Every year at Edelman we track the themes and issues shaping our world so our clients will be ready for the big shifts in audience and stakeholder behaviour.

This year we’ve decided to publish our trends analysis as a full report for ‘Navigating 2024’. We’re doing this because we believe 2024 is a landmark year where business is uniquely placed to help society move forward from a tough period in our history.

Our Trust Barometer for 2024, has revealed that people globally are beset by personal worries and existential fears for the future. In a world where 88% of people are worried about their jobs and 76% about the effects of climate change, there is a dire need for optimism. And people are looking to business – which they see as 52 points more competent than government – for reasons to believe that things can get better.  

This gives business a new and important role in building a more trusting society through:

- Actions that help people envision a more optimistic future, and 
- Communications that make space for fun and hope.

The full report setting out our case for building optimism ‘Navigating 2024’ is available to download here. It offers a wide-ranging perspective on what business can do over the next year to drive trust and find growth. As a preview, here are three New Year’s resolutions for business that we believe would help many of their customers and stakeholders feel better about 2024.

1. Right-size the risks and rewards of AI to your organisation

2023 was the year when Artifical Intelligence burst into our consciousness as a science fiction story made real. So, 2024 is the year when smart businesses will show that this story has a happy ending for more than shareholders.

Organisations that make their vision for AI about reducing costs and shrinking workforces will face continuous waves of skepticism and hostility from their workers, the media and the policy makers who will spend much of the next year defining how this technology will be regulated. They may also risk (as already happened with the National Eating Disorders Association and Tesla) endangering their reputations and their operations by rolling out technology that is not quite ready for primetime.

Instead, the businesses who build trust in their use of AI will use 2024 wisely to cut-through the hype surrounding the technology and shape a calmer, more realistic narrative on what it can achieve in the near and medium term.

2. Put a pause on sadvertising

There is a lot to be sad about in the world today and people do not want brands to add to that pile. For many people the ‘sadvert’ that has dominated TV schedules and award wins for the last decade is now inextricably linked with over-earnest and sentimental brand messages they were inundated with during the pandemic. It’s time for something different.

This means comedy is back with a bang. Funny, irreverent campaigns such as Brazilian payment card Flash’s efforts to punk Nike over the cost of a football shirt were all over this year’s Cannes. Meanwhile, Apple’s decision to inject humour into its sustainability report video may have got mixed reviews across social media, but it did succeed in getting people talking passionately about a topic that many find dry. It’s a great illustration of how, when deployed intelligently, humour can cut through complexity and make abstract ideas like carbon emissions feel real.

To navigate this shift successfully, many global brands may have to do things differently. Communicating with humour means being open to experimentation and giving greater agency to markets. After all, while everyone loves a laugh, what they laugh at is often a local matter.    

3. Hold your nerve through a challenging time for body positivity  

In the past year, a new generation of weight management drugs like Ozempic have literally reshaped Hollywood and stoked fevered speculation as to whether this means the end of the obesity epidemic.

It’s too early to say whether these medications will really have such a profound effect on society. However, the fact that many celebrities, the media and opinion formers were so quick to rediscover the idea that only thinness is beautiful suggests that 2024 will be a challenging year for body positivity.

Brands that take this swing of the fashion pendulum as a signal to go back on their commitments risk a backlash from millions of consumers who feel abandoned and angry after a brief period of inclusion. Those that hold their nerve and continue to engage with, celebrate and design for audiences that were chronically underserved even at the height of this movement will earn their trust and keep their custom through 2024 and beyond.