2024 predictions and how to navigate change

With a New Year comes a fresh perspective and renewed energy. We have no doubt that there are more weird and wonderful things ahead and creativity as a force for change will play a critical role. 

That doesn’t mean that 2024 will be without its challenges. A combination of elections, recession and conflict across different markets points to a new year that will challenge our assumptions and further uproot the status quo. Alongside this, technological change will also have an impact on the way we navigate and cultivate relationships and meet the needs of consumers and clients. 

Our senior team across tech, creative, strategy, culture and experience share some advice on how to prepare for the expected – and the unexpected – in 2024.

AI everywhere

Faster than anyone will believe, all our existing interfaces will suddenly be AI-enabled. It’ll uproot all our assumptions about brands, business, technology, society and even what it means to be human. Unimaginable cultural moments will hit us next year. People will fall in love with AI. People will worship AI as a deity. AI will have a real impact on the way we see elections in the coming year, both as a topic and a campaigning tool.  

Chat GPT’s media impact  

Gen-AI-produced works of fiction or popular music will become a global hit, attracting lawsuits and inspiring similar creations.

AI’s impact on internal culture

Over the year ahead, brands and companies will need employees to see AI as something that will help not harm them. To do this, they will help people build a more personal relationship with AI by integrating it more deeply into the fabric of their organisations. AI’s not going away. Greater access to it will make it more personal.

Voice, again

Talking to Alexa right now makes some people act like a rude tourist who doesn’t speak the language. They speak louder as they become more and more frustrated in the hope they will be understood. But large language models will revolutionise these services. Even today, conversations with ChatGPT in voice mode, while a little slow, are an absolute game-changer. Even if it sounds suspiciously like Scarlett Johansson in her.

 Crypto strikes back

Regulation will get clear. The banks will dive in deeper. There will be another bull run on Bitcoin that will again grab the headlines and obscure the interesting tech and the systemic implications of web3.

Next gen tech multiverse

Powered by next gen graphics processing chips, the multiverse will find corporate applications that enable new levels of collaboration and photorealistic simulation, opening up new capabilities for both person-to-person and person-to-AI interaction.

Spatial and immersive realms

With augmented and virtual reality acting as linchpins, brands will seamlessly meld online and offline experiences into a singular, immersive narrative. These innovations are poised to create brand journeys that captivate and empower audiences in novel ways. They will also challenge us to rethink the tools, palettes and techniques we use to create brands for this more diffused world.

The business of social

X (formerly Twitter) will launch new payment and social features as it races to become the first "super app" for the Western world, innovating its business model and moving away from a reliance on advertising.  

Retail and influencers join forces

After success in Asia, social commerce will finally break through on TikTok and Instagram in the US and Western Europe. Micro influencers/creators will find new ways to monetise their relationships and major influencers will strike deals with global brands, further commodifying celebrities as marketing machines.

Fashion gets louder

Quiet luxury will fade with absurdity driving dress in what promises to be a wild and stressful election year. Humour, novelty, and irony will have more influence on fashion and styling choices that strike the balance of comedic and cynical. Think Demna Gvasalia (Balenciaga) but even more Dada.

Inclusion winners make it business-as-usual 

Amid political backlash and budget scrutiny, high profile DEI programs are under pressure. But companies who understand the value of DEI will find ways (often free!) to embed inclusion into how they think, even if they need to scale back more public efforts. As the focus of social media social justice shifts away from DEI to other causes, inclusion has to find a way to be normalised within companies and society. Isn’t normalisation kind of the point anyway?  

A call for fewer clunky public stances 

A recent study indicates consumers may be less interested in the “sociopolitical” stances taken by their favourite brands, especially if it’s more about words than actions. Consumers do want companies to take real action on challenges like pay equity, mental health and climate change, but now it’s more important to create meaningful impact in policy or practice before saying anything publicly.  

It’s not about us 

The most successful brands in 2024 will be the ones that make their brand strategy just a little less about themselves. Brands should still have a distinctive point of view, but also be open to collaboration and lean into culture. Taking lessons from megastars all the way to micro-influencers, brands can find the right moments to create the conditions and stay out of the way. 

Brand, culture and experience

In a tougher market, brands will need to dial up the service aspect of their offer to sustain differentiation and reduce pricing pressures. This means promising a better experience, and training people to deliver it consistently. Brands will need to reallocate resources from communications to experience, and to support that they will also have to invest in their culture.

An inflection point for employers

In recent months, we have seen growing tension between employers’ determination to get back to high productivity and employees’ preference for greater flexibility. As a result, we will see employers under growing pressure to humanise by being more empathetic to their employees and more effectively deploying their EQ.

A generational ripple effect

Gen Z is set to outnumber Boomers in the workforce in 2024 and, with this, will come pivotal culture changes for HR and organisation leaders. Already, we have seen striking differences in expectations when it comes to issues such as flexibility, mental health and global citizenship. This changing of the guard will cause a ripple effect across all aspects of the way we act and work over the year ahead.

Personalisation pinnacle

The spotlight on personalisation will continue to intensify. Through adept use of AI and data analytics, brands are set to raise their game, fashioning interactions that are not only smarter but also intricately tailored to individual preferences. 

Trust as currency

In the wake of geopolitical upheavals and conflicts, establishing trust becomes paramount in 2024. Brands are compelled to prioritise transparency, sustainability, and ethical practices. Those adept at intertwining innovation, empathy, and purpose will undoubtedly shine in this ever-evolving landscape.

Brand as a growth driver

It is likely that investment in brand and marketing will be under scrutiny. This can prove tough for marketing, with the language of finance sometimes less fluent than competing sales department heads. Understanding the power of brand as a growth driver will be vital. Company boards will be deciding where they focus their dollar, be that brand, IT or people - or simply give back to investors as a dividend.

Telling the equity story

In 2023 more requests for proposals ask for the “equity story” as part of a branding project. This means showing that the company is a leader with great prospects. At the extreme, some companies ask companies which category they should consider for their listing and how the brand can support a higher multiple for the company’s stocks. No doubt this will continue and perhaps increase in 2024.

PE-backed brands must prove their worth

Higher interest rates mean that the tech disruptors and other start-ups which have nibbled away at the juicy bits of most markets for the last few years are now finding it much harder to raise capital. The days of free money are over and brands that have grown big on private equity (like Uber) now have to demonstrate they can cover their cost of capital. This gives incumbents a breathing space to tool up their brands.