Trends and solutions for 2017 at Bell Pottinger Engage launch

As it launched its integrated practice Engage this morning (January 25), Bell Pottinger – with The Future Laboratory –  outlined five trends and resolutions likely to affect brands in 2017.

engage-1Led by managing directors Hugh Taggart and James Thomlinson, the 70-strong Engage practice currently works with clients including South African Tourism, HSBC, Amazon, Panasonic, Hitachi, HAYS, Ripple, Huawei and PayPoint, and will sit alongside Bell Pottinger’s existing teams.

Taggart said: “Events of the last few years have drawn a line through many of the assumptions that marketers have worked on to date. With a new year starting, we wanted to re-write the rulebook and reshape our offer to support brands through an era of rapid change, shifting consumer expectations and increasingly complex audiences.”

Here are the five trends and resolutions from the event:

Trust Breakdown
Many of the institutions and individuals who were traditionally seen to be trustworthy have lost the public’s trust in recent years. The same goes for brands – even heritage brands which were formerly held in high esteem.

Taggart recommended that brands demonstrate greater transparency and ‘un-train’ their CEOs. He added: “We try to put across this element of authenticity.”

Hyper-Fragmentation
The media landscape continues to transform as people look to multiple and varied sources for their news, while algorithms create a more personalised experience for the online user.

In order to continue reaching their desired audiences, brands will need to come to grips with social channels, create more interactive and engaging content and partner with online influencers. PRs will need to strengthen their connections outside of traditional media networks.

Age of Uncertainty
The fate of opinion polls in 2016 showed that all predictions, even those formed in the age of big data, can be unreliable. The implication for PRs is that, no matter how well they think they understand them, their audiences or stakeholders may surprise them.

A one-on-one approach is key, according to the Engage team. Forums, panels and other opportunities for feedback will give brands the opportunity to hear directly from their stakeholders.

Lifelong Learning
As digital ensures that a life-long access to learning and education is both necessary and possible, traditional academic institutions have, according to the Engage panel, become less equipped to meet this ongoing need.

Brands, however, may be able to meet that need. Yoox Net-A-Porter and Bologna Business School, for example, have launched a dedicated master’s programme for digital business, and Dyson’s School of Design Engineering tackles a shortage of specific skills.

Anything, Anywhere, Anytime
The widespread, always-on style of living has resulted in many experiencing fatigue. These people are looking for breaks from technology, from their fast-paced lifestyles and from the constantly switched-on – and the constantly monitored – style of living that mobile devices and constant internet access have led to.

Brands can meet their consumers’ need for pause by creating experiences that are slowed-down, or that offer a break in some sense. Thomlinson commented: “In our experience it is those brands that inject more magic and less logic – in a robotic or algorithmic sense, not necessarily in a common sense – to clients.”

  • The 2017 Rules of Engagement event took place at Oxo Tower Wharf on the morning of Wednesday 25 January
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