A reflection on 2023 and looking ahead to 2024

Looking back during 2023 has seen some significant changes with the challenges that our clients have been facing during that time and it’s been great for ‘Levells’ to have been actively involved in addressing those challenges. So, to all those clients – a big thank you!

This has also seen us establish for 2024 a London office, which is run by a very young team headed up by Tara Harte, who saw the need to help start-ups get the right communication foundations in place and make sure that their marketing activity is sustainable from a digital footprint as well as longevity for the business, from the off. They after-all, will be the future generation who will help grow our economy and employment over the coming years.

2023 still saw clients going through a big shift, driven from Covid and the forever changing current economic landscape. I evident this by the type of work we have been involved with. One area really stands out, with two others fairly equal in activity. Strategy topped, followed by, Social Media and Website/Digital Content.

So, why did strategy see the most activity –

Strategy:

I don’t really put this activity into the mainstream content of the traditional developing roadmaps, market analysis and competitive research camp, although this isn’t to be thrown out with the bathwater. ‘Levells’ were frequently asked to help clients stay abreast of industry trends, be aware of technology advancements within their sectors and changes with cultural behaviours. We are very much their eyes and ears and it’s our job to keep them ahead of the pack. Working across many sectors, makes us observant to what actually is
going on and gives us that competitive edge.

Staying abreast, has helped us launch a new medical clothing product and shop, into the US, using only Amazon.com, as the customer touchpoint. A great platform to discover, review and purchase.

Moving into 2024, will see a greater need for more agile and innovative content aimed at the consumer to create a more instant brand connection.

Technology advancements, has seen us working with a finance broker, who spotted a gap in the market to further advance the current industry CRM system, so the benefits for the user are far greater, highlighting awareness of industry needs and a proactive approach to technology adoption. A very much customer-centric mindset.

This will become a massive growth area during 2024, where technology advancements within industry go to a new level. The recent birth of ‘A I’ has accelerated this possibility.

Cultural behaviours, is the area that has seen the most activity in addressing employee, customer and consumer challenges and needs. This has to be the main client pain-point and understanding each of these behaviours makes their needs even more unique. So, from a ‘Levells’ view point, probably the most challenging and in-depth mining we do, as well as navigating the nuances of individual behaviours and preferences. Humans are all very different in every way possible, each unique, whereas commodities or services are pretty much a given in principle, of how they are portrayed.

Much of our work in this area has been working with CEO’s and SMT’s to fully understand their goals and vision, and at the same time, aligning marketing content to take their employees along on that company journey, as well as the customer, who are equally as important. Constantly shifting, meaning the client has to be more agile aware. It’s become very much a case of not what you say, but how and where you say it.

2024 will not see a slowdown in cultural behaviour and wants. I would say it’s only really just started. As mentioned earlier, Covid and since then, has changed cultural behaviour big time where one cultural change led to another and so on. Companies are beginning to now see how important a good culture is and ‘Levells’ has helped with some significant company mindset shift.

In summary, clients are taking a much more balanced and comprehensive approach in navigating their evolving landscape, rather than knee jerk solutions to issues. In many cases, a back to basics approach and re-evaluating what you as a company, actually do stand for and then building the story from there.

How people’s approach to brand and communication has evolved over the past year

Attraction and retention are what most companies have been striving towards, for both employee and customer. Brand authenticity and being transparent were very much leading company values and vision communications. Stripping out the noise and only focusing on what is important. The ever-growing digital platforms means there is no hiding from both bad and good news, but the way that is communicated and received makes such a difference to how the client’s brand is portrayed.

Acting ‘as one’ would sum the approach to brand communications during 2023. That consistent resonating message, whether visual or written means that businesses are beginning to build a brand community. A place of trust and belonging.

Clients were also prepared to push the boundary and try new ways of communicating. Using film and stripped back visuals more, was definitely one of the growth areas, for both internal and external messaging. Linkedin was also strong, where Levells worked closely with CEO’s and BDM’s to establish strong ‘Thought Leadership’ profiles and company statue.

Again, working from a ‘going back to basics’ approach.

Clients felt they needed to be doing the right thing by both employee and customer and the clients we have partnered with, have gone into 2024 in a very sustainable position and it is good to know we helped with that.

Three key themes that will shape branding in 2024

Sustainability

Sustainability has been banded around for a while now, but is becoming more of a focal point for businesses as they move further forward and want to attract the next generation of employees and customers, and it’s not a surprise given the ongoing awareness and concern about environmental issues. The fact that sustainability is now permeating every aspect of a business, from manufacturing to marketing, is a positive sign of a collective effort to address environmental challenges.

The emphasis on scrutinising the digital carbon footprint is becoming more into the spotlight. As more business activities move online, it’s crucial to consider the environmental impact of digital activity. This includes energy consumption, data storage, and the overall carbon footprint associated with online activities. Businesses are recognising the need to align with environmentally conscious agencies, showing a growing awareness of their responsibility in the digital space.

The involvement of the next generation is a significant driving force. The values and expectations of younger individuals, who have grown up with a strong emphasis on environmental issues, are shaping the priorities of businesses. Companies that prioritise sustainability not only appeal to the current consumer base but also position themselves well for the future workforce.

Communication plays a crucial role in shaping public perception, and by ensuring that the messaging aligns with sustainability values, businesses can create a more positive impact. This shift towards sustainable practices is not just a trend though; it’s becoming a business imperative, and Levells are instrumental in guiding organisations through this transformative journey.

As we move into 2024, it will be interesting to see how businesses continue to integrate sustainability into their marketing strategies and operations, and how the focus on environmental responsibility evolves in response to global pressures and challenge.

