Below are my 2024 picks.
It has been a rough stretch for Harvard. The university has been attacked on various fronts, and President Claudine Gay recently stepped down.
The question now: who does Harvard pick to be its new leader? One certainty: the choice will be scrutinized from all sides.
It is hard to ignore the DEI dynamics in the decision. Will Harvard select another black woman? A white man? This will be fascinating to watch.
Yale is also in the process of selecting a new president, and Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago is searching for a new head pastor. The decisions aren’t easy.
I expect that Harvard will rebound in 2024. The new president will do well. Great brands can move past short-term controversies.
There were two big stories in the EV space recently. First, demand seems to be slowing; dealers are complaining that EVs just aren’t moving off the lots. Second, China’s BYD passed Tesla as the biggest global player.
I predict we will start to see a split in the EV market this year. There will be a luxury segment, led by top brand names. These will be expensive, prestigious vehicles. This is where Tesla has historically played.
And then we will see a low-price segment emerge. For many people, the only way they will buy an EV is if it is cheap. What is the difference between a cheap EV and a golf cart? Perhaps not that much.
People have to see a benefit. Luxury buyers like to look prosperous, tech savvy and environmentally friendly, and this has driven Tesla’s success to date. The mass market is different. EVs don’t have a strong value proposition.
Put an EV at half the price of a gasoline powered car, and now things start to happen.
One of the most surprising brands of the past few years is Chinese apparel company Shein.
The firm has grown by selling relatively stylish clothes at absurdly low prices. Shein is currently selling a dress for $12.90 and a sweatshirt for $5.66. This is the same low price/interesting design space where Zara plays, but Shein is dramatically cheaper and moves much faster.
The firm is heading for an IPO this year.
Shein has two challenges. First, what are the firm’s unique differentiators? Beyond an amazing supply chain, what is there? The brand? The design? If competitors can copy the model, then profits will be hard to find. Temu is already making lots of headway.
Second, how far can the cheap, throw-away clothes market go? Shein clearly fills a need, but will people eventually lose enthusiasm for companies like Shein that rely on cheap materials, cheap labor, and lots of waste?
I suspect Shein will struggle this year.
Quite a few years back I advised a friend not to buy Apple stock. My logic was that the devices were so good that people just didn’t need to buy new ones. Sales would have to slow.
That was terrible advice, of course, and I’m still apologizing.
But perhaps the insight was correct, just the timing was off. Apple still faces a basic problem; the iPhones are really good. The new ones aren’t dramatically better. Apple’s efforts to grow in media and finance haven’t amounted to much. This might be the year when Apple starts to noticeably slow. Recent indicators haven’t been great. I’m thinking 2024 will be a difficult year in Cupertino.
Non-profit boards have long been powerful branding tools. Prosperous people join boards to have a positive impact on society, to network, and to look good. They donate lots of money to be part of the brand. For personal branding, a high-profile board looks great.
In 2024, however, I think we will see a shift and people will become more hesitant to take on these roles.
The reason? Our tense, polarized society leads to high-profile controversies, and these issues spill over to the board. Serving on the Harvard Corporation, for example, is enormously prestigious but it doesn’t seem too appealing today. Northwestern’s Board of Trustees received criticism following the improper handling of hazing on the football team.
Both conservatives and liberals have learned to exert influence through carefully developed campaigns. Targeting a board is a huge part of this.
A non-profit board role is great but not if it drags someone into controversy. This is especially true when one has little practical influence on operations. With a fifty-person board, most members have little impact.
I expect people will be much more cautious when taking on these roles in 2024.
In politics, it is all about Nikki Haley. She is now the only viable challenger to Donald Trump.
At the moment, Trump has all the momentum. Joe Biden’s struggles with immigration, the Middle East and inflation continue. Part of this is perception and recency. People think back fondly to the Trump days, and they blame the current administration for their day-to-day challenges.
Nikki Haley has only two opportunities. The first is that Trump suffers from a health issue that prevents him from running. This is possible but not something to build a strategy on.
The second is that Haley comes across as more exciting, dynamic, and optimistic.
Most people apparently aren’t moved by the January 6 debate and warnings about our democratic system. People also aren’t swayed by attacks on Trump’s character or discussion of his legal issues.
But people are motivated by hope. Barack Obama tapped into this again and again. Haley can do it, as well.
If Haley can get a little bit of traction, she can start portraying herself as the bright future. Nobody wants to go back – people want to move forward.
So new ideas, fresh thinking, excitement, hope. Could it happen? Definitely.
Will Bud Light finally rebound in 2024?
Bud Light has been through a terrible stretch. The company completely mismanaged its sponsorship of Dylan Mulvaney and got caught in the center of cultural controversy. The impact was a dramatic and sustained downturn. The huge impact on sales surprised me and many other marketers.
In 2024, I think we will see Bud Light bounce back. People forget, even if it sometimes takes a while. Bud Light will put forward interesting messages and sponsorships. The brand will keep showing up at cool places. And gradually people will begin to feel more positive.
I’m thinking this will be another positive year for the market, as interest rates slowly come down and people move funds from money market accounts back to equities. FOMO is powerful. I project the S&P to finish + 6% at 5058.
Here’s to a great 2024!