted menu of projects, plus develop innovative financing approaches. Collaborate with other leaders to work together, develop tailored mission plans and share lessons learned. Together you can build water systems that work more efficiently and effectively to protect and provide for the residents you serve, while also saving your customers money.

If you’d like to learn more or even share your own experience that might be helpful for a struggling utility to adopt and start on a positive path, visit or email”

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Thank you for sharing some of your time with us. We know how precious those minutes are. Share your story, you never know who needs to hear it and remember, “Those who tell the stories, rule the world.”