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Opinion: What Might 2024 Look Like From the Worlds of Marketing, Business and Culture

Every January, as part of its 52Insights series, Jane McDaid, founder & head of creative innovation, THINKHOUSE, asks some of the brightest and boldest thought leaders from the world of business, marketing and culture to make predictions about the year ahead. Here’s what they said about 2024.

In 2024, business culture, operations and priorities will shift.

Danny McCoy, CEO, IBEC says we can expect more: “Managing cash” (more expensive now in over two decades!) and less “Catastrophising” (world is objectively in better situation despite the poly-crisis narratives – they are always so).

Sharon Walsh

Sharon Walsh, Managing Director, Heineken Ireland, predicts that: “Leadership will become more about the power of the inner game to unlock the outer game.” She continues “There’ll be more balance between DARING and CARING to unlock organisational success” and “more ‘trying new things’ no matter the consequence. Growth mindset with permission to learn through failures as well as successes.”

Mike Adamson, CEO, Live Nation Ireland, predicts that in 2024, businesses will “Work to strengthen their employer brand profile in order to attract & retain the best talent.”

Patrick Hickey, Chair and Chief Culture Officer, Mobility Mojo said: “24 will be the move back to analog practices for a lot of people. Local media, local retail and businesses will continue to grow locally more than the digital environment.”

James McManus, Director, B Lab Ireland (B Corp’s certifying partner), said that he expects more businesses to “prioritise purpose alongside profit. With nearly 8000 B Corps worldwide, these companies are showcasing that being kind to people and our planet is not only ethical but also profitable. 2024 will be a big year for purpose-driven [businesses].”

Aedamar Howlett, VP Europe O2O Digital Transformation at The Coca-Cola Company predicts that we’ll see less “Defined functions and roles in businesses and more networked dynamic ways of working enabled by digital workplace tools.”

Jane McDaid

Jane McDaid, Founder, THINKHOUSE, added: “How young workers think and behave is radically different to older workers. I think business leaders will focus on bridging generational (mindset) divides that exist within their employee community to unleash the true potential of their organisations’ commercial, creative, technological, innovation and sustainability performance.”

Marketing & Media that’s more Courageous, Culture-first, Digital-Centric and Price Sensitive

 Mary Van Lieshout, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Head of External Affairs at GOAL Global said that in 2024, we’ll see “More calculated risk taking to let the brand stand out, less complacency: there’s no room for it anymore.”

Dave Byrne, Head of Creative, THINKHOUSE, said that 2024 will bring more: “Culture led creativity. Landing in culture lands with your audience. And less over engineered and over complicated campaigns. If it feels ‘too marketingy’, we’ve failed!!”

Sian Redmond, Director of Marketing Partnerships, Live Nation Ireland, thinks that purpose-driven marketing will continue to grow and says that “consumers are looking for more from their brand choices.” She says that brands will “take experiential strategies to new heights in order to create lasting, core memories for consumers instead of frivolous, tactical activities focussing on initiatives that matter and will truly resonate with consumers.”

Conor Farrell, Head of Marketing Ireland – Suntory Beverage & Food said: “I believe successful brands will focus more on earning consumers attention as opposed to talking at consumers. The increasing shift of media minutes into digital platforms and ad free environments (for example subscription audio/tv) creates an entirely new dynamic where we can no longer act like we have  a captive audience and instead need to work hard to be brands that people actually enjoy hearing from!”

Aedamar Howlett, VP Europe O2O Digital Transformation at The Coca-Cola Company

believes that, in 2024, brands will do “less campaigns that take months & months of work only to be ‘admired’ on TV/ Outdoor.”

Mark Noble

Mark Noble, Marketing Manager, Heineken Ireland said: “2024 brings new opportunities for brands to rebalance how they engage with consumers. The old adage of ‘Be the first or be the best’ will be critical. In recent years, there has maybe been too much of a focus on being first. To pioneer the next big thing. Which, when it works – can be very powerful – however the graveyard of failure is littered with many brands, platforms and new technologies. For many, being the best means getting back to basics. Unlocking what your Brand stands for and what value it can add to peoples’ lives. Not being too distracted about the new shiny thing or what your biggest competitor has just launched. Staying the course and reinforcing what makes your Brand unique is what can deliver sustainable, long term success.”

Mike Adamson, CEO, Live Nation Ireland, predicts that in 2024, brands will “Make culture a pillar of their marketing strategies.” and, from an entertainment perspective, in 2024 we can expect brands to “celebrate Irish musical talent & culture – both new and old.”

Aoife McGuigan, Head of Marketing Lucozade Alert, Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I said:  “Brands will do less slicing and dicing of Marketing spend. They’ll back the 2 or 3 big touch points to get the best ROI.”  

Paul Kelly, Marketing Director, Unilever Ireland, has a similar view, saying that brands and businesses will: “Focus on making your brand unmissably superior through every single touchpoint to win the consumer and avoid spreading budgets too widely losing impact as a result.”

Jo Batty

Jo Batty, Sales and Marketing Director, Keelings Retail UC, Keelings said:

“Experiential and sensual experiences created either via the products themselves or the advertising around them will be key, as brands fight to stand out and convince consumers to pay a premium vs retailer own label products.”

