Why 2023 Should be the Year of the Custard Slice

Why 2023 Should be the Year of the Custard Slice

Paul Sloane 11/01/2023
Why 2023 Should be the Year of the Custard Slice

The custard slice is delicious, creamy and tasty.

It's the start of 2023. You have waded through a porridge of trend reports to look for clues to what the year will hold and we are approaching the Chinese year of the Rabbit with promises of greater calm, peace and good luck. But what should your focus for 2023 be and what is just noise and froth that can be ignored?

Thinking about key themes for the year may feel like a January indulgence, something to reflect on before the ‘real’ work of the year starts. Or it can feel like setting another overambitious New Year’s goal that is discarded after a week.   But too often during a year we can find ourselves becoming busy being busy and wasting time on things that in the long run don’t make a difference.  At these times it is good to have some areas of focus to return to when things are feeling overwhelming and your thinking is clouded in fog.

It is clear what the main challenge in 2023 will be for consumers and brands:  the increased cost of living driven by inflation. 53% of Europeans think that the cost of living has increased greatly over the last 6 months (Source: GWI), 58% of British people think their disposable income will fall a little or a lot in the next next year (Source: IPSOS), and 96% of marketers think that the impact of recession will affect their marketing plans in 2023 – and 63% think it will significantly affect their plans (source: WARC)

Increased prices lead to increased anxiety and a decrease in confidence and consumer spending. That means the world of business in 2023 is going to be a more practical and pragmatic place.  The focus has shifted from growth based business models that prioritise customer acquisition and promises of future wealth.  Instead, the focus will be on profit based business models linked to cash generation and profitability now.

Many brands will face substantial budget cuts and will need to do things differently to drive growth. So, marketers will have to make decisions, will have to take risks, and will have to be more creative as they need to think differently if they are to meet their 2023 targets. 

So far so obvious, and yes, 2023 will be a tough year.  But the real challenge for 2023 is that not only do we need creativity… but that creativity doesn’t flourish with anxiety.  Just when we really need to be creative is when the conditions are not conducive to creativity.  So, what can we do?

The last few years – the Covid years - have taught us many things but one overriding narrative is that things must be hard.  You'll be familiar with the script; to defeat Covid and be successful will be tough, nothing can be achieved easily, things will take time and we must make sacrifices.

We are now seeing that narrative bleed into other areas. You can see that the narrative of hard work extends into the world of work with hustle culture.  If you aren’t crushing it on your laptop by 7am (after an hour's weight session) you are a loser.  

But does it need to be like this?  Yes, many things are hard but not everything needs to be a grind.  Sometimes things can come easily, sometimes things drop into your lap, sometimes your first thought is your best thought.  Isn’t that an energising thought for 2023 that amongst the hard work some things can be easy and fun?

I love an occasional series in the Guardian called “How we made…” It tracks the origin of a famous song and talks to two people who were part of its creation.  It is a great insight into the messy creative process as well as being full of wonderful stories.

My favourite is about how The Housemartins came up with Happy Hour.  It is worth reading in full as it is rich with stories but here’s the TLDR version:

 “I written some great lyrics based on my hatred of ‘80s office life but need some more chords to finish the song” 

“But it’s nearly bun time and I want to go out for a custard slice….  Alright, here's something I wrote in 10mins.  I’m sure we can make it work” 

“Thanks, you’ve helped write one of the best-selling songs of the ‘80s”

(Note: no AI was used in the creation of this summary)

What I love about this story is that it shows that coming up with ideas can be easy. Things don’t always need to be hard, and greatness can be created in 10 minutes… with the first thoughts you came up with.

It’s a reminder I will bear in mind this year when things are feeling like a grind and when everything feels tough.  Sometimes your first thought is your best thought – and that thought is enough.  Just because an idea came easily doesn’t make it any better or worse than an idea that took time.  But it is important to share your thoughts and don’t over think things.  And it is important to take time out and to reward yourself – preferably with buns.  

I’m not suggesting the creative process is easy. You still need to bring your idea to life. But sometimes the hard work of executing is the easy bit.  But one thing I am sure of is that without the spark of creativity we are going to be stuck in the gloom of 2023.  Here’s to the year of the custard slice.

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Paul Sloane

Innovation Expert

Paul is a professional keynote conference speaker and expert facilitator on innovation and lateral thinking. He helps companies improve idea generation and creative leadership. His workshops transform innovation leadership skills and generate great ideas for business issues. His recent clients include Airbus, Microsoft, Unilever, Nike, Novartis and Swarovski. He has published 30 books on lateral thinking puzzles, innovation, leadership and problem solving (with over 2 million copies sold). He also acts as link presenter at conferences and facilitator at high level meetings such as a corporate advisory board. He has acted as host or MC at Awards Dinners. Previously, he was CEO of Monactive, VP International of MathSoft and UK MD of Ashton-Tate. He recently launched a series of podcast interviews entitled Insights from Successful People.

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