With the new year clouded by uncertainty, expect to see businesses consolidating and playing to their strengths. Will Higham identifies the key 2017 trends
Wow: what an eventful year 2016 was. And what questions it’s left us with. Rarely has the UK entered a new year less sure of its future and more aware of divisions. And rarely have forecasters found a year so hard to predict.
One thing is clear though. After such volatility, the early months of 2017 will see companies and consumers alike dropping anchor while deciding their next course.
For businesses, this will mean playing safe: going back to basics, trying to reclaim consumer trust and not ‘get it wrong’. With the consequences of 2016’s events still unclear, they’ll wait before making any big moves.
Meanwhile, expect some corporate soul searching: re-assessing and re-prioritising strategies and structures. Many will explore cost savings: leaner businesses are more likely to survive any future storms UK plc might encounter post-Brexit.
Consumers too will want to ground themselves. Unsure about the future, they’ll place greater reliance on smaller trust groups, like family and friends.
Products, services and marketing campaigns that offer them a greater sense of security will do well.
In stressful or uncertain times, consumers frequently adopt a fight-or-flight response. So, on the one hand, we’ll see the success of 2017 trends around strength, energy, protection and privacy – from home-based cyber security to high-impact fitness – and on the other, trends towards escape and switching off: sleep aids to nature walks, spirituality to escapist fiction.
The referendum result identified – perhaps exacerbated – attitudinal divisions in the UK. So, brands may find targeting consumers based on social attitude, not demographics, is more effective.
Meanwhile some consumers, spurred on by what they consider a triumph of ‘people power’, may feel more able to voice their concerns with brands and make greater demands on them.
Equilibrium will be key short term, maybe longer if attitudes harden. But if months pass without further drama, expect some easing off.
Which way it goes will be down to something no one – not even President Trump or Nigel Farage – can predict: but which Harold Macmillan allegedly said is most likely to keep leaders awake at night: “events, dear boy, events”.