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Brand behaviour plays a game of cat and mouse with whatever is happening in the world around us.
Most brands follow the zeitgeist.
Some act in a way that shapes it.
Brand trends in 2024 are a mixed bag. Some trends will simply build on the momentum of trends that are already being shaped while others could surprise us.
One of the trends that will shape brand narratives as we roll into 2024 is brevity. In anticipation of that trend, this will be as concise as possible. If you want to dig deeper into any one of these trends, reach out and we’re happy to provide more context.
Trend 1: Authen-tick
What makes audiences tick? There is a sea of faceless brands and sterile products out there so the ones with a real story stand a better chance of engaging the curiosity of our audiences.
Brands that show authenticity and transparency will come across as human. As we recoil from the overwhelming wave of tech that is cresting, authenticity delivers a clear differentiating factor over brands that are so large that they inevitably collapse into a diffuse narrative of corporate speak and hollow promises.
As always, it is great to lead with benefits. We are, after all, selfish creatures. But we don’t form long-term relationships with benefits alone. For us to form an emotional relationship there needs to be authenticity and a narrative that we can identify with. This will be more important as we enter a period of uncertainty about what is human and what isn’t.
The great thing about this trend is that the majority of brands started with a great story. Sometimes, all it takes is to step back and turn to the original reason for the brand to exist, building an authentic narrative around this in a way that suits the audiences and channels of today.
Trend 2: Immersion
We are finally entering the golden age of omnichannel brands. VR and AR are one consumer product away from changing the way we interact with the world around us again.
As the porosity of the wall between IRL and virtual experiences continues to increase, the possibilities for brands to be where the audiences are in a rich and immersive way are also in plentiful supply.
Omnichannel immersion is not the death knell for retail. We’ve seen the way consumers behave when a new channel is made available. Online retail did not kill IRL retail. On the contrary, the two channels are entirely complementary. For some, while the final purchase is online, in-store interaction is a decisive factor. Others prefer to browse online and then make a purchase IRL.
This hybrid is a reflection of who we are as a species. Individually we might have defined preferences but as a whole we are beautifully messy and often unpredictable.
So, while I might want to use AR to see what a pair of Danish speakers will look like in my living room, I will most likely visit a brand store for the final purchase.
VR will add a significantly immersive layer to the spread of experiences available to consumers. With Apple making inroads and Meta stepping up their hardware game at consumer-friendly pricing, 2024 could be the year that sees VR finally become a mainstream reality. And the brands that are ready and waiting will be the ones with significant first-mover advantage.
Trend 3: Personal-AI-zation
As marketers, we have access to huge amounts of data. We also have unprecedented access to very, very intelligent machines. Together, they usher the era of hyper-personalised marketing.
This is not new. We have been progressing, in fits and starts, towards the hallowed audience-of-one. What we have at the output end is machines that can converse in language that approaches that of an average person. This brings conversational marketing for personal customer interaction to the masses.
The AI-powered customer service rep that’s tuned to our specific personality could finally be the rep that we will actually like.
The gold rush of 2024 will be shaped by those who make the most creative use of the technologies that are flooding our landscape to harness the data that’s already available to us.
Trend 4: Diversity, Equity & Inclusiveness (DE&I)
We have been feeling our way around on these values. Most brands can be accused of missteps but we are finally making proper headway.
While many larger companies thought it was fine to pay lip service to DE&I, consumers are now demanding that these values be more than a marketing campaign. The thinking in the boardroom must wholly embrace a more equitable view of the world and this is the way beliefs are changed. This is the way beliefs lead to appropriate behaviour and communication. This is how everyone feels represented and respected.
Of course, there will be those that attempt to buck the trend – the right-wing anti-woke will dig in and make their voice heard. And the stronger this faction digs in, the better for the trend in favour of DE&I because contrast is a powerful driver of perception.
Trend 5: Sustainability / Ethical practice
The idea of putting all the ‘doing good’ into one bucket and hoping for the best is slowly going out of the window. We are splitting environmental and ethical manufacture from social issues and, in the longer term, there will be even more fragmentation.
