Introduction | Another year, another roller coaster of threats and opportunities. We tend to focus on the latter as, amidst currency wars and defaulting nations, there are more opportunities than ever for creative brands and entrepreneurs to deliver on changing consumer needs. From Brazil to Belgium. No rest for the wicked!
As this is all about trends, and as 'trends' still can mean everything from 'Ageing populations in Central-Europe' to 'Spring 2012's skirt lengths', we need to clarify that:
In 2011, expect companies to monitor consumers' public moods and act upon them with random acts of kindness...marketing may never be the same ;-) Read more »
Are you ready for hundreds of millions of more daring, more experienced consumers? Oh, and that's just one side effect of rapid global urbanization... Read more »
Flash sales, group buying, GPS-driven deals: this year, pricing will never be the same... Read more »
Expect an increasing number of 'Western' brands to launch new products or even new brands dedicated (if not paying proper respect) to consumers in emerging markets... Read more »
This year, you can’t go wrong supplying your (online-loving) customers with any kind of symbol, virtual or 'real world', that helps them display to peers their online contributions, creations or popularity... Read more »
As good health is now as important to some consumers as having the biggest, newest or shiniest status symbols, growing numbers of consumers will expect health products and services in the next 12 months (and beyond) to prevent misery (if not improve their quality of life), rather than merely treating illnesses and ailments... Read more »
Expect even more consumers to become curators: broadcasting, compiling, commenting, sharing and recommending content, products, purchases, and experiences to both their friends and wider audiences... Read more »
Brands and wealthy individuals from emerging markets (yes, especially China) will increasingly be expected to give, donate, care and sympathize versus just sell and take. And not just in their home countries, but on a global scale... Read more »
With lifestyles having become fragmented, with dense urban environments offering consumers any number of instantly available options, and with cell/smartphones having created a generation who have little experience of making (or sticking to) rigid plans, this new year will see full-on PLANNED SPONTANEITY... Read more »
When it comes to 'green consumption', expect a rise in ECO-SUPERIOR products: products that are not only eco-friendly, but superior to polluting incumbents in every possible way... Read more »
This could be the year when sharing and renting really tips into mainstream consumer consciousness as big brands and governments put their weight behind this cultural shift... Read more »
When it comes to the mega trend of GENERATION G (that's G for Generosity, not Greed), there’s no better way for a brand to put its money where its mouth (or heart) is than engaging in Random Acts of Kindness (R.A.K.). Consumers' cravings for realness, for the human touch, ensure that everything from brands randomly picking up the tab to sending a surprise gift will be one of the most effective ways to connect with (potential) customers in 2011 - especially beleaguered consumers in North America, Europe and Japan.
For brands, a serious (and sincere) R.A.K. strategy may mean no longer being seen as inflexible and unwieldy, but as more compassionate and charismatic instead. Something which is, of course, priceless and actually fun.
Fueling the R.A.K. trend is brands’ ability to actually know what’s happening in consumers’ lives (good or bad!), as people publicly and knowingly disclose (from Facebook to Twitter) more and more about their daily lives, their moods or their whereabouts.
Social networks also enable acts of kindness to spread far beyond its recipients, as they will gladly tell their friends and followers about the unexpected good news (see SOCIAL-LITES). Two fun examples to copy or improve on in the next 12 months:
Urbanization remains one of the absolute mega trends for the coming decade. Here's just one telling stat: “Today, half the world’s population – 3 billion people – lives in urban areas. Close to 180,000 people move into cities daily, adding roughly 60 million new urban dwellers each year.” (Source: Intuit, October 2010)
How will this change the consumer arena? Firstly, urban consumers tend to be more daring, more liberal, more tolerant, more experienced, more prone to trying out new products and services. In emerging markets, these effects tend to be even more pronounced, with new arrivals finding themselves distanced from traditional social and familial structures, while constantly exposed to a wider range of alternatives.
