Senior Writer and Editor
Hannah Lindley joined Havas Group in October 2021 as a Senior Writer and Editor. She has a background in corporate reputation management, journalism, and creative writing.
As communicators, it’s critical that we stay on the pulse of current and future trends in our industry. To help Havas Group do this, Red Havas releases “Red Sky” Predictions about the future of comms – and this February, the agency released its 2022 predictions.
Dare! spoke with Linda Descano, Executive Vice President, Red Havas, James Wright, Global CEO, Red Havas, and Davitha Tiller, Executive Vice President, Social Integration, Red Havas, to learn more about the research and why it is so important.

Can you talk about why this research is so critical?

This annual research is important because the landscape of communications doesn’t stand still—it is shaped and reshaped by shifts in political, corporate, cultural and consumer behaviour and because of innovations in technology. Analysing the impact of these shifts and innovations on communications better positions us help our clients create more meaningful communications, content and experiences to the customers and consumers they serve. The world has perhaps changed more in the past two years due to the pandemic than it has in the whole of the past decade, so these predictions help us better advise on and navigate issues, as well as maximise opportunities for our clients.

How did you come up with the idea for this report?

We came up with the ideas for this year’s predictions through conversations with clients, influencers across the communications industry, and colleagues across the Havas Group; ‘mining’ the results from our Havas Meaningful Brands and Prosumer research studies; and analysing media coverage, third-party research and literally any other piece of data or insight we got our hands on.

How did you choose which areas to focus on?

Each year, we form a working group of experts from all disciplines of the Merged Media landscape to lead the predictions process. The working group solicits ideas from across all our Red Havas offices around the world, speaking to our teams, our clients, suppliers, journalists and influencers. We then put each pitch through the paces, with the goal of identifying ten—or so—that we collectively believe are the most compelling. As part of this process, we also socialise some of the ideas with a small group of clients and trusted experts to help us fine-tune our findings.

“The landscape of communications doesn’t stand still—it is shaped and reshaped by shifts in political, corporate, cultural and consumer behaviour and because of innovations in technology.”

What were some of the key findings from this year’s report? Was there anything that particularly surprised you?

In our 2022 Red Sky Predictions report, we highlight ten themes:

  1. Corporate Purpose or Bust: Continued shifts in the substance, style and tonality of brand communications will allow brands to form deep connections with consumers and employees on topics they once might not have touched — e.g., diversity, equity and inclusion, climate action, and mental health. Consumers will expect corporate pledges to become progress in action.
  2. Personnel Gets Personal: Employers will embrace employee-centric brand positioning that outlines how a career with their company can suit an employee’s whole life. Moreover, the employee experience has to match the promise of that messaging by supporting employees’ full, authentic selves and adapting to their changing individual and personal needs. 
  3. Social Audio Makes Mainstream Waves: 2022 is the year in which social audio joins the voice and podcast marketing club. While there is a lot of experimentation yet to be done as consumers’ appetite for this format deepens, marketers must get ready to maximise it through their brand partners and ambassadors as well as across their own branded social channels.
  4. “S” in ESG Comes into Sharp Focus: To stay in front of ever-increasing expectations around how employers address everything from cultural issues to HR and employment issues, companies will bring clarity to and transparency in how they define the “S” in ESG. We’ll witness a sharpening in how organisations measure and regularly report on their efforts and outcomes internally and across their value chain.
  5. Serving Up Safety with a Smile: Companies in the hospitality industry will continue to up their game on safety messaging. Those with forward-thinking, succinct, transparent policies and communication will benefit from increased employee engagement and overall customer and guest satisfaction. For third-party credibility, look for more partnerships and collaborations to be formed between hospitality chains and health and safety brands and organisations.
  6. The Staying Power of Nostalgia: Look for companies and employers to harness nostalgia at a deeper level, with strategic campaigns and partnerships designed to evoke warm memories, build relationships and reinforce that the future is indeed bright.
  7. Patient Choice, Patient Voice: This year, we’ll finally see gender awareness brought to pharma-driven disease education campaigns. Though there aren’t any established best practices to follow, the bravest companies will be those that withstand the inevitable waves of criticism for the sake of marking the pages of history with inclusion.
  8. An Experiential Retail Renaissance: Brands will fully merge experiential and retail to completely reimagine the shopping experience. By turning a store into a destination, brands can ensure that brick-and-mortar shops not only remain relevant, but that they complement e-commerce efforts and more fully bring a brand to life.
  9. “As Seen on Social” Is the New “As Seen on TV”: As the TikTok content formula continues to rise in popularity and spread across channels (think IG Reels), the “As Seen on Social” label will become a booming marketing method and measure of e-commerce success. 
  10. VIP Access to Creators: Now that exclusive content has unlocked opportunities for creators to commercialise their product, brands will need to compete against this model. That means finding influencers who are both genuine and a just-right fit for the brand in the long term.

“The past two years have put a spotlight on how companies treat their employees and shifted the employee mindset, with more employees than ever realising the power of their voice.”

Can you talk about the changes you’ve seen in the results over the last few years?

Over the past two years, COVID-19 sent many of the trends we forecasted in previous editions of the Red Sky Predictions into overdrive.

For example, even before the global pandemic erupted in tandem with social justice protests, consumers were applying more pressure on brands to demonstrate their purpose and take a stance. Not only has purpose continued to be a trend that transcends borders and industries, but it has evolved beyond pledges to demonstrating tangible progress and follow-through on those pledges. Today, the gold standard is taking a position and making it known and felt by stakeholders.

Another change we’ve seen is the emergence of employees and, by extension, internal or employee communications. The past two years have put a spotlight on how companies treat their employees and shifted the employee mindset, with more employees than ever realising the power of their voice. We’ve seen this further evolve in midst of The Great Resignation or Great Reprioritisation – however you want to call it – with employees not only looking to employers to live up to their employer brand messaging but to deliver experiences that support their full, authentic selves.

Of course, the rapid acceleration in technology adoption spurred by ‘lockdown life’ has changed how we live, learn, work and play—making omni-channel communications table stakes so brands can meet their customers and consumers where they are both physically and emotionally. And we’ve continued to see social media reshape e-commerce in new ways, particularly in response to the global take-off of TikTok, changing the content formula and redefining the role of influencer-creators.

You can download the report here.

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