In 2010 the Economic Times of India (India's Wall Street Journal) asked me to look ahead to the next decade and identify ten key consumer trends. This past week (a decade and a year later) I re-read the article and was surprised to find not only that many of the forecasts did occur but that most of them would be ones that one might predict for the future today. So, is the world really changing fast or is it that it is moving slowly, and we humans and organizations are adapting even slower and therefore feel the speed of change?
Here are the 10 predictions for the decade ahead that I wrote in January 2010.
1. Anxiety for Authenticity
If there is one overwhelming trend globally after the financial folks turned out to be wanting and everyone from Bernie Madoff to many others were found to be posers, there is a great deal of skepticism among consumers as to what is fake and what is real. In such a world, marketers must ensure that they, their actions and their spokespeople are the real deals. There is a huge premium for authentic, real and dependable in a world gone crazy and fake.
2. Celebration of Caution
Risk is questionable. The days of spending more than one earns, and deep leverage, seem to be behind us, at least in an extreme form. The people with savings (China and India among others) now seem to have the high moral ground over those who have been prolific in spending. Brands must recognize this resetting and be nuanced in their celebration of consumption.
Finally, the platform of the future appears to be clear, and it will be mobility. With over two billion phones we are on the cusp of a dramatic change in communications. Due to the rising affordability of smart phones, we can anticipate that between Blackberry, Google Android, Nokia Ovi and Apple iPhone the smart phone revolution will really take off in 2010 and within three years most "phones" will be mobile computers that combine real time data, social networking and highly empowering and entertaining applications.
4. Real Time Social Platforms
SMS, which is still the world's most-used communication medium, is a social platform. But with 350 million Facebook users, tens of millions Twitter users and a range of local and international innovations (Google real time search) that combine real time and social, we are going to see an explosion in the impact of both word-of-mouth and real-time information. For instance, in many ways the best way to keep abreast of the 11/9 terror in Mumbai was Twitter and real-time NDTV live streams. Expect every media company and consumer brand to invest in real-time listening and response in 2010.
5. The Rise of The Post-Digital World
The world is going increasingly digital but a) most media and marketing is analog and b) people are analog. Thus, it is wrong to become overly hysterical even in advanced digital penetration countries by screaming about "digital at the core"! What is important is people and their needs and passions at the core and most of us combine the real and virtual worlds in ways that allow us to connect and save money and time -- and pursue our passions. We use mobile tools to have real-world meetings and we enhance real-world occasions with digital augmentation. Just like Walmart stores are paying a lot of attention to digital capabilities one can expect digital companies like Amazon to have analog or real-world presence. Today, besides Kindle you will see Amazon stores and maybe even bookstores just like Apple has its online store and its real stores.
6. Youth Uprising
India is unique among major nations in having a demographic dividend with most of its population under 25. But we expect all over the world -- including in the nations that are aging fast (Japan and Western Europe and possibly China with it's one child policy) -- a combination of technology, dismay with the world and inauthentic doings of the old and just plain "fed-upness" to see a generational shift. But "the times they are a changing," as Bob Dylan sang. Marketers must take the rise of youth into account. These are not the youth of yesteryear but people who are increasingly committed to a better world. They are folks that care about sustainability, community and leaving things better than they found them. This is not just about sex and money.
7. Purpose-Driven Marketing
The hardest question a brand, a marketer and a person will have to answer is "What do you stand for?" or " What is your purpose"? My sister company Leo Burnett has a great insight which notes that increasingly in the future you will be judged by what you do and not what you say -- or as Leo states, "Acts not Ads." We anticipate brands and marketers will have to show and not tell. One of the filters they will be evaluated by are by their actions and how they improve society.
Sustainability and environment will become key factors in how consumers evaluate brands and begin to calibrate their own behavior. Brands will need to understand their carbon footprints and be able to explain how they are being proactive about cleaning up. This will also be a "have" vs. "have-not" or rather a "why are you lecturing us you western folks?" emotion that will find its way into the nuance of marketing.
Okay this is not a real word, but it is more powerful than globalization, which has already happened. Mongrelization will occur where cultures and capabilities from different nations, expertise and industries meld and blend. Part of this will be due to global companies like Google, Samsung, Infosys, Lever and Procter. It will also come about as Reliance invests in DreamWorks and Bollywood and Hollywood give birth to something new. A huge impact of technology is the ability to share ideas and create new value.
Less than four years ago the following did not exist: Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Kindle, Apple iPhone and App Store, Mumbai Terror, the Financial Meltdown, a Black American president ... The most important thing about the future is to be nimble and flexible to react to the only thing that is certain among all my predictions: The future will surprise!
In next week's post I will attempt to identify the key trends for the decade ahead.
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