In a special two-part series, Cultural Comms co-founders Charlotte Heath Bullock and Nina Plowman reflect on the year almost gone, and share their highs, lows and proudest moments from the past 12 months, as well as the lessons that will shape the agency’s - and the industry’s - path in 2024.

In part two of our review of 2023, Nina reflects on a game-changing year for Cultural Comms, why the ‘culture of collectability’ continues to be a key focus, and looks ahead to the key trends that will influence business strategies in the coming 12 months.

This year seems to have moved faster than any other - jam-packed with opportunity, events and the usual business ups and downs. It has been a game-changing year too for Cultural Comms.

As PRs, we are constantly morphing and reinventing ourselves to respond to market changes and demand. But this is now happening faster than ever before as our relationships with our communities and the way we consume media changes.

New desire for connoisseurship

There is a new desire for connoisseurship evolving. The way people (Gen Zs particularly) like to access, receive and express connoisseurship has influenced our global comms strategies this year, and it has informed the ‘culture of collectability’ across the disciplines in which we operate - wine and spirits, art and design to watches and jewellery.

Senior management team in place

We have also been refashioning CC’s foundations since those turbulent pandemic times. This year, we have delivered on the consistency, quality, strength and structure that we have been striving for with a solid senior management team in place. This is game-changing for the business and exciting for our future.

Connecting with culture

A whistlestop tour of the year saw us continuing to connect best-in-class brands with culture, and also working with some of the most esteemed cultural organisations in the world. My proudest moments include:

The launch of our first-ever Luxury Insights Report, focusing on NFTs and the Blockchain with our research partner, ArtTactic. We co-hosted an event with Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Art Department on the findings with leading lights in crypto-law, art and the digital sphere forming our panel.  

The first TEFAF Maastricht in its new post-Covid regular March slot, followed by TEFAF New York, saw a spectacular array of modern and contemporary art and design, jewellery, and antiquities brought together. As the global comms lead, we decamped to the fair for its duration and our team pulled off a stellar media campaign.

With our ultra-rare whisky market expertise, we worked with the global whisky private office, Beamish International to ‘lift the lid’ on some of the shady practices of fakes and frauds happening in the industry. Our campaign saw thought leadership and comment in an array of global media.  

We brought luminaries of the spirits world from all corners of the globe together for The Last Drop Distillers at The Connaught Hotel as they opened up conversation about best practice and future opportunities in rum, whisk(e)y, and cognac.  

Our Hiring Heroes campaign for Gander & White launched on Armistice Day, in partnership with Help for Heroes; and our work with Convelio, included arts and tech industry placements such as European seed-stage venture capital fund Seedcamp.

We also laid the foundations for future not-for-profit TM Gallery programme, featuring Bridget Riley (via Benjamin Parsons x Hannah Payne), and Robert Montgomery (via MTArt Agency) for the unofficial Frieze after party.  

Personal and professional highlights 

I'm not going to lie, 2023 had its 'moments' for a number of reasons but there are many positives to celebrate as well.

Our first-ever Luxury Insights Report: Blockchain, NFTs and the Future of Collectibles was a huge undertaking, but an agency initiative that created a global ripple effect. The idea came out of the curiosity of our clients and network to learn more. Our research demystified the blockchain-as-utility across the art and luxury business, with particular relevance to collectables around traceability, ownership and monetisation. It helped to explain the importance of stepping outside our Web 2.0 comfort zone. Our contributors included Andrew Shirley, editor of the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, leading crypto-lawyers, a collecting psychologist and sector commentators. Articles have since appeared in Wired, Knight Frank Wealth Report, The Fine Art Group and on our report. I'm looking forward to working with ArtTactic on our next Luxury Insights Report in Spring 2024.  Watch this space.

Mentoring culture

Bouncing back after Covid was a challenge for working culture everywhere. This is why in recent years, we have been working hard to rebuild our foundations and create a free-flowing feedback culture. Living by our values – the ‘5 Cs’ - is a huge part of this. Our mentoring programme is designed to encourage a collective culture of working together. I'm proud of the difference this has made in the year gone by.

Senior management team

We now have a senior leader representing each of our business pillars – digital; luxury, wine and spirits; art and design. Each has their inimitable leadership style under the Cultural ethos. It is such a joy learn from each other. This is the scaffolding we have been working towards so that we can grow CC to the next stage.

And personally…

Continuing my work as a board member of the London Chamber Orchestra and its societal mission to improve peoples’ lives through music. Since Covid, it has been a major hill climb to bring back basic structures – such as funding – to make it possible for a full professional orchestra to perform.

By no means a political comment, but I was inspired by Thangam Debbonaire, the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and the freshness with which she spoke about the importance of bringing back J-O-Y through culture into our lives (especially childrens' lives) at the Art & Business Conference in September. I couldn’t agree more.

I also loved reading The Imagination Muscle by Albert Read – a reminder of the sheer brilliance of the human mind and how we should nurture it in an age of digital evolution, and revolution.  It is a book for our time.

Finally, a never-to-be-forgotten visit to Amsterdam, where my business partner, Charlotte and I were fortunate enough to see the Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum. The show was nothing short of exquisite, commanding, moving for its humility and yet dazzling in its star quality.  Utterly thrilling.

It really brought me back to the roots of why we do what we do: These masterpieces – rich in detail, colour and striking storytelling - were painted hundreds of years ago yet they create a direct human response like no other.

Key learnings to take into 2024

We’re living in a tech and social revolution – no surprises there – and business strategy is propelled to respond fast in the HNWI space as much as any other. Here are my thoughts on the trends we’ll be taking into 2024 - to be embellished upon soon:

  1. Cultural connoisseurship and the culture of collectability are existing concepts but growing across the consumer spectrum. This suggests a deeper desire to discover first, explore individuality and passion points through collecting, and broaden knowledge horizons.
  2. Fuelled by the above, the re-emergence of a "five-star culture" is in demand and seen through desire for high quality and luxury experience and premiumisation in the wine and spirits space.
  3. Personalisation – a theme being seen across all luxury experiences and in the innovations taking place through AI. For example, watch out for completely personal live TV sporting experiences from IBM. Private members' clubs experienced a surge in popularity in 2023, reflecting a growing demand for exclusive and highly personal experiences.
  4. Concerns surrounding data privacy gained prominence, and the way businesses process and protect the information it holds on individuals.
  5. There was a noticeable uptick in ethical shopping practises, with customers increasingly caring about the values of a brand, as well as their products - with an emphasis on meaningful sustainability and respectful working conditions. 71% shoppers would pay more for a greener option. 82% choose a greener option for delivery (IBM)
  6. In 2024, we look forward to diving deeper into these themes, developing targeted strategies and initiatives aligning with these evolving concepts.

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