The future is now: the trends that will help businesses reimagine success in a changing world

We are currently living through the biggest transformation of our lifetimes – one which has left no areas of our lives untouched. So it is little surprise that many of us are struggling in the face of this uncertainty. But we’ve also never had more power to create change, reimagine the future or redefine success than we do right now.

These were the words of John Sanei, futures strategist and four-time best-selling author. Sanei joined us – virtually – at FleishmanHillard SA to look at the changes and disruption we have all had to face, and the trends we will need to respond to, to create meaningful change, individually and as brands.

We identified the leading trends that we believe will impact brands and their communications strategies – and how we futureproof in a reality that is constantly evolving. The top three trends to watch out for are:

  • The impact of purpose and authenticity on reputation cannot be underestimated, especially with the rise of social consciousness: a combination of changing consumer demands and more technologically savvy customers with a social conscience mean that businesses can no longer simply pay lip service to purpose. The time is now to connect with your audiences through action stories to create shared value, prosperity and sustainability for both business and society. This includes walking the talk on critical issues like diversity, equity and inclusion – and making these business imperatives form part of the fundamental DNA and values of your organisation. Businesses and leaders that fail to place purpose at their core, and genuinely illustrate how this purpose drives operations, who they hire, who their partners are and the role they play in society, risk facing significant decline in reputation capital and losing people’s trust.


  • Creativity and the ability to tell more compelling stories in new and unique ways has the power to foster human connection: 2020 challenged and changed the way we work and collaborate. But it also showed the value of human connection and how people are craving it more than ever. This opens up immense opportunities to use creativity to tell more compelling stories that resonate with audiences and forge true connections with audiences. We’ve long heard about the role that social media plays in building connections – and while undoubtedly true – smart brands increasingly use social listening as an intelligence tool to hear, not to interrupt, and guide their move from story-telling to story-doing.


  • It is time to unlearn and reimagine, as we move from complicated to complex worlds: Sanei raised the idea of complicated versus complex worlds – where the world we currently come from is complicated, but offers patterns that repeat themselves and a linear concept of innovation which means that people do the same activities over again, but better, to drive advancements. While a complex world, on the other hand, doesn’t feature patterns that repeat themselves – so it requires a different approach to progress and success. This also rings true in the world of communication. As we move into a more complex reality resilience and the ability to adapt will set brands apart.


While we’ve tracked many of these trends over the last couple of years, they are true now – the future is here. It’s time that we embrace and adapt to the change by prioritising transparency, and driving tangible action over promise, to ultimately stand strong against evolving risk.


  • Sharon Piehl

    As general manager of FleishmanHillard’s Johannesburg office, Sharon Piehl provides clients with counsel in many areas. With over 20 years’ experience in the communications industry, she has served as both the lead of the brand marketing portfolio in the Johannesburg...

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