Back to basics

As mentioned earlier there is definitely a strip back, get out of the noise and take a ‘Back to basics’ approach. In a marketing sense this refers to a return to fundamental principles and strategies that have proven effective over time. It involves re-evaluating and refocusing on core elements to ensure that marketing efforts align with business goals and effectively reach the target audience. But what does this mean and where would you start?

A few pointers to throw in –

Clarity of Purpose and Values: These can become forgotten over time, become lost, making the culture miss-align with the heart of the company. Regularly defining the company’s vision, goals, and plans is foundational. Marketing activities should align closely with these core aspects to ensure consistency in messaging and purpose to all who read and see any communication.

ROI and Accountability: We as an agency know there is growing emphasis on quantifying the return on investment in marketing activity. Not all outcomes are directly monetary, such as cultural branding where, employee retention, attracting high-calibre staff, and enhancing cultural presence contribute to the overall success and value of marketing strategies.

Strategic Alignment: Ensuring that marketing efforts are aligned with the broader company strategy is crucial. Although not always adopted. By integrating marketing into the overall business plan, activities become more transparent, accountable, measurable and controllable.

Targeted Communication: It is very easy to get dragged into the ‘We must be seen and heard everywhere’ culture. The focus should be on the understanding where the target audience is and tailoring communications accordingly. This involves identifying the channels, mediums, and language that resonate most effectively with the specific audience. In some cases the factual content may be said in 3 or 4 ways to suit various demographics.

Adaptability and Agility: I would say this is one of the ‘it’s a given’ actions. Recognising the need when to be agile and communicative, especially in the rapidly changing business environment. This may involve adjusting values, communication styles, and strategies to stay relevant, responsive and attractive.

Segmentation and Personalisation: We all know, no-one likes to be talked at. So, understanding the diversity within the audience and tailoring messages to different segments is a fundamental aspect. Personalised and targeted communication enhances engagement and builds stronger connections. At the end of the day clients are trying to build a brand community.

Brand Consistency: Probably states the obvious, but so overlooked in the day to day pressures. Maintaining that consistency in brand messaging and visual identity across internal and external communications is vital. This ensures a cohesive brand image and helps build trust with your audience and community.

By going back to these fundamental principles, businesses will navigate the complexities of modern marketing and communication, ensuring that their strategies are effective, meaningful, and contribute to long-term success.

Cultural Challenges

With a predicted harder economic year ahead, cultural communication and acting as one, will be key to help businesses hang on to their best employees and attract the best candidates, as well as attracting and retaining new and existing customers.

I was speaking to someone in the break and we were talking about the fact, they had been approached by a company, who had made a very attractive offer. The comment back to me was, “I know I can earn more elsewhere, but where I am, they are lovely people and let me get on with what I’m meant to be doing.” To me, the importance of a good brand culture.

Some pointers to help foster a positive culture:

Leadership’s Role: Leadership plays a crucial role in shaping and maintaining a positive culture across a business from top to bottom. So, developing ‘thought leaders’ to embody the values the business wants to promote and actively work towards creating an inclusive and inspiring work environment, will be seen by both employee and customer alike.

Employee Retention and Attraction: When times become a little tougher, employees may start to see what else is out there. So as in a competitive job market, where attractive offers might come from elsewhere, the culture of the workplace becomes a deciding factor. Employees often value a positive work environment, supportive colleagues, and a company that allows them to thrive in their roles.

Cultural Communication: Actively communicating and reinforcing the company’s culture is vital. This involves consistently conveying the values, vision, and goals of the business through various channels, both internally and externally. This ensures that employees and customers alike understand and resonate with the company’s brand.

Valuing People: Demonstrating appreciation and valuing employees goes beyond financial incentives. Recognising and celebrating achievements, fostering a collaborative atmosphere, and showing genuine care for the well-being of team members contribute to a positive workplace culture. And by communicating this both internally and externally will only lead to a stronger brand culture.

Consistency with Branding: Consistency in communication, both in messaging and visual representation, reinforces the company’s brand and cultural identity. This helps create a unified and recognisable safe place, internally and externally.

Relevance: Don’t just post for the sake of doing it. Engaging with employees and customers in a relevant way, so rising above the noise will foster a greater sense of connection. This should be across the relevant communication channels to both employees and customers.

If we do face these economic challenges, and during such times, the strength of the businesses culture, becomes pivotal. It not only helps retain the existing workforce but also positions the company attractively for prospective employees and customers. Investing in and nurturing a positive culture is an investment in the long-term success and resilience of the business.

Three things that businesses should remember for 2024

Keep it real - Perception v Reality

Don’t try and be something you’re not. It takes a lot of wasted energy, resource and money, to try and portray a brand that isn’t true to its beliefs, or tries to be something it isn’t. A brand can only grow and prosper from a great foundation. Who would you get to design your dream house. A builder or an architect. A solid foundation is key. By keeping your brand real, honest and authentic, puts you in a better place to drive through the ups and downs of our current economic climate and forever changing landscape.

Build a brand community

There is a premiership football team that use the saying – ‘the strength is in the pack’, and how true that is. When people believe and all pull together, whether they be your employees or customers, the results and rewards are far greater. Your culture which will create your brand community, is key to growing your business through 2024.

Your digital footprint is equally as important as the ‘bigger stuff’

As businesses, we naturally get wrapped up in the bigger sustainability issues. Don’t lose sight of what is right in front of your eyes and ears. Every day we are connecting to digital media information, so it is important to look at what you say, where you say it and to whom you say it. If you think of all your business’s digital touch points, how can this be more effective in its content and engagement. I will leave you with this statistic to reflect on. Although it relates to emails, the sentiment is still there –

29g of CO2e can be generated by a long email that takes 10 minutes to write, sent to 100 people, 99 of whom take 3 seconds to realise they should ignore it and of one whom reads it.

Recent Thoughts

Recent Thoughts