Comms Nuances for Our Precarious World

— Jarred Du Plessis, Digital and Social Consultant 

2016 has been quite a year. From Brexit – to concerns over sluggish spending growth – to Donald Trump being appointed president of the USA. It appears to be the year where feelings trump fact. Our authority figures are shifting closer to those we love and trust (family and friends) which is prompting a need for a stronger sense of community amongst us all.

A concept which summarises 2016 is: precariousness – the uncertainty that we feel about our future, where change is the only constant – and if you stand still you’re left behind.

This concept was the main theme of a recent forecasting event I attended, hosted by Foresight Factory (FFOnline) called: Trending 2017. It was a day filled with futurologists sharing insights about our world today, how consumers are influenced, what to expect in 2017 and beyond, and how brands can tap into this dynamism.

Below are the key takeaways which hit home for me.


We’re emotional beings

According to Forrester 2017 predictions, influencing emotion is set to be a vital ingredient for business success. #youdoyou has fast become a hashtag associated with being what you want to be, and doing things in your own unique manner. But people navigating this trend frequently feel the pressure to constantly ‘outquirk’ themselves. There’s a pressure to do you, but do you better – which creates a sense of paranoia. FFOnline research showed that 56% of people feel like they’re not currently doing enough to become who they should be. What complicates this even more is managing the identity tensions this creates i.e. the desire to be different vs. crowd approval, where the crowd impacts our perception of what’s hot and what’s not.

These days people want brands to reflect who they are. Interestingly, people will share anything online, as long as they can remain in control of the message. We as brand advocates need to interpret what tone of voice customers respond to and engage with better, considering their moods are constantly in flux. Emoji usage is also set to double in the next year, from 32 – 63%, so this is another alley to explore in 2017.

It’s our responsibility as communication consultants to be able to effectively measure emotion. Resources like Sensum have been created to establish reactions to content before it’s released – where brands can measure actual impact pre-campaign. In the next year we should expect emotional cues to explode, and be ready to navigate brands through a sea of emotion.


The art of checking out

A way of being I learnt about at the event (which I found highly refreshing) is a Danish concept called: Hygge. This refers to closing the door on the world for quiet reflection time, where Hygge = cosiness for the soul. It has been stated that unstructured downtime may be the cure for our stressful lifestyles, resulted due to not having time in our everyday lives. Examples of #Hygge activities range far and wide, including: adult colouring books, holiday, VR headsets and anything which can be classified as temporary (healthy) escapes.

So what does this mean for brands? There’s an opportunity for brands to become associated with Hygge activities: all things cosy, indulgent and aimed at well-being, pushing the message: “You’re not being lazy or doing nothing, you’re doing Hygge!” While this does hold promise for particular industries, like the travel and hospitality sectors, there’s a fine line to tread to ensure that what’s being communicated enhances the experience, and doesn’t create yet another distraction.


Healthcare is a force to be reckoned with

In the past, the philosophy of healthcare has been normative: purely preventative or acting on the condition when it happens. Today attitude towards disability and disease are changing, driven by messages detailing: perfection of the body, the everyday athlete, self-diagnosis and treatment.

Healthcare tech innovations are fast becoming extensions to well-being, as opposed to quick fixes, where we are able to extend capabilities beyond accepted norms – think 3D printed and IoT enabled prosthetics. Powerful messages around self-enhancement and how brands can help consumers be a better version of themselves is on the rise too.

Presently, demand for seemingly ‘out there’ health tech innovations, such as self-assessment microchip implants is latent, with a few who are more open to it, especially those with disabilities or health problems. There’s massive opportunity in this unique space, where we could be competing with AI robotics for jobs in the future (scary but possible reality).

Considering the above, we should all prepare for an even more precarious 2017 – remaining adaptable, as we navigate the incredible motion the comms industry is and will experience…