Brand Strategy Open Mic Predictions 2023

We analyzed 4 years of data to predict 2024’s most important advertising trends

By Julio Franco, chief customer officer



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October 2, 2023 | 9 min read

Based on 2,300 ads researched with nearly a million consumers in the US over the last four years, Julio Franco (chief customer officer, Zappi) looks at the advertising trends that are most likely to captivate consumers in 2024 and why.

A woman watching an advert on a TV that has followed the biggest 2024 advertising trend of emotion

If advertisers want to captivate consumers in 2024, there are a few things they need to know first

When the Super Bowl aired in the US in February 2023, T-Mobile unveiled its home internet commercial during the fourth quarter, bringing together Scrubs duo, Zach Braff and Donald Faison with John Travolta. The ad depicts Travolta moving into Braff and Faison’s neighborhood, but they are horrified to see him installing cable with a company other than T-Mobile. Adapting the lyrics to Summer Nights from the 1978 movie Grease, they convince Travolta to change his mind. Travolta responds in song, as well as throwing in some iconic Grease dance moves.

Using a beloved US actor to the backdrop of an enduringly popular song just six months after the sad death of Travolta’s globally adored Grease co-star, Olivia Newton-John, captured people’s hearts and minds and tapped into a certain nostalgia. The one minute version of the ad on YouTube garnered over 56 million views in six months.

T-Mobile's 2023 Super Bowl ad, staring John Travolta, Zach Braff and Donald Faison

Good ads don’t happen in a vacuum. They take what we know and create logical and emotional connections to our needs. The T-Mobile ad works because it combines the tangible and the intangible with characters and unspoken context to create a moment of intense relatability, without sacrificing core values to the brand and promotion.

The T-Mobile campaign reflects Zappi’s research on ‘The state of creative effectiveness in 2023’, which shows more concerted brand-consumer connection this year. By analyzing the same data, spanning a four year period, we’ve managed to predict 2024’s most likely advertising trends.

Ads are on the up

We looked back at over 2,300 ads researched with nearly a million consumers in the US over the last four years. Our goal was to examine the art and science behind creative effectiveness to interrogate how advertising has evolved over a hugely unpredictable period.

The data shows that this year’s ads are performing strongly against US norms, demonstrating that advertisers are back in tune with what consumers want from brands. Critically, overall emotion (nearly 4% higher) and emotional intensity scores are now outperforming the US average.

Messages which resonate are also resulting in a stronger consumer response as we are seeing both higher purchase uplift and higher brand appeal, meaning consumers are more likely to consider these brands in future.

But it has been a bumpy ride.

Brands stepped up in the pandemic era…

Our research looked at four distinct eras of advertising – each one highly influenced by social and economic forces: pre-pandemic, pandemic, inflation, and January 2023 to the present, or ‘the normalization’ era.

Covid-19 caused sudden, disruptive changes. This forced marketers to rethink their strategies to reach consumers who craved kindness and togetherness at a time of huge uncertainty. Many brands moved fast, successfully tapping into their audiences’ need for empathy. Ads during the pandemic period scored 17.5% better in emotional appeal than pre-pandemic ads. This helped to promote a considerable 32% boost in purchase uplift.

Yet while emotional resonance and response gained traction, brand recall fell 5.6% from pre-pandemic levels. By succumbing to lazy pandemic clichés, depicting families, friends and loved ones connecting against the odds, many advertisers failed to leave a lasting impression.

…but were slow to act as the economy took a hit

As Covid-19 subsided, many brands focussed on the ‘quick hit’ approach of targeting people’s pandemic savings, rather than using creativity to build an emotional connection. But inflation was rising and savings were fast receding: the messaging jarred with much of the audience.

Global economies continued to worsen and consumers were impacted more gradually than the relative shock of the pandemic, but as consumer sentiment evolved – and the way people perceived ads shifted – many brands failed to keep their fingers on the pulse. In July 2021, creative effectiveness declined 2% alongside other key indicators of advertising effectiveness. For example, purchase uplift fell 7% and emotional intensity decreased by 4.5%.

Beware of the band-aid fix

It is a trend which has continued. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, many brands are prioritizing short-term campaigns at the expense of forging a deeper, emotional connection that will foster loyalty and long-term consideration.

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In the UK, the IPA Bellwether Report Q2 2023 reveals that sales promotions soared to 13.4% growth, and the report echoes our view that price promotions can be counter-productive: they may generate short-term spikes in sales volumes but will “almost never change how consumers think or feel about their brand because they are only interested in the lowest price point.”

Inevitably, discounted offers focus consumers’ loyalty on costs, not brands, encouraging fickleness and damaging future brand equity.

Brands are steadying in time for 2024

For brands to regain the connection they successfully forged with consumers during the distressing days of the pandemic – and to ensure they are pushing creative boundaries – they need to read the room and relate to consumers’ struggles and concerns. Their work must speak to the current state of the world at any given moment while simultaneously remaining true to their brand. This shift is underway, with empathy at the forefront.

Campaigns are once again making people feel something, which in turn invites loyalty, fosters brand positivity, and increases propensity to buy. Tellingly, our research shows that purchase uplift is up 5.3% on the inflation era (defined as July 2022 to December 2022).

Creative effectiveness demands multiple factors, from strong brand messaging to evoking the right emotional responses and capturing the attention of consumers — but each of these relies on grasping the sentiment of the culture.

There is a clear upward trend as we fast approach 2024 and the data shows that the effectiveness of advertising is growing.

Our message to brands is: take time to truly understand your consumers. Only then can you ensure the message triggers the intended emotion and hits them in their stride – or even better, mid-jive.

Brand Strategy Open Mic Predictions 2023

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