Predictive tech, sports-washing, post-truth politics: Trends impacting comms in 2020

The most influential business and cultural trends from around the world and how they will impact political, corporate and social behaviour in 2020.

The new decade has already brought forward a number of new communications challenges that will have a long-lasting impact on culture. Whether it's governments and businesses responding to the coronavirus, paying tribute to the sport icon Kobe Bryant, managing the impacts of Brexit or the big decisions to be made around the upcoming US election, all eyes are on brands. That's because consumers now expect nothing less than for brands to play a more meaningful role in their lives and communities, and to stand for, or against, issues that matter to them.

To help businesses navigate communications in the year ahead, we've just released our annual Red Sky Predictions report, which explores the top 10 most influential business and cultural trends from around the world and how they will impact political, corporate and social behaviour. Created in collaboration with colleagues and researchers around the world, we're now in the third year of our report. Highlights for 2020 range from technology trends, such as campaigns driven by the power of predictive technology and data, to broader social concerns, such as the continuing rise of populism and the fight against sport-washing.

In particular, predictive technology has hit a new high, as communicators are now leveraging it to better inform business decisions and budgets. While we once worried about robots coming for our jobs, as marketing professionals we'll be able to leverage predictive technologies to extend our capabilities and help make decisions when it comes to identifying the right brand ambassador, brand partnership—or which might pose the biggest risk. It will play a crucial role in proving our value to clients and for this reason, Red Havas is making significant investments in AI and predictive technology, with plans to launch a powerful new tool this year.

As a Brit living in the US in an election year, I've been fascinated to learn the intricacies of US politics, while keeping a close eye on Brexit in my homeland. It's no secret that right-wing populism has been exploding around the world; we've seen the number of such national leaders double since early 2000s. These new populist leaders have made their careers on their ability to sound like "one of the people." It is argued that these leaders prefer childish attacks rather than reasoned arguments, even to the point of inciting violence rather than trying to calm it. And that they favour simplistic disinformation over the always-more-nuanced truth. The reality is that this continuing rise in populism isn't going away anytime soon and it will further toughen online dialogue, putting brands in the uncomfortable position of having to choose a side.

Sport-washing is another trend I've watched closely: I'm a massive sports fan (Premier League especially) and seeing how countries are using sports to spiff up their image and/or conceal human-rights violations is a genuine concern we should all have. In our Report, we expect this to be in the spotlight like never before, as the industry, sponsors and consumers demand change, especially during an Olympic Year and when questions still exist around doping and how global sporting bodies award events to certain countries.

Some countries, it is argued have been trying to offset their negative perceptions by aligning with more positive organisations or stories. Take Saudi Arabia for example, allegations attached to assassination of The Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the torturing of women has seen an attempt to counteract this through business meetings with the NBA, MLB and Los Angeles Olympic Committee. It's a minefield that brands can no longer remove themselves from but instead are forced directly into by stakeholders.

You can read Red Havas' take on all of the above in our 2020 Red Sky Predictions, which imagines how the following 10 themes will play out:

1. Cognitive communications: Cognitive computing will help communicators more quickly and efficiently connect the dots so they will no longer have to guess what news is about to break, what headline will make waves and where, and which conversation topic or social influencer will resonate most.

2. Vanity metrics vanish: As social media matures, and surface-level metrics such as "Likes" start to shift out of sight, the days of counting vanity metrics are truly coming to an end. Marketers will make room for a more strategic measurement approach, with a focus on metrics that matter, such as attention retention and facial recognition

3. App-arenting matures: With children consuming more online media and becoming active across applications earlier than ever, parents raising the next generation will have new innovations, regulations and restrictions to consider.

4. Data doing good: 2020 is the year data privacy regulation will go mainstream, and marketers will start seeking out ways to give secure data a greater purpose—finding impactful ways to ensure data can do the world good.

5. From e-messaging to d-messaging: Thanks to its personal touch and powerful features, direct messaging will overtake leading traditional direct marketing methods and firmly cement its role in the communications realm.

6. Brands navigate post-truth politics: The continuing rise of populism will further coarsen online dialogue, putting brands in the uncomfortable position of having to choose a side—and stand for it.

7. Wearable tech going onward and inward: As technology gets smaller, more capable and more integrated into our lives, various forms of wearables will become ubiquitous—and we'll also see the rise of "insertables" and "ingestibles."

8. Coming clean: Sports-washing, or the practice of a country using sports to spiff up its image and/or conceal human-rights violations, will be in the media spotlight like never before. Expect to see sporting bodies, athletes and sponsors step up to stand for real change in 2020.

9. The proof is in the purpose: As consumers expect brands to play a more meaningful role in their lives, more organisations will revisit their core reason for being in order to communicate their credo—and live it—more effectively.

10. Ready for liftoff: Though outer space has long captured our imaginations, its potential as a brand of its own has been as of yet untapped. Now, however, the stars have aligned for space to take up a lot of space in current events, pop culture and merchandising.

View the predictions in full here



James Wright is global CEO of Red Havas


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