Aedamar Howlett, VP Europe O2O Digital Transformation at The Coca-Cola Company

thinks that, in 2024, brands and businesses will have a “consciousness of the value exchange as the cost of living crunches and private label grows.”

2024 will be an evidence-based year in sustainability and ESG…. 

Joanne McNally, Comedian & Business Owner (and former Thinkhouse teammate), said: “Sustainability robots are coming! I also think that brands will use AI to make content more bespoke than ever before.”

David Coyle, Head of Commercial Operations, THINKHOUSE said: “We’ll continue to see an increase in procurement’s preference for marketing suppliers that are advanced, and certified, in the areas of diversity, environmental and social impact.”

Zoe Traynor, Head of Brand Sustainability & Responsibility, Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, agrees: “In 2024 I think we will see less virtue-signalling on sustainability topics, and we will see more collaboration across brands and industries to drive real impact.”

Rosemary Walsh

Rosemary Walsh, Head of Commercial, Donnybrook Fair said: “I predict that we will see brands and businesses taking more meaningful steps to combat climate change. I see businesses experimenting more with AI while also nurturing the talent within! I think brands and businesses will strive to do less in general in an effort to be more impactful and authentic from a brand and climate perspective.”

Manuel Salazar, Extinction Rebellion Ireland, said: “In 2024, Businesses will see a growth in street protests and climate action online campaigns highlighting their investments in fossil fuels and in response to an increasing environmental threat and government inaction. More EU local binding regulations will also come into effect.” He Continued: “There will be “Less trust in ESG programs as reporting fails to address climate risks and transition plans and more EU local binding regulations become into effect.”

Laura Costello

Laura Costello, People & Planet Strategy Director, THINKHOUSE is looking forward to a year where: “More imaginative sustainability stories will emerge. Businesses and brands will move beyond carbon conversations, with a focus on nature, biodiversity, community and justice.”

Shane McGonigle, CEO of the Marketing Institute of Ireland said that we’ll see more “circular thinking – conducting business with thoughtful consideration for the 360 degree impact on people, profit and planet” and that we’ll see less “greenwashing.”

Tomás Sercovich, CEO, Business in the Community Ireland, said:

“More focus on responding to societal expectations; playing a key role in advancing inclusion and integration.”

Aedamar Howlett, VP Europe O2O Digital Transformation at The Coca-Cola Company

says we’ll see more real sustainability actions to “walk the talk on brands’ purpose.”

Debbie Byrne, Managing Director, An Post said; “ESG will shift into a new gear. Companies / Brands will need to better articulate their strategies to drive not only growth and shareholder return but how they positively impact their wider communities and create greater equality.” She added that “Gen AI will go from proof of concept to scale.”

Owen Keogh, Head of Sustainability, Musgrave expects to see more “Business solutions to shift consumer actions. Less – greenwashing.”

Jess Lynn

Jess Lynn, Marketing Director, Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard said:

“Tightening of purse strings and increased familiarity and use of AI for consumers, creatives and brands should result in more impactful and collaborative marketing efforts. Brands will try to cut through, leaning into technology to creatively deliver targeted and less one size fits all campaigns. I also think businesses and consumers are hyper aware of the climate crisis which is only going to get stronger, so hope to see less fluffy ‘we are trying’ messages to more action that drives change right now and not in 10 years.”

The Digital & Social Landscape will get more community-like, commercially focused and less ‘polished’.

James Kavanagh, Social Media Influencer, Writer, Entrepreneur (and former Thinkhouse teammate) thinks influencer marketing needs to get bold and brave, not beige. He said: “I started off content creating/influencing (whatever you want to call it) 7 years ago on Snapchat. When brands eventually dipped an apprehensive toe into influencer marketing, the ads were great. It all felt very organic, fresh, new and different to above the line advertising (which still holds its important place). This natural style of marketing with looser briefs worked, for both the creator & the brand. We were seeing a product handled and used by real hands, with the shine & script cast aside. Fast forward to today and most influencer campaigns are treated like TV ads with endless briefs, multiple meetings and reams of red tape. The rough around the edges magic is fading. Engagement suffers massively when influencer content is polished like a diamond and the creator is puppeteered by unnecessarily elaborate briefs & stylistic demands. In 2024, I think we’ll see a return to a more relaxed, real style of content creation, and brands being bold & brave – not beige.”

Mark Little, Spotify/Kinzen said: “The walled gardens of social media fall apart. Creative people focus more on authentic engagement with their communities, and less on virality and status with billions of their “closest friends”.

Tiffany Arnston

Tiffany Arnston, Head of The Youth Lab (UK), said: “2024 should see more attention on threads, that’s comment threads not Instagram Threads. Especially around big moments. It’s the equivalent of hanging out in a crowded, noisy kitchen at a house party, with all sorts jostling along. It’s where stories are told, it’s where culture happens.”

In 2024, according to Aedamar Howlett, VP Europe O2O Digital Transformation at The Coca-Cola Company, we’ll see more “real time digital activation that also leads to a transaction.”

