Every January, agencies and “futurologists” delight in telling us what’s around the corner. Last year, predictions included lots of chatter around blockchain, artificial intelligence, fake news and gender – all of which turned out to be accurate.
So what buzzwords and trends can we expect to hear more of in the coming months? One word we’ve been hearing a lot lately is “xennial”, which describes people born between two tribes – Generation X and milliennials – or roughly between 1977 and 1985. The word is all over J. Walter Thompson’s latest Future 100 report, which observes that xennials are a growing power in politics. Note that Emmanuel Macron, the French president, was born in 1977.
Talking of politics – and Macron, for that matter – financial inequality is likely to be on the radar this year. From the Gilets Jaunes (“Yellow Vests”) in France, to reports of skyrocketing income inequality in the United States and China, the issue has been simmering since last summer and is unlikely to die down soon. Should brands extend a helping hand to the less well off? Some may decide it’s the right thing to do.
One thing’s for sure: rampant consumption will be off-trend as the rise of organic and sustainable living continues. In its 2019 trend report, Serviceplan notes the trend of “360° organic living”. “In the past, it was enough to make your purchases in the organic shop around the corner to be considered sustainably minded...Today, an organic lifestyle encompasses much more…It is not just our food that is organic or fair trade, but our clothing, cosmetics and so much more… People are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on how sustainable brands are.”
Over at JWT, Innovation Group worldwide director Lucie Greene notes: “Plastic, and excess packaging, once something consumers thought was nice for brands to cut is suddenly becoming essential.” Sustainability has become “sexy and aspirational”, she adds in a piece for LBB Online.
Trendhunter points to the rise of “zero waste retail”, with stores such as New York’s Package Free – which offers products that minimize waste – and the Silo café in Brighton, UK, which turns leftover food into the compost it uses to grow more food.
Parallel to the move towards more mindful living is the notion of giving tech a rest – and putting that phone down for a while. A number of articles have pointed out that the tech titans of Silicon Valley actively keep their kids away from screens. The New York Times reported at the end of last year: “Technologists know how phones really work, and many have decided they don’t want their children anywhere near them.”
Consumers are replacing their laptops and their phones less frequently. Tech stocks are wobbling and even Apple posted a profit warning this month – although it blamed China’s economic slowdown. In the social media world, Facebook suffered a year of damaging news about the way it uses our data, with the result that many users fled.
As usual, reports of the death of print will prove inaccurate in 2019. Only just this Christmas, printers reported that they were unable to keep up with the demand for books. “Hardcover sales are up, and unit sales at independent bookstores have risen 5 percent,” reported The New York Times.
While nobody is denying that newspaper and magazine sales have suffered a catastrophic decline, legacy titles like Glamour have evolved into multi-platform entertainment brands. J. Walter Thompson reports that “niche print titles – which often appear more akin to coffee table books – are enjoying something of a renaissance, with standout examples including Cherry Bombe, a lavishly put together title about women and food, and Gossamer, a stylish magazine designed for ‘people who also smoke weed.’”
Sound and light
Talking of media, you may think everyone is glued to Netflix, but listening is the hot leisure activity. Podcasts are growing ever more popular and brands are getting into the act. Movie and comic book empire Marvel has its own podcast series, and Trendhunter predicts that more consumer brands will follow in the footsteps of Jack Daniel’s and Trader Joe’s, which already have their own podcasts.
In fact, sound is a natural medium in today’s mobile world. How many people have you spotted on the subway with Apple’s new wireless ear buds?
Mobility is a hot topic for the coming months as city authorities continue trying to combat pollution by luring commuters out of cars and onto public transport. Entrepreneurs have weighed in with “light” transport in the form of shared electric scooters like the Bird and Lime services. Bird celebrated its first anniversary in September and founder Travis VanderZanden is pushing for electric scooters to become “the most community-focused, people-friendly, car-reducing, and safest mobility solution.”
The scooters have their problems – they clutter streets and have a fairly short lifespan – but Bird and Lime’s policy of working with authorities to regulate electric scooter usage means they could be here to stay.
However you get around in 2019, we wish you a healthy, happy and productive year.
Here are links to the full JWT, Serviceplan and Trendhunter reports: