It’s that time again. The futurologists, both permanent and those drafted in to handle the seasonal spike, are in full flow.  What’s going to happen in the year ahead? What will be the defining trends? Having just emerged, blinking, from the extraordinary year that was 2016, the sages have my sympathy.  Being in the prediction business must suddenly feel very exposed.

But, despite the challenges ahead, there is plenty to look forward to in 2017 and I draw inspiration from Helen Calcraft, a founder of creative company Lucky Generals and Campaign magazine’s top advertising suit of 2016, when she urges us all “to get on our lipstick and walk into 2017 like we mean it”. Suitably decorated, therefore, here are ten selected trends for this year through the lens of my specialist area, that of business relationships.

  • Agencies with clients. With continued pressure on budgets, clients will seek ever more value from their agency relationships. They will expect to leverage an agency’s wider experience and learning, from work with other clients (anonymised, of course), around the network and, increasingly, as a result of active cross-agency cooperation
  • Clients with agencies. Re-structuring within client organisations will not end soon. The benefits of breaking down silos will be more acutely recognised, however. Working more effectively across key client functions leads to more coherent briefs, more consistent briefings and clearer decision making
  • Employers with employees. Creating a dynamic career environment will be one of the salient qualities of a successful employer. This requires reducing mundane tasks, making jobs better, with a focus on internal talent mobility, self-directed learning, giving employees a voice and the tools to shape their organisation’s and their own paths
  • Some of us with all of us. Diversity remains a major challenge but we now know that it drives better results. Brands like Maltesers and Guinness have invested in communications which champion inclusivity. The imperative will be actions not words in 2017. It’s not enough to claim an open mind. We must understand and manage our unconscious biases, set targets and source talent more imaginatively
  • Brands with consumers. Social media platforms have grown in popularity as secure channels to connect brands with their consumers. In recognition of this, more brands will look to take customer service in-house, both to avoid the risk of washing dirty laundry in public and to nurture closer relationships and greater customer loyalty
  • Us with our workspace. The open office has undoubtedly supported the aim for more collaboration but has often frustrated the practical and deeply felt need for greater privacy. The trend will be towards activity-based design which creates separate areas for both work-styles. Specifically, silent areas will become more commonplace at work
  • Us with the environment. Ethical businesses have always tried to promote responsible consumption. Now it has started to make sense commercially too. Customers who for years have been saying they want to shop more responsibly, and are prepared to pay more to do so, are finally putting their money where their mouths are. An authentic, credible purpose will be a key plank of a company’s consumer relevance
  • Us with our devices. The future is verbal. Humans can speak at 150 words per minute on average, but type only 40. Voice-activation will transform our interaction with technology. But beware, our new friend Alexa is in essence a highly sensitive microphone connected to the internet. There is an amusing tale of ‘her’ ordering a $150 doll’s house at the behest of a six-year old girl but, more seriously, it won’t take long for hackers to join the party
  • Us with our dogs. Nestlé’s UK head office has been fully dog-friendly since 2015. There are rules, a probationary period and formal canine accreditation but it the scheme has worked. Having your pet with you at work can reduce stress and improve your well-being. It can even have a positive impact on non-dog owners. More will take Nestlé’s lead (geddit?) this year
  • Us with us. In the overwhelmed economy we can ourselves resemble dogs, barking at every passing car in our endless search for shiny new solutions. As RBS Group’s CMO David Wheldon reminds us, however, in his ‘The year ahead for marketing’ (Campaign magazine 13.01.17), despite the increasing influence of technology, “marketing and communications will remain fundamentally a people business”. It’s all about the basics of human nature, what hasn’t changed for a million years, rather than the relatively superficial things that have. There will be no shame in identifying with simplicity in 2017

I wish you all a prosperous and healthy year ahead. My personal tip is more Hygge (pronounced hue-gah), loosely defined, I saw recently, as the happiness that comes from snuggling up with friends by the fire in candlelight and eating sweet treats. A very Danish antidote to an English January!

Lippy on? We’re going in.