Donagh Humphreys

Donagh Humphreys, Head of Social & Digital Innovation, THINKHOUSE said: “The Creator Economy is what fuels the engine of social media. And we don’t predict this slowing down anytime soon. Both TikTok and META are increasingly modifying their platforms to the needs of creators, recognising their importance. As creators begin to successfully market their own brands to become real global players (think PRIME), 2024 may be the year when the big players head them off at the pass and bring them in as partners rather than just treating creators like a media buy.”

AI, Data, Uncertainty, Trust & Misinformation serves up major challenges and opportunities

Mark Little, Spotify/Kinzen said that in 2024 “AI becomes electricity: creative people will use it more than they talk about it.”

Donagh Humphreys, Head of Social & Digital Innovation, THINKHOUSE said:

“There is a lot of noise around AI. Who is creating what and with which AI tool. Ultimately the real effectiveness of Generative AI is getting creative made quickly, in a way that is cost effective and to a quality that is equal to, if not better than, traditionally created content. (Not to mention being copyright compliant!) Until this starts to happen, the noise around AI will be just that.” He continued, saying: “Data Driven Marketing has probably been part of every new year prediction for the last ten years. However, with increased utilisation of AI tools, especially around Machine Learning and Process Automation, 2024 might just be the year when Data Driven Marketing actually makes its biggest impact in B2B.”

On data, Derek Lande, Managing Director, Accenture agrees, predicting that we’ll see more use of “data in a meaningful way in EVERY kind of business.”

Humphreys added that “2024 may be the year that reality gets called into question. Consider the macro climate of ongoing global conflict, half of the democratic population of the world going to the polls in 2024 (the most glaring being the US general election). This is coupled with the increasing spread of misinformation and disinformation powered via social media. The proliferation of AI image and voice generators means that deepfakes are going to wreak havoc.  Social media giants are going to come under increased scrutiny in 2024. This will be around moderation and control of misinformation in the public realm but it will likely have a massive knock on effect for advertisers.”

Gerard Ryle, Director, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, said: “Businesses will continue to experiment with AI before there is a big swing back to what will be branded as old fashioned authenticity. But out of those experiments the true usefulness of AI will emerge.”

Lottie Armstrong, Communications Manager, Ben & Jerry’s EU/ANZ, said: “The need for greater transparency will continue to be crucial in 2024. The rise of AI generated content and the challenge of misinformation online asks for increased scrutiny on brand claims and communications. We can expect people to continue to seek more authentic connections with brands they choose to engage with.”

Dr. Martina Byrne, CEO, The Public Relations Institute of Ireland & The Public Relations Consultants Association said: “There will be less ‘playing around’ with AI and more transparent integration of AI tools into work programmes – with appropriate ethical and practical ‘guard-rails’ to mitigate against errors and bias.”

Aoife McGuigan, Head of Marketing Lucozade Alert, Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I: “Brands will be less sceptical or wary of AI in 2024 and will explore how it can be used to enhance their marketing comms.”

Owen Keogh, Head of Sustainability, Musgrave expects to see more “Business solutions to shift consumer actions. Less – greenwashing.”

Jonathon Wise, Co-Founder of Purpose Disruptors UK, said: “It’s been a challenging few years and in 2024 we’ll experience the US and UK elections, increased impact of AI and heighted climate impact along with things we cannot foresee. These events have the potential, again, to alter plans and affect our individual and collective wellbeing. Becoming more skillful in acknowledging and managing how we accept and work with the things we can not alter would be a good skill to cultivate.”

HUMANS ARE IN (Should be a relief to all the humans reading this)

Derek Lande, Managing Director, Accenture expects 2024 to have “less remote meetings… we’re falling in love with seeing people again.”

David Coyle

David Coyle, Head of Commercial Operations, THINKHOUSE thinks we’ll see “Less remote working for SMEs and increased return to office to focus on one of the fundamental business essentials – optimum teamwork, collaboration and social connection.”

Julian Boulding, Owner of thenetworkone, said: “A word for 2024: Dehumanization. We see it in marketing, where data replaces insight. We see it in social media, where algorithms and bots rule. We see it in business, where results are all that matters. We see it in the news, from Russia and Ukraine, from Israel and Gaza. It’s what happens when we replace people with numbers. Let’s keep trying for a better way to be.”

Brands & Business Takeouts

AI : AI remains a key disruptor, offering solutions and complications for business and marketing leaders in 2024.

HUMANS ARE IN: Another shift in business culture has emerged- the creep from ‘virtual’ to ‘real life’ working has started.

PRICE SENSITIVITY : Price sensitivity is going nowhere fast, so it’s critical for marketers and business leaders to deliver bang for buck.

UNCERTAINTY : Uncertainty, mistrust and misinformation will continue to influence culture, politics and business. Business and marketing leaders must understand, and prepare for, the risks this presents to their brand, people and organisation. Caution and alertness is a critical skill to employ for all marketers.

EVIDENCE BASED ESG ERA : The pledges are To sign up for THINKHOUSE’s 52Insights newsletter click HERE

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