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2023 Trends Report: Consumer PR and brand communications

2023 Trends Report: Consumer PR and brand communications

In order to create this illustration in the style of Berthe Morisot, we asked the artificial intelligence tool to generate an image representing introspection. In 2023, consumers and brands will have to look inwards to understand their priorities and their values. A gallery of mirrors was the perfect image for this approach.

Here are the trends our consumer PR and brand communications experts see for 2023:

Focus on wellness and holistic approaches will continue

The pandemic has sparked a lot of change, and the prioritization of holistic health and wellbeing has been one of the most significant shifts. Even amidst rising inflation rates globally, Canadians pin health and healthcare to be their biggest concerns. It’s no surprise then that one of the fastest growing industries is the wellness sector, valued at more than 1.5 trillion USD according to McKinsey, and expected to grow annually at five to 10 percent.

This emphasis on wellbeing has laid the foundation for social movements and changes in belief systems, particularly amongst the younger millennials and Gen Zs . With terms like “quiet quitting,” “digital nomadism,” and “burnout” becoming commonplace, Canadians are challenging the status quo and taking stock of their lifestyles in favour of balance and wellness.

As we enter 2023, Canadians’ prioritization of holistic health and wellness will continue to play into purchasing decisions. Brands will need to reassess how their value propositions align with changing demands and belief systems, particularly as they aim to attract younger generations.

Meaghan Beech, Senior Director, Consumer Marketing

Brand trust and storytelling in times of inflation

Brand trust has never been more important. Price has always been the key driver for Canadian consumers, but various recent consumer insights and research has shown that brand trust is closing the gap and is expected to be more important than ever in the current post-pandemic and economic context.

Brand trust has mostly been based on dependability, quality, purpose, etc. Yes, it’s about how a brand delivers on its promise, but now it’s also about transparency, sustainability, data privacy, being authentic, and even advocacy and social change. If consumers are going to spend their money on a product during this inflation context, they need to fully trust who they are buying from. Storytelling plays a key part in how you present your brand in this new environment.

In an online world where the audience is changing rapidly, how do you define your purpose and how do you tell your story in a way that resonates?

Brands should evaluate themselves: What do you stand for? What is your purpose? How have you been living that purpose? Then evolve your brand strategy accordingly to align purpose with action.

Chantal Benoit, Vice-President, Brand Positioning and Madeline Postle, Senior Consultant

Following the great resignation, customer service takes the forefront for brand reputation

The Great Resignation is a global trend in the business world that is expected to continue in 2023.

Staffing shortages and a high proportion of inexperienced staff inevitably impacts the quality-of-service customers receive, hence affecting brand perception and reputation.

In 2023, there is a need for brands to refocus and rethink their approach to those on the multiple frontlines of customer service: support agents, employees on the floor, hotlines, community managers, etc. They are often customers’ only point of contact with a company, meaning they can shape customer perceptions of the brand and their buying decisions.

Brands will pay close attention to the tools they need to manage customer service effectively and how technology, thanks to recent advances in automation, artificial intelligence, and analytics, can help to free up time and empower remaining and new employees to focus on what really matters—the human interaction with customers and resolving problems.

Furthermore, customer service teams can answer many probing questions about what customers really want these days. Not only does it create marketing opportunities, but it also helps the brand improve its products, goals, and employee training.

Sébastien Boudreau, Vice-President, Brand Positioning

Canada’s changing demographics and why you need to care about Gen Z

Canada’s demographic makeup is rapidly changing, largely driven by immigration. While baby boomers are still the largest segment of the population, millennials are the fastest-growing group and set to outnumber boomers by 2029. Gen Z isn’t far behind and set to outnumber both groups by 2029.

Brands need to take note and start putting youth at the heart of their strategic decisions or risk becoming irrelevant in the not-so-distant future. Marketing to Gen Z is fundamentally different: they crave transparency and expect it to be easy to do business with you.

Another thing to remember about Gen Z is that they are up against some serious obstacles, despite being the most educated generation in Canada’s lifetime. The cost-of-living continues to grow, social unrest, climate change concerns—these are all top-of-mind issues for them. They’re not spending idle time on their devices, they are championing change and driving positive outcomes. They’re incredible people doing incredible things, every day! So, the real question is: How can brands support them?

Misty Meeks, Vice-President and Practice Lead, Strategy, Insights and Digital

Appealing to the solo space in the wake of the pandemic

Niche marketing and appealing to the individual was certainly considered marketing best practice pre-pandemic, but in the wake of multiple years of isolation, marketing to the individual and their unique needs is more prevalent than ever.

With so much time spent solo or with a small bubble, there was an expectation of a boomerang effect towards group activities—concerts, travel, in-restaurant dining, and a return to bricks and mortar establishments. While there was an initial boom in these activities, it was not to the extent expected.

Black Friday shopping activity was a prime example: While businesses reported record profits, the in-person shopping hysteria of years past never materialized. A large portion of purchases were made from a mobile device.

At the same time, reports are showing that people are lonelier than ever. In pre-pandemic, most people’s time was already spent alone. Post-pandemic? Our isolation has grown deeper and our social lives haven’t bounced back.

What does this mean for the mind of the consumer we are trying to reach? What is motivating and memorable for the individual with a more isolated lifestyle? Brands should consider the new living habits and perspectives of the individual, and how to connect in a post-pandemic world.

Madeline Postle, Senior Consultant

Brand activism must be done, and done right

Social media has made the general public more aware of social issues and current events, and moving into 2023, brands will be expected to share their own values openly. But as brands engage with brand activism and speak out on severe global issues like racial justice, LGBT2Q+ rights, gender equality or public health, they run the risk of appearing inauthentic.

Brand activism can have lasting effects across your business. Supporting the causes that matter to your customers can inspire brand loyalty and engagement. Internally, showing your employees that you care about the things they care about can keep them dedicated and engaged.

However, brands must be careful to ensure they are walking the walk before they talk the talk. Brand activism is more than changing a logo during Pride Month—it must be embedded in every aspect of your business. To ensure authenticity, look inward first. Ensure your business is run according to what you stand for—or against. Ensure that your message is reinforced by leadership, and invite your employees to engage with you about critical issues.

With active and robust brand activism, you can connect authentically with audiences and employees and enforce long-lasting connections.

Michelle Renee, Vice-President, Creative Strategy