What will give your brand the best chance of success in the year ahead?

CDG Social Predictions24 v32

From the unrealised potential of AI and custom GPTs to a growing need for more inclusive branding, our team explores what’s critical to brand success in 2024 – and offer insights into how to prepare and capitalise.

‘AI represents an exciting new frontier, limited only by brands’ imaginations.’

Alfie Boyle, Senior Strategist, US

The branding landscape is set for seismic transformation through the rise of custom generative pre-trained transformers (GPTs), courtesy of OpenAI’s 'GPT Builder'. This tool allows brands to develop tailored ChatGPT versions, enhancing customer engagement through unique AI interactions that reflect the brand’s personality and can be trained on proprietary knowledge. No coding necessary.

The opportunities for brands here are immense. By embedding GPTs into brand touchpoints across user journeys, brands can create meaningfully differentiated experiences at all levels, even for things as previously standardised as website searches or FAQs. Formerly mundane parts of brand experience can now be fully personalised, strengthening customer relationships and giving brands an edge over competitors.

OpenAI is encouraging brands to take and embed these tools in their own user interfaces, giving almost limitless control to brands in how these AI technologies look, feel and behave. It’s an exciting new frontier, limited only by the imaginations of brands and their ability to unlock its potential for their own audiences.

‘Brands that thrive will offer meaning at the moments that count.’ 

Nathan Watts, Head of Consumer, UK

With increasing sophistication, brands are becoming ever more pervasive in people’s lives. But the risk is that consumers grow tired of their omnipresent existence; they need to make sure they’re adding value and bringing something new to the table.

At live events, for example, they'll need to be more than sponsors, and instead offer a reason for their presence, whether that be providing additive fun, or a safe, secure environment in which to come together. In people’s leisure time, brands should look to enhance everyday experiences, to support personal advancement through learning, provide comfort or escape, help consumers express themselves, or make them feel part of something that’s contributing to a better future.

In a complex, fractured world, consumers are weary and disillusioned; they’re looking to brands to meet their own personal needs, as well as the wider needs of the planet and society. Brands that practice passive omnipresence will vanish; those that thrive will offer meaning, in-step with real human needs, at the moments that count, and for the causes that matter most in people’s lives.

‘Brands that authentically represent the spectrum of human experiences are set to lead the charge.’

Jonathan Finer, Strategy Director, US

In the months ahead, the imperative for inclusivity and diversity in brand design goes beyond moral choice: it’s sound strategy and smart business. As markets become more interconnected, brands that authentically represent the spectrum of human experiences in their identities and communications are set to lead the charge.

Inclusivity in brand and design transcends superficial gestures. It’s about crafting experiences that resonate across cultures and communities, underpinned by deep empathy. Leaders like Google, with accessible web design, and Lego, with inclusive playsets, exemplify how integral diversity is to their design principles.

Inclusive branding is no longer a 'nice-to-have' but a 'must-have,' integral to innovation and market relevance. Brand-building efforts must be universally accessible and reflect diverse races, genders, sexualities and abilities.

‘If you’re planning to launch a new brand… you need to actively embed, nurture and manage it.’ 

Victoria Wright, Head of Corporate Brand, UK

What will be important for brands to consider this year? Well, if they’re thinking about a rebrand, they’ll need to be factoring in the ways in which the new brand is not only ‘rolled out’ but actively managed. Following the heat and intensity of a brand launch, a common mistake is underestimating what comes next.

The first year after a rebrand requires equal if not increased effort and investment to build the brand into a valuable business asset. For businesses planning to invest in a new brand, or refreshing an existing one, this year is critical. It’s about delivering a unified experience that captures the core attributes of the brand for customers and employees alike.

So, if you’re planning to launch a new brand, don’t just plan to launch it. Plan to actively embed, nurture and manage it. Failure to prepare will diminish the true potential of the brand you’ve worked so hard to create.

‘A shift in thinking will see sustainability become more prominent in marketing campaigns.’

Kirstie David, Strategy Director, UK

In the months ahead, sustainability is expected to shed its peripheral status in brand narratives and become more deeply integrated into core messaging, including purpose, mission, and vision articulations. This shift will be evident as sustainability commitments become more prominent in marketing campaigns, and no longer confined to reports.

Sustainability will unlock opportunities for a shift in thinking, and see companies depart from transactional, inside-out focused sustainability communications. Instead, they’ll actively gather inputs from stakeholders that best represent their business activities and geographies. The approach not only informs strategies and initiatives but promotes an ongoing participative relationship that democratises the process.

This shift, in part, will be driven by compliance, with double materiality offering an opportunity for a wider set of stakeholders to contribute their views. But the difference will be how companies use double materiality effectively beyond complying with the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

‘Corporate communications look set to become more authentic and transparent.’

Sally Robson, Head of Corporate Communications, UK

As sustainability continues to take centre stage, businesses that don’t focus their efforts risk being left behind. The creation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) will bring about more coherent and comparable reporting, and this year will see organisations – if they haven’t already – start to align with new regulations. The CSRD process now calls for a more rigorous and forward-looking consideration of double materiality, which will allow for more informed strategic decision-making by Boards and Senior Executives.

As organisations move towards building more responsible and resilient businesses, we’ll see a pivoting and adjustment of business models and strategies. The new regulations mean that companies will have to ‘walk the talk’, while providing employees with an understanding of what sustainability means for business and their role in bringing critical strategies to life. And growing calls for meaningful information, coupled with the crackdown on greenwashing, should result in these communications becoming increasingly authentic and transparent.

‘Sustainable website design will help brands demonstrate a greater awareness of their carbon impact.’

Ian Howlett, Business Director, UK

Sustainable website design is a relatively recent development that will grow in significance in the months ahead. With climate change on everyone's agenda, the energy used by websites has become a growing concern. But with features like low carbon mode, businesses can demonstrate a greater awareness of the carbon impact of their organisation's web footprint.

Low carbon mode typically involves optimising elements, cutting down on unnecessary animations (or providing alternatives) and using efficient coding. By turning on low carbon mode, websites can contribute to the larger goal of reducing the overall energy used by digital platforms.

But sustainable website design goes beyond just saving energy. It also includes responsible choices in where websites are hosted, using renewable energy, and adopting eco-friendly development practices. Taking this approach isn't just the right thing to do morally; it's also a smart move for businesses that want to align with the growing environmental awareness of customers and stakeholders.

‘For start-ups, branding should be seen as a potent tool to help disrupt categories.’

Geet Nazir, Managing Partner, Mumbai

This year, the dynamic consumer brand landscape will become even more competitive, with new and established brands vying for share of market, mind and wallet. It’s imperative that young brands and start-ups recognise that they’re the ones uniquely positioned to challenge category norms, introduce innovative solutions, and redefine consumer expectations.

Branding is a potent tool for start-ups; it can help disrupt categories and craft a compelling narrative that resonates with the target audience. In an era where consumers are looking for authenticity and purpose, a well-defined brand creating intuitive, meaningful customer experiences can help foster deep and long-lasting connections.

It also offers an opportunity to share the founder’s core values and articulate what sets them apart – and what makes them a fresh alternative in a particular market.

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