If you work in marketing in 2014, you are no doubt trying to answer a number of impossible questions. If one of those questions is ‘What is it my customers actually want from my brand/product now… and how is it going to change?’ then you will find it hard not to like Rohit Bhargava’s book, The 2014 Non-Obvious Trend Report, or find it applicable to your working week. Bhargava shows an expert understanding of his audience and our industry.
CULTURE AND THE CONSUMER
- Desperate detox: As mobile devices and the ‘internet of things’ keep us connected in every moment, consumers are desperately seeking new ways to connect more authentically with others and enjoy moments of reflection by intentionally disconnecting from the technology surrounding them. This has been dubbed ‘nomophobia’: fear of being out of mobile contact’.
- Media bingeing: As more media and entertainment is available on any device on demand, consumers use their newfound control to ‘binge’ on media in the moments when they have time, and they are willing to pay extra for the convenience.
- Obsessive productivity: With thousands of life-optimising mobile apps, instant advice from social media-savvy self-help gurus, and tech platforms that plug into one another, becoming more productive has become the ultimate obsession – and one that always seems temptingly within reach. For example, multiple recent studies show that for creative tasks, background noise can improve productivity. Building on this insight, Coffitivity is an app that records coffee shop white noise and offers it up on demand for anyone who wants to boost their creativity.
ECONOMICS AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP TRENDS
- Subscription commerce: A growing number of businesses and retailers are moving to using sub scriptions as a new commerce business model to sell recurring services or products to customers instead of focusing on the one-time sale.
- Instant entrepreneur: The barriers to starting a new business begin to disappear, as anyone with an idea has the ability to create a startup for it, no matter how small. For some, this means exploring an idea on the side while keeping their day job, while others plunge in, knowing the costs and risks of failure are not as high as they once were. For example, Strikingly (strikingly.com) is an online service that enables users to create attractive, professional one-page websites almost instantly.
- Collaborative economy: New business models and tools allow consumers and brands to tap the power of sharing and collaborative consumption to find new ways to buy, sell and consume products and services.
MARKETING AND SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS
- Branded utility: Brands use a combination of content marketing and greater integration between marketing and operations to augment promotions with real ways to add value to customers’ lives. For example, toilet paper brand Charmin hit upon the idea of creating a mobile app to help people find a clean restroom when they are travelling. The app, called SitOrSquat, has received accolades from the media and consumers.
- Lovable imperfection: As authenticity continues to matter to consumers, one way people seek it out is by searching for, and valuing, the minor imperfections in products, personalities and brands themselves – and rewarding that ‘realness’ with attention, loyalty or even greater trust. Examples include the actress Jennifer Lawrence and flawed ‘bad guy heroes’, such as Gru in the highly popular Despicable Me films.
- Shareable humanity: Content that is shared on social media gets more emotional as people share amazing examples of touching humanity in videos, stories and images – and brands inject more humanity into powerful content marketing and branded storytelling efforts. For example, the 300-year-old soy sauce brand Kikkoman made The Kikkoman Creed, a documentary about its history. ‘Started by a woman, in a time when women didn’t start companies’ is the powerful opening phrase of this story of the best-selling soy sauce brand in the world. The story puts a human face on the brand and brings its history to life in a way that can inspire consumers and foster greater brand loyalty.
TECHNOLOGY AND DESIGN TRENDS
- Privacy paranoia: New data breaches and an increasing focus on the many ways in which our behaviour is now tracked on- and offline is leading to a new global sense of paranoia about what governments and brands know about us – and how they might use this ‘big data’ in undesirable ways. As Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley said: 'You can imagine a service that enables users to say ‘I don’t want my name to show up on any social [media] services for the next three hours’.'
- Microdesign: As communication becomes more visual, the demand for design and imagery is becoming an everyday business requirement. New online tools and services are solving this need by offering easier access to bite-sized chunks of design expertise, from pre-designed logos to hourly services for design fixes. For example, piktochart.com is a web-based service where customers can create their own infographics.
- Overquantified life: Big data offers more ways to get quantified information about all types of activities, yet the information deluge is leading brands and consumers to suffer from data overload. Meanwhile, cute infographics and superficial analysis add more confusion about what all this data really means, and how to actually use it to inform decisions in real life.
MEDIA AND EDUCATION TRENDS
- Curated sensationalism: Over the past decade, the line between news and entertainment has completely blurred. Today, many of the most popular online ‘news’ destinations are replacing traditional journalism with smart curation – gathering content from across the web, adding minimal commentary and using persuasively written, sensationalist headlines to drive millions of views.
- Distributed expertise: As more online platforms change how we learn and gain access to previously unreachable topic experts, the idea of expertise itself is shifting to become more inclusive, less academic and more widely available on demand and in real-time.
- Anti-stereotyping: Across media and entertainment, traditional gender roles are being reversed, assumptions about alternative lifestyles are being challenged, and perceptions of what defines anyone are shifting and evolving in new ways.