wood dragon

brands in britain 2024

2024: health, wealth and happiness or just more of the same?

Will 2024 be the year of the Dragon... or will it just drag on? Introducing a series of essays on what could be in store for brands this year

By jeremy lee

Welcome to 2024 – a Leap Year, the Chinese Year of the Wood Dragon, the Paris Olympics, and what looks like further international and domestic turmoil.

To mark the start of the year we’ve invited some of the UK’s top planning brains to make predictions on what the year has in store for brands in a series of essays we’ll be publishing over the next few weeks – they’ve got plenty to work with. The first is from Saatchi & Saatchi's chief strategy officer Richard Huntington.

With Russia’s war in the Ukraine entering its third year, and Israel predicting that its offensive in Gaza will last throughout 2024, optimism for global peace looks hard to find at the moment. Add to that the disruption that the Islamist Houthi rebels in the Yemen are bringing to the Red Sea – thereby disrupting vital trade routes and supply chains – and the promised military action against them by Western powers, then you could be forgiven for thinking that unless you’re involved in the arms trade then this year could be a challenging one all round.

This year will also see a series of elections – including the UK, London Mayoralty, the US, India and for the EU Parliament. Recent successes in Europe and Argentina for parties and leaders that have been labelled as ‘populist’ are likely to replicated to some extent here too (Donald Trump’s nomination as the Republican candidate looks assured).

In the UK, the Labour Party under Sir Keir Starmer might be the bookies' favourite but critics have pointed out that his failure to clarify any definitive policies upon election provide unwelcome uncertainty. In short, he’s difficult to pin down. And of course, this will be the first general election where the potential of AI to influence outcomes could be realised.

While politics - nationally and globally - is in a state of flux, the economic background upon which the outcome of the elections will ultimately probably be decided also remains uncertain. The UK’s rate of inflation has started to fall from its eye-watering levels of 2022 and 2023 (although not to levels below the Bank of England’s 2 per cent target) and there are indicators that our economy will start to grow, thereby avoiding a recession. Goldman Sachs describes this growth as “modest” – 0.1 per cent in the first quarter, 0.2 per cent in Q3 and Q4, and 0.3 per cent in the final quarter of the year. Wage growth at 4.5 per cent will outstrip this, the bank says.

So the macro and micro political and economic situation against which brands will be operating looks volatile – but then again, when has it not? The 2020 pandemic threw a giant spanner in the works that has, despite all the horrific outcomes, made brands and agencies more prepared than ever for what the world can throw at them. And so, expected changes of government, the increased impact of AI and low levels of growth are just the latest in a series of challenges to be overcome.

But if you’re still looking for some good news to pin your hopes on, Chinese astrologists predict that the Year of the Wood Dragon will bring authority, prosperity and good fortune, making it the perfect time for rejuvenated beginnings and setting the foundations for long-term growth. We can all raise a glass to that.

We hope that you enjoy the series of essays, and thanks to the contributors.


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