By Emmanuel Probst

We examine how brands will make positive contributions to our lives and the world around us in 2024.

Looking forward to 2024, the world continues to change in ways that are worrisome for most of us, with global conflicts, inflation, climate change and the adoption of artificial intelligence all prominent concerns.

These issues ultimately impact how people consume and choose brands, hence Ipsos’ continued efforts to understand the role brands can play in people’s lives and identify what makes brands successful.  Extensive research-on-research conducted across numerous categories brought to light the importance of Expectations, Context and Empathy in driving brand choice.

More specifically, shaping expectations refers to what people feel and know about the brand and category. Understanding context means understanding what is happening in people’s lives and the world around them. Acting with empathy is about understanding what’s important to people and how brands can add to their lives.

In the following sections, we rely on the lens of Expectations, Context and Empathy to reflect on four key takeaways from 2023 that will shape brands and consumption in 2024 and beyond.

Harnessing the macro and micro context

The customer journey is becoming increasingly fragmented across a multitude of online, offline and media channels. Brands must therefore seize the “moments of truths” or opportunities to create positive impressions for their product. Broadly speaking, consumers are influenced by their macro context (the world at large) and their micro context, which are the occasions in which people choose brands (who are they with, what the weather is like or what kind of occasion they need the product for). In the spirit category, for example, research Ipsos conducted for Pernod Ricard reveals that people choose brands based on “moments of conviviality” such as a night out, a celebration or a dinner with family.

Contextual Brand Tracking enables understanding brand equity through the lens of different occasions and unveils new opportunities for targeting. For example, a cereal bar traditionally marketed as a morning or afternoon snack may have the potential to be positioned as a replacement for breakfast or an evening snack.

AI is promising and threatening at the same time

With the exception of a few (often self-proclaimed) experts, most of us know what we don’t know about artificial intelligence (AI). Only 3 percent of us think we are experts in generative AI. 29 percent of people say they have some knowledge. Forty-five percent have very little knowledge and 23 percent have no knowledge at all when it comes to generative AI.

By gathering and analyzing vast amount of data, artificial intelligence enables brands to better understand their target audience, tailor their messaging, and ultimately drive more impactful results. AI also enables brands to shape expectations towards the ways people interact with them. AI-powered tools enable more personalized and timely interactions with consumers, which ultimately results in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The chain of fast casual restaurants Chipotle used AI to deploy its Doppelgänger email campaign, which scans data from millions of transactions to trigger a personalized email that pairs up people who ordered the exact same thing, at the same time. As Chipotle customers love personalizing their order, they are surprised to find out their order is not as unique as they think it is. Customers therefore shared their doppelganger on social media, which in turn generated $4.8M in revenue for Chipotle in its first four weeks.

However, with these opportunities also come potential threats for brands. As AI continues to evolve and become more intelligent, there is a risk of it being used to manipulate or deceive consumers. This can damage a brand’s reputation and its trust with its audience.

Brands are expected to take a stance on social issues, yet doing so comes at risk

Brands must pay close attention to their stance on and their handling of social issues, as consumers are quick to boycott brands that don’t align with their views. In the US in particular, Ipsos research shows that over half of consumers are less likely to buy from brands that take a stand on political or social issues that they don’t agree with.

Diversity has become a core theme in marketing, as brands endeavor to embrace disability, LGBTQA+ and gender representations. But taking a stance on such issues comes at a risk, as exemplified by the controversies over AB InBev’s use of trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney to promote its Bud Light product. Bud Light’s conservative customers felt betrayed and fled to other brands, while liberals criticized Bud Light for not supporting Mulvaney when faced with transphobia. In the six months since the boycott, Bud Light’s sales have declined over 26 percent.

Brands can have a positive impact on society and the environment

As charging remains a key concern for EV drivers and a roadblock for EV considerers, French automaker Renault created a peer-to-peer app that connects home charger owners with drivers. Renault Plug Inn enable drivers to find and book the home chargers that are available where and when they need it. This “recharging community” solves the problem of driving long distances through the countryside, where charging stations used to be few and far between. Renault Plug Inn reached over 500k private chargers and is the fastest growing recharge network in Europe. Through its Electric Village campaign, Renault understood the context of e-car drivers and acted with empathy to reshape drivers’ expectations towards electric chargers and driving long distances.

Despite the (justified) anxiety and uncertainties that stem from the current political and economic climate, we can all be optimistic about the positive contributions brands will make to our lives and the world around us. Indeed, brands can harness our micro-context to provide us with products and offers that are most relevant of us, at the moment of need. Further, brands can leverage AI to meet and shape our expectations towards personalized and timely interactions.

Finally, brands demonstrate empathy for people and the planet, through the implementation of ambitious ESG-led campaigns.

Emmanuel Probst is Global Lead, Brand Thought Leadership, Ipsos.

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