The Biggest Narratives Shaping Brands in 2022 and Beyond

Consumers are tricky. They increasingly want brands to align with their values and contribute positively to the world, while also connecting with them on a personal level. It’s not enough to just sell something. Brands have to mean something.

And, thanks to social media, a bad narrative can quickly spiral, causing shifts in loyalty and public perception no matter how well established a brand is. When a company’s reputation is worth a quarter of its market value, that’s a big problem. 

PeakMetrics is taking a quick look back at some of the biggest narratives that shaped the way consumers see some of the biggest companies and what companies can learn from these narratives in 2023.

The End of Twitter…Or Not? 

Twitter is arguably one of the most powerful social media tools available today. Used by a large swath of journalists and public leaders, it’s been immensely useful in getting important news out—fast, as well as organizing protests and providing on the ground insights into life in just about any place in the world.

In October of 2022, Elon Musk completed his takeover of Twitter after purchasing it for $44 billion and quickly instituted sweeping changes, including massive layoffs, paid blue ticks, and the reinstatement of Donald Trump’s account. He’s even faced accusations of censorship

Journalists have fled the platform, the company has seen a massive drop in revenue, and many are looking for what platform could possibly take its place. However, no clear frontrunner has emerged, and there’s still time for the situation to stabilize. Whether it will remains to be seen. 

Ticketmaster and the Taylor Swift Fiasco 

The ticketing conglomerate arguably faced the most extensive public backlash in its long and storied history following the presale for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour. Not only could the site not handle the demand for tickets, but, after the presale was completed, the company announced there were no more tickets available for the general sale. Outrage was swift and overwhelming. Since the presale event in November, Swift fans have lodged a legal suit against the company and just a few days ago, the company was called a monopoly on the Senate floor. Now, the DOJ is planning a probe into Live Nation—the company Ticketmaster merged with in 2010. 

You can read more about the narratives surrounding Ticketmaster and media reaction on PeakMetrics

TikTok: A Tool for Surveillance?:

Since it became available worldwide in 2018, TikTok has steadily gained a massive following. By the end of 2022, the platform had one billion active users. However, its Chinese ownership has always raised some eyebrows, and, in December 2022, TikTok’s parent company confirmed that employees at TikTok had been using the tool to secretly conduct surveillance on Western journalists. This came on the heels of a debate by Senators about the potential threat posed by the social media platform with some senators warning that it is simply too dangerous of a surveillance tool to go unchecked. 

While TikTok has been working on concessions to the U.S. government, including a potential national security deal, and improving its public perception, the situation is far from decided. In fact, in March of this year, TikTok’s CEO will testify before Congress to potentially determine the company’s fate. 

Southwest Airline and the Snow Apocalypse:

In December 2022, the United States was hit with a massive, “once in a generation” snow storm just in time for the holidays. Practically no state was left untouched. While thousands were left without power and at least 37 died, the story that received perhaps the most attention involved the thousands of canceled flights. The worst offender? Southwest Airlines. 

During the December storm, Southwest canceled 16,000 thousand flights, leaving many stranded for days at airports. Since then, complaints have poured in, the company has lost more than $220 million, and the Transportation Department has announced an investigation into the debacle. Southwest even earned itself its own SNL skit. However, it’s still uncertain how much lasting damage has been done to the company and whether or not people will forsake the airline altogether.

Silicon Valley Layoffs and a Burst Tech Bubble:

Fears of a recession have been looming for at least a year. Growth has slowed and funding for many startups has started to shrink. In the first part of the year, many darlings of Silicon Valley—from Cybereason to Peloton—announced the firing of hundreds or even thousands of employees. And, now, thanks to social media, it’s easy to get an inside look at these layoffs, placing companies’ termination practices under the spotlight (hence why the “Crying CEO” went viral). 

Now, the layoffs have shifted from startups to tech stalwarts like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. Google alone laid off 12,000 employees, with some notified by just a simple email the day of and others alerted when they suddenly didn’t have access to company properties. 

Has the tech bubble finally burst and is big tech culture worth saving? 

What 2023 Might Hold--And What Companies Can Do:

The biggest corporate narratives from 2022 won’t be disappearing from the spotlight any time soon. Southwest Airlines, TikTok, Ticketmaster, Twitter, and tech companies are still firmly in the spotlight. This is partly thanks to social media and the potential for narratives to have a snowball effect. It was to be expected that the Google layoffs would make the news, but ex-employees vlogging about their experience  no only expands the scrutiny but generates even more headlines weeks after the initial event.

And that’s the other piece of the puzzle: consumers increasingly hold the power. Would Congress have gotten involved had the complaints about Southwest Airlines reached a fever pitch or Taylor Swift fans had decided not to sue? Arguably not. In fact, a recent report by Edelman found that 65% of CCOs and CMOs believe Gen Z has the greatest power to influence business when compared to any previous generation. And another survey by Deloitte found that, when it comes to reputation risk, executives believe customers are the most important stakeholders.

That means, first and foremost, businesses need to know what narratives are being circulated about their company—sooner, rather than later. The faster they know about an event negatively affecting their reputation, the faster they can do damage control, particularly if they can gain deeper insights into what their consumers are saying. Tools like PeakMetrics, for example, go beyond simple social media monitoring to provide a full picture of a brand’s health.

In 2023, controlling the narrative has never been more critical, and companies can’t afford to be in the dark.

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