The next 12 months are going to be a fascinating time for companies. In an incredibly unique set of circumstances, the fight for awareness – and ultimately the marketplace’s money – has never been more complex.
But what can we expect to emerge next year as core trends that companies will build around? We’ve predicted the 4 main ones to look out for and how you can go about using them in an authentic way.
1. Showing empathy, delivering empathy
You may have noticed that consumers are not exactly flush right now. This isn’t the time for the hard sell, this is the time to show a little empathy.
During the 2008 Credit Crunch, I had a client genuinely request to create an advert around the header ‘What Recession?’. They saw it as something that would inspire confidence in their business as they were doing well. To their credit, it didn’t take much to point out to them how tone deaf that was as many of their customers were going to the wall.
Showing you understand what your audience is currently feeling can build empathy, and empathy builds trust which makes audiences more receptive to what you have to say.
How do you go about that? First thing to remember is that it doesn’t mean you have to turn your messaging into something akin to a charity drive. Empathy just means understanding and relatability. That can be something as simple as not overselling your product or service as ‘the year’s must have!’, when in context it is absolutely not a vital purchase.
This year, we’re likely to see the manifestation and growth of a refined ‘soft sell’ approach. Something that persuades without having to shout, and helps lead the audience effectively from awareness to consideration in terms of sales funnel stages.
Brand authenticity is part of your brand. During the Covid-19 pandemic, many marketplaces saw a rejection of companies who had magically found their conscience in favour of those that had had it in their DNA for years. It was seen as cynical ploys for money that broke many trust signals for people that can be hard to repair.
Now you could simply fight on price – an obvious approach and an easy sell during hard times. However, labour, the cost of raw materials, rising import duties, and operational costs have all leaped exponentially in the last two years that might not make it as viable as it traditionally was. Instead…
2. Demonstrating value
If the economy goes in the direction it’s predicted to over the next year, two things will happen: people will make less overall purchases, but, they’ll value anything they do splash out on as an investment. They will want to see value, both physical and emotional. Demonstrating that is going to be key for all of us.
Emotional value is at the heart of brand loyalty. In its simplest form, it’s why people buy expensive products over cheap ones – they have a stronger emotional connection to the expensive one. They WANT the expensive one. That loyalty pays dividends in the long run, and helps greatly through economic downturns.
It’s not just monetary value, it’s showing that you’re like-minded, that you approach business the same way – this is the value of doing business with the familiar. Those sorts of bonds are harder to drop than solely getting behind a price promise that eventually WILL be beaten, even if just for a short time.
Fighting on price will always be a temptation. It’s comparatively simple to do, it’s easy to get over to an audience, and it often delivers results. But, it will ultimately start eating into margins which may be unsustainable over a long period, like a recession.
Value is a little harder to get over and its effects take longer to impact the bottom line but it’s definitely going to be the healthier approach in 2023.
3. Unique presentation
To put it bluntly, 2023 will not be the time to play it safe.
Presentation is cyclical. Every 10-15 years, what consumers respond to visually begins to change enough to become the new normal. This ‘new normal’ is often a response to the ‘normal’ that came before it – consumers are just humans who get bored of the same thing over and over.
30 years ago, companies were embracing clashing colours and crazy font selections. 15 years ago (with a helping hand from Apple) everyone embraced simple sans serifs and white backgrounds with minimal dressing up.
Well, the pendulum has started swinging the other way in the last 2 years, and 2023 should see this accelerate.
With ‘humanist sans serifs and an Instagram filtered photo’ now no longer having the same effect on consumers, companies are starting to turn towards more confident and bolder presentations in order to break from the herd and win business, and those who are embracing this early will see the longest lasting results.
A great example of this has been the Nu Cao range by The Nu Company. This first image shows how they’ve been presenting themselves over the last few years – warm colours, Insta photography, simple layout and clean sans serif fonts. It looks ideal for their market, because a clean presentation highlights the clean living you’ll buy into if you buy this chocolate bar, right?
Now contrast that with their new brand presentation that began rolling out recently:
This is not playing it safe and hitting the marks to look ‘proper’, this is confidently saying ‘you’ll remember us – we believe in ourselves and we believe in our product.’
This may seem strange given that common business sense states to get the biggest audience possible, but this approach is not just about short-term gains. It’s all about building a memorability that will put Nu Cao ahead of their competitors when they inevitably follow suit. Therefore, Nu Cao will remain authentic and build stronger long-term connections with their audience. Those longer term connections will see audiences stay with your product through difficult times.
4. Lessons from B2C will be everywhere in B2B
This final one is a bit of a cheat, because it’s been gaining momentum since 2015, but it’s likely to become more apparent as we head into 2023. A study co-published by Google dispelled the myth that B2B purchase deciders are more likely to base decisions on cold rationality and logic. Actually, the captains of industry are just as likely to make choices based on emotional response as the rest of us mere mortals are.
Since then, B2B has been having a quiet revolution that has only gotten louder since the pandemic essentially proved this logic correct with the reaction to ‘authentic empathy’. As purchase deciders have become more diverse in terms of age and gender brackets, so has the approach to winning their confidence and their business. And the B2B market has gone about it in an incredibly interesting manner:
It’s basically copying B2C’s homework.
Now, messages have started centring around an emotive value more than competition on price, and around a long-term belief rather than a short-term sale. This shouldn’t inspire eye rolls, it should inspire opportunity.
B2B and B2C will always be different for good reason. But the line between them has been getting more and more blurry over time, and that’s been for good reason, too – the traditional methods have not been as effective. Purchase deciders expect more, and their audiences expect more of them in return: requiring transparency over ethics, procurement, and work culture.
Especially with an approaching recession, value to the consumer over price will be seen far more widely in 2023 than ever before.
Mark our words
Everyone in the brand industry likes pretending to be Mystic Meg and stating what the next year brings. But, if we’re wrong, we’ll openly invite a roasting this time next year, before confidently stating what we think 2024 will bring.
We’re entering 2023 with a lot of uncertainties both here in the UK and globally, but these trends are unlikely to be one of them. They’ve all been building over time and have shown to be making a strong impression on purchase intent already.