The start of a new year presents an opportunity to reflect on what happened before and make some valuable decisions for what is to come next. If we look over 2018, the communications landscape has seen another year of polarisation and overload. We had another heatwave, two royal babies and two royal weddings, the football almost came home, and the big Brexit word has unapologetically dominated the news agenda every hour of every day.
Given the volume of information and pace of change we could have listed over 100 communications trends for 2019 but opted instead to focus on five that we believe cut across the noise and provide a good guidance for planning the year ahead.
Trust belongs to the Individual
A lot has been said about the crisis of trust in our society, but with vertical trust frameworks in decline there is an opportunity to build trust horizontally starting with the individual and their relationship with the organisation. And there are multiple layers of trust to be considered from the more functional to the more emotional, and from the exceptional to the expected.
As many as 72% of people in the UK believe the Government does not prioritise their needs and concerns. And across Europe, 83% of people don’t trust political parties, 60% don’t trust Parliament, and 42% don’t trust public administration. This fundamental loss of trust in governments and institutions – not to mention media and corporations – has over the last few years lead to an underlining anxiety which is feeding the fragmentation and polarisation in our society.
We believe that this presents an opportunity to re-think trust and design new horizontal trust frameworks to complement your communications strategies in 2019.
Influence defined by Relevance and not Reach
Last year has seen the rise of the nano-influencer (or “nanos” for short). The year before that we had the micro-influencer, and before that we had the plain old influencer. And yet, however many different types of influencers there may be, they all share a definition that is primarily based on the number of followers they have. Add to this the rise of fake follows and automated accounts and you can start to see a dangerous pattern. That is why, short of predicting the femto-influencer (with a followerbase that is lower than 1,000) or atto-influencer (lower than 500 followers), we believe that 2019 will see a shift from a definition of influence that is primarily focused on reach to a definition of influence that is focused on relevance. How valuable is the network that one influential stakeholder is unlocking for your communications programme? Are they engaging with or simply broadcasting to their followers? Are their followers individuals, organisations, or automated accounts? How are their followers responding to their content? Etc.
These and other similar questions are likely to take over influencer strategy sessions in 2019. After all, not every influencer strategy is designed for maximum awareness, and not every communications programme and digital campaign aims to target the general public.
Data has an Idea (again!)
Spotify Wrapped, House of Clicks, JFK UnSilenced – there are many recent examples where data had an idea or helped enhance one. And while not every idea data has needs to come from AI or be splashed on billboards, these remain strong examples that prove the value of data to creativity. And as with any strong examples they now raise the bar for the next challenge which is no longer in showing that data too can be creative, but that it can be creative again, and again, and again.
A lot has been said about the ‘battle’ between data and creativity, which arguably started even before the term big data was coined in 2011, but we are only now starting to see the results of strong collaboration between data and creative teams. McKinsey call this activating the “whole-brain” while Adobe call it data driven creativity. And at Cannes they simply call it creative data, which is a category that was introduced in 2015 and now boasts 10 disciplines including creative data collection and research.
We know that on occasion data has a good idea, but can this process be repeated successfully? Over the next 12 months we believe there will be a focus on how data and analytics can be fully embedded in the creative process from idea generation through to design and delivery.
Voice comes with Experience
Last year was meant to be the year of voice, a prediction made largely on two sources – one on sales of voice-assistants (up 107% in Q4 2017 according to Adobe Digital Insights) and one that said 50% of all searches will be voice based by 2020 (a figure attributed to comScore, and Mary Meeker, but which in fact includes voice and visual search). Volumes aside, as with any new medium beyond the early adopters there is only so much the early majority will forgive on the experience front. And from your TV talking to Alexa and seeing it try to order a doll-house, or your Echo secretly recording your argument with your partner, to Alexa yet to understand language inflections such as the Scottish accent – there are many considerations to be made when designing the audience experience with voice. That is why any activation and campaign strategy that will include voice in 2019 needs to plan for the audience experience first.
Purpose comes with Authenticity
A purpose-driven business has been shown to outperform others not only on accounting measures but also on employee engagement and brand loyalty measures. And while that is enough reason for many companies to want to design and share their own corporate purpose, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should. After we witnessed the rise of “purpose washing” last year, the expectation is only higher for authenticity this year – and authenticity not as a tone of voice or communications strategy but as a fundamental pillar for your organisation to be applied across your business model.
Nobody is expecting you to be the next Patagonia, and certainly not overnight – but if you are going to engage on a purpose journey you need to be wary of purpose wash. In the UK as many as 41% of people say they don’t care if a company is socially responsible, as long as it makes good products or provides good services. Purpose therefore needs to capture your values and galvanise your staff and your stakeholders behind a common vision that ultimately aims to positively impact individuals, the society or the environment. And if it’s not authentic, and it doesn’t speak to your company truth then you might as well forget it.
Full list of sources can be found here.