the ammonista report - winter 2014
5 mega-trends for the next decade
No question the ‘internet of things’ is exponentially affecting the way we work, the rate at which we produce and how we relate to others (including ourselves). The underlying effect is permeating; namely the cultural deconstruction of our structures and boundaries – as much more is taking place outside our physical buildings, businesses, learning institutions and infrastructure. Additionally, our families, neighborhoods and villages are no longer restricted by geography – which means our social and emotional ‘tribes’, along with our personal circles of influence, has the potential for much wider expansion and reach.
Some tout the benefit of this new era of information access and virtual intuitiveness as a facilitator of smarter, faster, fuller lives. Others warn against the inevitable erosion of the quality of our human connections, personal privacy and collective discernment as a society. Whatever your proclivity, these mega trends are here to stay and represent the ‘new normal’ in our culture --- we can’t unring the bells that progressive companies have been ringing loud and clear as they create new standards for how business gets done. The good news? A company’s authentic and sincere efforts to incorporate just one trend is enough to warrant consumer affinity for life. Pick the one most relevant to your brand and go deep. Really deep. And see how merrily your customers will follow.
1. THE HUMANIZING OF BUSINESS
Why transparency, values and purpose will mean profit
It’s easy to understand why this is happening – the exponential increase of social relationships and circles of personal influence – combined with the increased visibility of world events and causes - is creating a collective consciousness of our inter-connectedness and potential for impact.
Successful companies and CEO’s will demonstrate concern for matters bigger than the company itself. A record 93% of consumers want more of the products, services and retailers they use to support social and environmental causes. Additionally, 90% of people want brands to be transparent about their products performance as well as their values.
The good news is that the ‘humanizing’ of business does not result in expectations of perfection – but rather transparency and collaborative problem-solving. By enrolling your customers in solutions – they become more and more invested in your brand. And by giving them the opportunity to be a better citizen, you’re co-creating a better world.
Pepsi Refresh Project: Can a soda company change the world?
A few years ago, Pepsi made news by converting the $20 million they traditionally spent on Super Bowl ads into a grass roots campaign to support civic projects in neighborhoods all over the country. Looking at all the unprecedented impact and goodwill that was created – the answer would be an unequivocal, “yes”.
Partnering with UNICEF, Pamper’s launched a global campaign to protect the lives of mothers and babies in less industrialized countries. To date, it’s 1 pack = 1 vaccine program has successfully enrolled the universal instinct of all mothers to help donate 300 million vaccines - protecting 100 million women and their babies around the world.
Locals is a non-profit espresso bar – supported by a coffee roasting company in Auckland - which pops open only on the weekends and trades a coffee for each can of donated food.
Following the financial crisis in Europe, Spain’s Bankia was required to close several remote branches in order to meet the terms of the EU bailout. Demonstrating candor and flexibility, they launched a mobile banking bus program to service folks most affected, explaining, “It might only come to your town once a week, but it’s all we can afford and it’s better than no service.”
2. THE STATUS OF SUBSTANCE
The universal quest for status now includes a cause
For years now, the conspicuous consumption lifestyle has been giving way to the ‘less is more’ ethos as brands are finding a simpler, less materialistic approach to be de rigueur. The ageing Boomers are more active than their parents at the same age, living longer and are interested in applying their accumulated wealth to meaning-infused products, lifestyles and even their ‘work’.
While brands have always provided ‘badge value’ (how you identify with them and what they say about you), the message that relates to today’s consumer is much more substantive than simply ‘status’. There’s a whole host of ethical, sustainable and storied brands at the intersection of commerce and purpose that are happy to provide guilt-free options for your impulse to indulge.
3. CREATION OF THE YOUNIVERSE
How technology is enabling markets of one
Customization, personalization, on-demand, real-time, and do-it-yourself are just a few of the outcomes of our self-directed world. Don’t be fooled that this is a passing phase of reality TV and Twitter-inspired narcissism, as this mega trend is much more pervasive. Inspired by capitalism, our consumers are now expecting (and at times entitled) for it to be ‘all about them’. Remember the ‘customer is always right’ mentality of service-oriented retailers for the last few decades? As the cycles of what we ‘produce’ and ‘deliver to market’ gets streamlined, those customer service standards are now bleeding into personalized product development and customer experience.
MADE-TO-ORDER RETAIL is popping up: Bite Beauty in New York’s Lip Lab allows shoppers to create their own custom-made lipstick – from colors and sheen to scents and flavors. UK’s YrStore allows customers to design their own t-shirts – from touch pads in-store – choosing fabric, textures, fonts, in-house designs or their own uploaded art and walk out with their personalized creation.
