The #MeToo movement, the revolution in attitudes towardsplastics, and the boost to awareness of the value of personal data stoked bythe Cambridge Analytica scandal are three key narratives from 2018 whichunderpin important issues brands will need to address in 2019.
The context for each – or, if you like, meta-theme – is therise and rise of the ‘attention economy’ in which we all now compete, and theextent to which standing out in the face of more and more distractions hasbecome one of the biggest business challenges of this age.
With a global average of 6.3 devices per person (peaking atseven in China), each of us now undertake on average 77 online activities eachweek, according to new research conducted amongst 16 to 64-year-old consumersin 25 countries by Foresight Factory.
And growing hand in hand with this increase has been concernabout the negative impact of this - disordered attention.
Some 27% of us feel less able to concentrate due to theinternet and mobile phones, the findings show. Meanwhile, supply and use oftools developed by tech firms to help us better understand and so limit ourscreen use and digital consumption have enjoyed a rise.
In today’s ‘always on’ hyper-connected world, our brainsnever actually stop. The hidden side effect of this is increased production ofthe stress hormone cortisol, which is designed to support us through bursts ofintense activity, but in the long term has an extremely negative impact onphysical and mental health. Our cortisol levels should be at their lowest atnight time, but with many of us constantly connected, it is often at itshighest.
As brands, we must help minimize the negative effects of our‘always on’ world. We shouldn’t be stalking consumers and encouraging people tobinge on content. We need to protect vulnerable groups.
The net effect poses a fundamental question for brand ownersmoving forward: how best to respond to these challenges? The Foresight FactoryTrending 2019 Report highlights opportunities for brands lying in a number ofpowerful trends which I discussed at the IPA’s Trending 2019 event this week.
Here are three.
The first is Sustainable Me. This trend is driven by theevolution of a ‘prepper’ mindset amongst consumers, motivated by a desire tosurvive an uncertain future in style. Some 42% of us want more control over ourfuture – a figure which, amongst Millennials, rises to 62%, the report found.
Globally, 51% of us like to plan or be organised and 40% ofus would like to be more organised than we are today – be that by having morecontrol over our finances, productivity or weight. Meanwhile, 57% of us saywe’d prefer to be independent and not have to rely on others for our needs.
‘Prepper’ values – building awareness of coming risks,preparing for and seeking to control them – are neatly illustrated by membersof the FIRE (Financial Independent Retire Early) movement in the US.
Exponents of FIRE tend to be a niche of middle-incomeearners, typically with a tech industry background. But their desire forgreater control and a more moderate and sustainable lifestyle are concerns nowentering mainstream, even if some of their more extreme tactics – for example,saving 25x their annual living expenses and pursuing a minimalist lifestyle -are not.
As these values spread in 2019, brands will need to respondby offering solutions in the form of supportive information content andproducts or services that make forward planning and future-proofing easier,enjoyable and aspirational. First-time investors’ app Wealthsimple and Google’sfree learn-to-code app Grasshopper are great examples.
The second trend is Educator Brands – brands becomingempowering advisors and filling knowledge gaps with content.
This is being driven by a rise in consumer interest inbroadening their knowledge, interest and experience, a shift in their go-tosources of advice, and a decline in opportunities for brands to converse withconsumers via physical retail stores. Culturally, we moved from definingourselves by our possessions to allowing our experiences to define us. Now,we’re ushering in a new era where we’re being defined by our knowledge.
In the study, 52% of people expressed a desire to be moreknowledgeable, ahead of calm and sociable. And as enrichment becomes anincreasingly important part of leisure, so entertainment is as much aboutlearning new things as it is about having fun. This increased desire for‘purposeful leisure’ is neatly demonstrated by the rapid rise in holidays tolocations where travellers can widen their experience and broaden their minds.
The opportunity here for brands is to take responsibilityfor filling consumers’ knowledge gaps and aligning with their passions. ThePeriod Game – a game that allows players to find out about and discussmenstruation in a fun and relaxed way - is a great example of this. Health andwellbeing brand Hims, meanwhile, provides contextual content alongsidetaboo-busting products.
This trend offers brands opportunities to educate throughcreating engaging and compelling content and experiences and enabling people todemonstrate what they have learned through the creation of social capital.
The third trend, Prescribed Life, is about trusted brandsincreasingly taking decisions on consumers’ behalf and prescribing products androutines for them.
This is being driven by the growing choice of products,services and brands consumers now have and the pressure that comes with it.According to the study, some 37% of global consumers say that keeping up todate with new products and cultural trends is important to their identity and24% feel pressure to be more up to date.
With a growing need for guidance and curation in order tomanage this choice, we have already seen the emergence of trusted brands makingdecisions for us. Think Amazon Recommends.
Moving forward, there will by many further opportunities forbrands to prescribe and this is already rapidly evolving in sophistication.Following Spotify’s recent tie-up with the AncestryDNA website, for example,the music streaming services now offers unique music selections tailored toyour genetics and family tree and based on your DNA.
In today’s attention economy, it can be tempting to thinkthat marketing will fall on deaf ears with so much now vying for consumers’attention. But ad blocking is in decline, the findings show. And thosestruggling to concentrate are, in fact, following more brands on social.
There is still significant demand for dialogue with thebrands we love, so long as those brands speak to consumers, not at. Movingforward, those brands that build deep understanding of their consumers andharness emerging trends in innovative and creative ways will be best-positionedto be and stay heard.
Tom Poynter, MD at Southpaw, spoke at the Trending 2019event hosted by the IPA on Thursday January 17.
Tom Poynter, Managing Director