This is a good thing.
We rebranded CSR to ESG when CSR was seen for what it truly is. CSR was a bolt-on set of activities that companies paid for to divert attention from the truth about their activity. And ESG will also see its day but it won’t be this year.
2024 will see even more demand for sustainable practices as consumers put their money where their mouth is. More and more consumers state that they are prepared to pay more for a product that is ethically manufactured. And once consumers put their hands in their pockets, brands will deliver on the demand.
Trend 6: Less is again more
This has more to do with brand expression, with a particular emphasis on visual identity and brand communication. Historically, we have gone in cycles that broadly swing from maximal to minimal. The excesses of Art Deco gave way to a pared back Art Nouveau. The gradients of the nineties were replaced by flat vector illustration when we’d had enough of it.
It appears as though we’re diving right back into the minimal end of the cycle. This means a search for memorability through symbolism and meaning rather than maximalism, with strong colour palettes to keep the excitement going.
This ties in with the overall fatigue that could very well be afflicting our audiences. With so much going on all the time, a minimal approach to visual expression could present itself as a soothing break from the constant visual stimulation.
Trend 7: Get shorty
One more expression of the trends that are in favour of brevity and minimalism is the rise of the micro-moment – short videos, memes, tiny brand experiences, and other snack-sized pieces of content that serve as a little distraction.
To be more specific, microinteractions give a little dose of instant gratification – they deliver a tiny shot of dopamine that keeps audiences’ attention focused.
Micro-moments can take the form of a clever or unusual CTA, cute error messages, unusual UI behaviours, or any form of little reward that is at least mildly surprising or unexpected.
Trend 8: Purpose-full
More than ever before, purpose-driven brands will be the ones that emerge victorious in 2024. This is a trend that’s adjacent to authenticity but it is not the same thing. Brands that are led by purpose more than anything else are visibly committed to their reason for existence.
This drives a clear sense of focus in the minds of its audiences. A brand that digs deep into its reason for existence and acts purely in accordance with this purpose is one that is evidently out for more than profit.
Of course, without profit a brand cannot exist.
But that cannot be its only goal.
Too many brands lose their way after a while. These are the ones we vaguely remember but don’t consider as part of our lives any more.
A few brands keep their purpose alive. Think of Toms, Lego, The Body Shop, GoPro, and other brands that have been unwavering over decades. These are the ones we have a continued relationship with. They are the brands we think of as having a clear space in our minds. They benefit from the almighty one-two combo of focus and differentiation. We know their place in our lives and we know what makes them different from every other brand in their space. These are purpose-driven brands.
Why do brand trends matter so much going into 2024?
While it is always important for brands to be fully in tune with their purpose at all times, it counts more when the going gets tough.
The spectre of an economic downturn is looming.
We’d be reckless to ignore the metrics and hope for the best. In times of strife, our audiences are more cautious with their purchases and will limit these to those entities they feel they can have a personal connection with – the entities that have a clear resolve.
This is not really a trend for 2024. It is more a hopeful speculation based on the way we see the world around us.
Take this with a bucket of salt.
But if you are responsible for a brand that has clout, think about it as a possibility.
Never has there been so much technological and economic advancement. And yet, all this plenty isn’t having the impact it should on our environment, on economic equanimity, and on social justice.
In the absence of the political will to address these issues, a handful of brands out there are taking matters into their own hands and driving the change they would like to see around them. We are privileged to work with a couple of clients that think this way and it drives us to do some of our best work. Even if this ‘trend’ is no more than a little stir, it is a start.
Brand Trends 2024: Wrapping it all up
2024 will see brands look inwards for a good look at their purpose and the truth behind the stories they tell. It will also see brands look outwards at the preferences of their audiences and put more focus on brevity and short-term gratification.
Bringing these two viewpoints together will be the mighty and unstoppable force that emerging technologies are bringing with them – AI and A/V/XR giving us unprecedented granularity and immersion.