One Key Trend for 2018

The year ahead offers a plethora of trends to be mindful of.  Most have evolved from technology: AI & Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, Blockchains, or content format and delivery.  In some cases, what seem to be trends are simply the realization of what was inevitable, such as the next generation of consumers and employees.  And there are trends driven by social ebbs and flows such as workplace behavior and corporate social responsibility.  But one key business trend missing from most 2018 lists is Accountability. It seems to be ignored or buried under a cascade of sexier subjects.

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer discovered “…a staggering lack of confidence in leadership: 71% of survey respondents said government officials are not at all or somewhat credible, and 63% said the same about CEOs. The credibility of CEOs fell by 12 points this year, to 37% globally. By comparison, 60% of respondents trusted ‘a person like yourself’ — on a par with trust in a technical expert or an academic”.

These statistics are no surprise given that 2017 saw blunders like the response from United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz’s blaming the passenger, or Equifax CEO Richard Smith’s condemnation of one of his own employees.

Accountability is critical for success.  Technology has brought about one of the most powerful, yet least informed or engaged dissenter groups, the Armchair Activists or Slacktivists.  A simple click can magnify an insignificant comment, product failure or unintentional action into a cultural movement.  On the positive side, this has led to some reactive industry regulatory changes, and immediate amendments to corporate policy or leadership.  On the negative side, a stock’s price could plummet or a reputation could be damaged irreparably.

So why does a Brand Economist care about Accountability?  Well, because it all comes back to Brand—corporate, governmental or personal.  Brand includes your mission, encapsulates the values you hold dear, and promises benefits to those who interact with you.  It is your Jiminy Cricket.  And, just as with Pinocchio, negative sales, negative social media, and negative investor sentiment are signs your nose is growing.  A Brand Economist cares about this because, without both proactive and reactive Accountability, there is a longer-term financial impact to your Brand’s ability to generate revenue.  Customers vote with their dollars.

There are two paths to Accountability. Hold yourself accountable, or be held accountable by the situation.  That is the missing trend for 2018, and beyond.

Update:  For a wonderfully sardonic read, Mark Ritson has a fantastic post on 2018 trends.