How do we get prediction pieces right?

By Jack McCormick

8th February 2017

Saving my sanity during a turbulent January was an article from Droga5 London’s chief creative officer. Tearing up the brief (“please make some predictions for 2017”), he instead pleads for a return to true creativity and to give the whole ‘future gazing’ lark a rest. Here’s the bit that struck a chord:

“As with every other year in recent memory, creative people will be focused on what’s next instead of making what’s in front of us great. And that’s why our industry continues to suffer.”

Hallelujah! Long live David Kolbusz! What a breath of fresh air. I can’t help but groan every time I see another ‘five things that will definitely happen this year’ piece.

Of course, if you’re a regular visitor to the Eulogy blog you may have seen that even we have fallen into the trap (Pot, meet Kettle). And I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’ve never written ‘prediction piece for next year’ on the December slide of a client comms plan. Keeping abreast of new developments in any field is important, and as industry thought leaders we encourage clients to arm themselves with interesting perspectives on emerging trends.

Making predictions is a solid way to get your name out there; to show you’re capable of imaginative, creative thinking and that you have a firm handle on the direction you believe a subject will take. And genuine, research-based trends and predictions that hold actionable insight for your business and others carry a value of their own.

But here’s the problem: we conflate the two. Perhaps it’s up to us as an industry to better signpost which is which, and defining objectives is an important first step. What do we want our audience to take away with them? What do we want them to understand, learn, think or do as a result? Are we giving a light-hearted look into the future or do we want our thoughts to be seriously considered?

I’d like to think that the vast majority of businesses are still focusing hard on how to address immediate challenges, but if that’s the case then why is nobody writing about it? Many brands’ biggest headache is not that people’s needs might change somewhere down the line, but that the horse has already bolted and they’re being left behind.

As consultants, we should also be helping our clients find clarity on how they fit into their customers’ lives right now. Yes, we should be looking ahead and flashing our expertise. But, if we’re too fixated on how our clients serve the consumer of tomorrow, we all risk losing business today.