ACCESS TO ONE-OF-A-KIND. Seattle-based studio Pensar has engineered a shoe design concept that uses 3-D printing to create footwear designed to fit a person’s unique anatomy and biomechanics. Through pressure sensor shoes, after a sample run, a customer’s data is downloaded to customize the perfect fit. And just in case you thought 3-D printers required huge investment, the folks at Dreambox make it accessible online and are soon introducing a vending machine on college campuses where your designs (or their pre-selects) can be uploaded and produced. Usually overnight, you’ll receive an email when completed.
4. RISE OF THE ENTREPRENEURIAL CLASS
A Renaissance approach meets career and business
Recent SBA statistics claim that 23 million small businesses in the U.S. account for 54% of all U.S. sales – and that number is growing rapidly. Over the last two decades, while corporate America has been downsizing, the rate of small business startups has grown – over the past two decades, as big business has eliminated 4 million jobs, small business has added 8 million new jobs to our economy.
Why is this happening? Going back to our underlying theme of eroding structures and boundaries, it’s easier than ever for a business to get started these days – often with just a laptop and a website. In fact, an overriding majority of Millenials (68%) believe they have the opportunity to be an entrepreneur or bring an idea to market according to a recent study. Career opportunities are no longer limited by just geography and there’s a very good chance that you will be dealing with international colleagues, clients or suppliers. The term ‘domestic’ to describe one’s business is quickly becoming a modern impossibility.
According to a recent Forbes article by Scott Harley, “We are part of the global entrepreneurial class, an identity that transgresses borders, nationalities, and religion. Entrepreneurs are a demographic, not a geographic, and their conspicuous creation is driving positive change in our world.” It will behoove you to study this trend – even if you’re not an entrepreneur yourself, the company you work for will certainly be marketing to one.
ETSY: CRAFTY AT PROMOTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP
In partnership with local authorities, Etsy launch a Craft Entrepreneurship Program in Rockford, Illinois to teach struggling community members how to turn craft skills into small businesses. The 2-6 week curriculum includes everything from branding to setting up an Etsy shop.
BIG BRANDS CATER TO STARTUPS
In conjunction with crowd-sourcing platform Indiegogo, Domino’s Pizza offered startups a $500 “Pizzavestment” and rewarded individual donors with ‘Powered by Pizza’ gift cards.
INNOVATION LABS AND INVESTOR PITCHES IN THE SKY?
In June 2013, British Airways hosted UnGrounded, an 11-hour innovation lab that took place during a transatlantic flight to London. Once landed, groups presented ideas at the Decide Now Act Summit. In November 2013, Turkish Airlines announced its Invest On Board initiative, where business class passengers will be able to watch startups’ video pitches on seat-back TVs.
5. MINDFULNESS IS THE NEW EQ
The increasingly important case for ‘pause’
Mark my words: Meditation is the new Yoga. And will probably end up being even more prolific, as it can be done anywhere, any time by anyone.
As we get more engaged with our health and well-being – and as the mind-body connection is more researched and studied – our states of mental health will be as important as our physical health. In fact, more studies will show how inter-connected they really are, as the benefits of meditation are improved stress levels, high blood pressure, pain relief, sleep disorders, addictions and even cellular health. Researchers at Harvard Medical School call the improvements 'the relaxation effect’, a phenomenon that empowers the body to activate disease-fighting genes and could be just as powerful as any medical drug but without the side effects.
Prominent artists, businessmen and politicians have admitted to the practice to improve creative thinking, energy, stress levels and even success. And progressive companies have also jumped on the bandwagon. In these TED talks, neuroscientists Dr. Hedy Kober and Sara Lazar explain how meditation does for the mind what the gym does for the body have presented compelling research how those with a consistent practice have a fuller sense of well-being. With the amount of hyper-speed electronic distractions in our world today and the manic pace at which we consume them, the concept of pausing, grounding and centering will evolve from ‘luxury’ to ‘necessity’. And not a moment too soon.
The Ammonista Report is published quarterly by Pat Johnson, principal of Ammonista – a unique consultancy that merges brand strategy with entrepreneurialism. Transforming future trends and cultural insights into authentic business strategies, Pat helps people and companies create brands of significance. An entrepreneur herself, she brings thought leadership to global health, energy and technology companies – and advises many start-ups. Prior to Ammonista, she directed some of the best brands in the business, as founder of nationally-acclaimed creative ad agency NORTH. Subscribe here.