Ben Worden

brands in britain 2024

Brands in Britain 2024: Be normal when everything else is anything but

Brands can be a beacon in an ever-changing world, says the VML chief strategy officer

By Ben Worden

If you squint at a Google trends graph for ‘new normal’ as a search term over the last five years, you can just about see a little spike in the first few weeks of the year.

I’m not sure if this surge is driven by people sitting at their desks on January 1st with the expectation that the internet will tell them what the ‘new normal’ is for the year ahead, or if they are hoping that it returns no results and they can get back to planning for ‘normal’.

If I’ve learned anything from the last five years, it’s that the concept of ‘normal’ (new, nearly new, or old) is totally dead as we go into 2024.

The economy isn’t ‘normal’: Inflation has been tamed to a certain extent, but steady 2 percent inflation (a.k.a ‘normal’) is some way off.  Interest rates may cool, but an estimated 2.4m UK households face the prospect of remortgaging in 2024 at higher rates than the last time they attempted the exercise.  Whilst some may be well set to cope with the increased cost of borrowing, there will be those who find the interest rate environment forces them to make uncomfortable choices that were probably unthinkable two years ago.

Politics isn’t ‘normal’: the concept of normal is also dead and buried as we look to 2024. Traditionally the prospect of a general election gives rise to fears of political change and instability, but if anyone in the UK feels like the last five years have been politically ‘stable’ I’d love to meet them: since the last election in 2019 we’ve left the European Union, had three Prime Ministers, burned through seven cabinet reshuffles and seen one prorogation of Parliament.  

Society isn’t feeling that ‘normal’ either:  Culture wars (often waged by elites who don’t live in the real world, but sure like fucking with the emotions of those of us who do) make Planet Earth feel more nasty than it used to. And real wars are actively turning the World into a more nasty place, with imagery from two live conflicts filling the news feeds every single day, without any obvious end in sight.  These two very different types of war have in their own way highlighted one of the biggest challenges of our era: competing versions of the truth playing out on social and mainstream media that cannot be easily reconciled, creating phenomenal levels of distrust, uncertainty, and despair in the public consciousness.

Brands need to be sensitive to all this despair.  

But not in a ‘now more than ever’ kind of way. 

In a ‘wouldn’t it be nice to think about something completely different’ kind of way.

The best thing that the majority of brands can do as we look to a year ahead that looks anything but ‘normal’ is to do everything that they can to be beacons of ‘normal’ in a world where absolutely nothing else is…

Ben Worden is chief strategy officer at VML


LinkedIn iconx

Your Privacy

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. Please let us know if you agree to all of these cookies.