Three things will impact consultancies’ operations and financials. First, the lines will blur further between what is brand, campaign or digital, to become one pool of creative thinking. Clients want better value for money, with one consultancy that can bring it all together. Clients are demanding people who can work across multiple media and projects effortlessly, who know a lot about most things and even more about what they are experts in. They will need to see the bigger picture and add value when and where it really matters. Second, while the UK marketplace feels more positive than it has for a while, brands will continue to evolve with careful consideration rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In order to support businesses that are investing in considered adaptation and change, consultancies need to develop long-term valued partnerships with clients to help them to actively manage their brands from the inside-out. This will bring stability and will help to retain brains and teams. Consultancies also need to be at the heart of clients’ brand networks. As an extension of the client team they can join together the consultancy community, on the client’s behalf, to ensure the brand, the campaign and the customer experiences knit together. This will save both the client and consultancy valuable time and money. On the design front, we will see the continuing trend for brands to simplify the experiences they create, making things easier to achieve by simplifying not only their visual language and design feel but also the way they engineer their customer journeys and brand experiences. Heritage and strong British brands that exude integrity will continue to surface as they cash in on decades of trust and nostalgia. Alongside this, storytelling and how brands communicate their origins and authenticity in a sincere and engaging way is likely to continue to rise in importance. Overall, people will still want brands to make the world easy for them to enjoy and to bring them ideas that they feel make their life better, simpler, easier, richer and more fulfilled.
Will Rowe, managing director, Rufus Leonard and James Ramsden, executive creative director, Rufus Leonard.
This year will see further moves in digital towards consultancy and away from marketing. Our clients believe that digital is a strategic competency rather than a tactical channel in the marketing mix and many consultancies are following that lead. The financial impact of that shift will be interesting, with consultancies having to learn a new set of skills and having to hire and train to gain the skills they do not already have in-house. The competition for consultants will create salary pressure on the bottom line, which will be only partially alleviated by a potential upturn in day rates. Profit will be squeezed in the short-term. The Government Digital Service’s move towards agile procurement and open-source can only bring benefits to consultancies and clients alike. All consultancies should take a look at some of the forward thinking coming from the Government that can be applicable to commercial clients and add cost effectiveness to user experience excellence.
Margaret Manning, chief executive, Reading Room
• There will be further consolidation of store portfolios with fewer and smaller stores.
• More banks will close branches and there will be a continuing re-invention of retail banking.
• Retailers will develop more transient retail, pop-ups, events and so on.
• The number of new players opening branded locations in the retail market will increase.
• There will be an explosion of mobile money and the death of the till as we know it.
• Tertiary shopping centres will close or repurpose.
• There will be an increasing shift from long-term to shorter-term shopping-centre leasing.
• There will be increasing efforts to revitalise high streets with shifts in planning laws.
• There will be an explosion in the commercialisation of railway and Tube stations.
• There will be an explosion in guerrilla retailing.
• There will be further integration of food and beverage in retail.
• There will be an increase in hybrid cross-category stores.
• The ‘collect experience’ will begin to take its place at the heart of the store.
• The grocery sector will polarise into discount and experiential, both with increasing online sales.
• We will see the early green shoots of personalised pricing.
• We will see the increasing proliferation of brands offering personalisation.
• Mobile online commerce will continue to grow rapidly.
• More brands will ‘gamify’ their customer engagement.
• Customers will revolt against cupcakes. Marshmallows and macaroons will be the next big things.
Ibrahim Ibrahim, managing director, Portland
The near future for brands, consumer packaging goods and therefore design is very strong for two reasons. First, increased activity in multinational mergers and demergers, arising from the squeeze from slowing developing markets and resulting in brand portfolio repositionings, will lead to a lot of well-known brand design refreshes. Second, breakthrough creative opportunity and a new aesthetic will come from entrepreneurial or online brands as they rise, adapt and then migrate into mainstream to provide what people want in convenience or lifestyle. These brands know and value what many established brands have forgotten – that meaningful experience is in the hands of their packaging. We are a while off mass revolutions in packaging technology but it is coming. In the meantime it will be business-as-Photoshop-usual for lazy designers and clients paying lip-service to creativity, achieving only bland identity and driven by costly procurement processes rather than seeing design as an investment in long-term brand value. Indeed, it is in the often-devalued packaging sector where powerful, original creative thinking has had the most business impact in design over the past 30 years, and there are people and companies that should be recognised for the impact they have had on business and culture.
Jonathan Ford, partner and chief creative officer, Pearlfisher
Speaking to both clients and peer agencies suggests that there is certainly more activity and work available. However, the financial demands on both converting and delivering this work show no signs of abating. Consultancies will need to pick their battles carefully and be realistic with their clients on what the available budgets can return, not only in terms of end delivery but in the depth of strategy, hands-on project management and the fundamental results the client is expecting. Although challenging, this is an opportunity for consultancies and their partners and suppliers to fine-tune their offer and process – not just in terms of basic cost adjustment but in all the aspects that affect the finances of their business and their client projects. Lastly, attracting and retaining talent remains the single most important issue for every consultancy and financial pressures will continue to make this challenging to get right.
Giles Redmayne, managing director, Purpose
The economy is certainly looking up in 2014, with our clients all feeling more confident about the outlook. Contextual awareness is a phrase that builds on the consumer demand for personalisation, and this will increasingly help to shape the face of design over the coming months. This could be from mobile companies using insights to design interaction with consumers, through to marrying the design of live brand experiences with the context of different consumer lifestyles. Digital is at the core of all brand experiences and is not just being used as a tool for sharing and reach. It is about real-time understanding of consumers’ interests at a given time or location and how brands interact authentically with target audiences. The next 12 months look promising for differentiated design-led experiences that create brand advocacy and scale.
Guy Horner, managing director, TBA
This is an exciting time for product designers. We now talk about designing an experience rather than designing a product. The convergence of the physical product with digital service, offering a richer experience via smart, connected technology, will continue. Consumers are demanding more than just a product – they want a full service provision. Crowdfunding will continue to boom. The opportunities it offers to start-up designers is fantastic. The tools are there for anyone to create from their bedrooms – just look at 17-year-old Nick D’Aloisio, who sold his app to Yahoo for more than £18 million. It will be interesting to see how these phenomena evolve. We’ve heard so much about wearables, but few are truly useful to consumers. Self-quantification has been a huge trend, but there is an increasing demand for real-time feedback and data analysis. As new technologies allow us to capture different types of personal data, there could be a boom in useful biometrics – not just for personal fitness, but for serious healthcare issues. Even if only some of these things materialise, we are certainly in for an exciting year.
Ian Whatley, associate director, Seymourpowell
You can see this year’s Design Week Top 100 in full here.