Secondly, keep a close eye out for ‘URBAN ISLANDS’: just 100 cities currently account for 30% of the world's economy, and almost all its innovation. Many are world capitals that have evolved and adapted through centuries of dominance: London, New York, Paris, etc. New York City's economy alone is larger than 46 of sub-Saharan Africa's economies combined. Hong Kong receives more tourists annually than all of India (Source: Foreign Policy, August 2010). However, metropolises such as Shanghai, Sao Paulo and Istanbul are obviously keen to join the top ranks, too.
Catering to city-citizens in these vast urban entities requires a local, dedicated approach in products, services and campaigns that mirror if not surpass the usual country-specific approach.
To cut a long story short: In 2011, go for products, services, experiences or campaigns that tailor to the very specific (and often more refined, more experienced) needs of urbanites worldwide, if not city by city. And don't forget to infuse them with a heavy dose of ‘URBAN PRIDE’. From Smirnoff’s Absolut Cities to BMW's Megacity vehicle, urban is the way to go.
Note: As URBANOMICS is perhaps one of the biggest yet still underestimated consumer trends of our times, we’ll expand on this trend in our February 2011 Trend Briefing, so if you haven’t done so already, please sign up for our free Trend Briefings >>>
While consumers have always looked out for special offers and discounts, new technologies and services mean that 2011 will see total PRICING PANDEMONIUM:
Always-on connectivity is changing consumer spending habits in myriad ways. For example, coupon clipping required planning and dedication, hence wasn't that popular with consumers more interested in the here and now (see NOWISM), but now is a near-effortless online activity. Furthermore, whipping out one’s smartphone at the counter, getting the latest deal via GPS, or barcode scanning is well, smart. And therefore a source of status rather than shame.
Brands will continue to respond with a host of innovative new business models and pricing strategies in the next 12 months, building on:
Expect an increasing number of 'Western' brands to launch new products or even new brands dedicated (if not paying proper respect) to consumers in emerging markets. After all, it's where the money is right now, and Western brands are still favored over local ones, so the combination of perceived quality with a bit of local tailoring, love or exclusivity makes total sense*.
* Like all consumers, these Chinese, Indian or Brazilian consumers will appreciate products that are tailored to their needs, wants and desires, either for practical reasons (shape, size, features) or because of the deep-rooted desire for recognition (cultural pride, heritage, lifestyles).
This MADE FOR CHINA (IF NOT BRIC) phenomenon is just one of the many sub-trends spawned by the macro trend of economic and consumption power shifting towards emerging markets. Just to remind you:
So who has already jumped on the MADE FOR CHINA band wagon? Check out the following examples:
P.S. Brands like Honda (Li Nian), Nissan (Venucia) and GM (Baojun) are busy introducing ‘cheaper’ brands in China, too, as many consumers in emerging markets still do have less to spend than their counterparts in mature consumer markets. And yes, that's yet another 'Emerging Markets' sub-trend. If you really can’t get enough of this topic, do re-read our Trend Briefings on FUNCTIONALL and EXCEPTIONALL.
Online culture still is the culture, and thus we'll see a rise in online status symbols in the next 12 months (after all, status symbols reflect the zeitgeist like nothing else). What started with showing off the number of visitors to one's Flickr pages or blog now also encompasses the number of one's Facebook friends (or any other social network), Twitter followers, Foursquare check-ins and a host of other metrics that indicate one's 'wiredness'.
In the next 12 months, you can’t go wrong supplying your (online-loving) customers with any kind of symbol, virtual or 'real world' that helps them display to peers their online contributions, interestingness, creations or popularity.
Indeed, one extra element to watch out for is new status symbols that straddle the 'real' and 'online' worlds. From physical manifestations of digital status (think personalized Facebook and Twitter memorabilia), to online recognition of physical activities (status updates or badges based on real-world visits), consumers will seek to display their online status symbols in all arenas. Some fun (yet telling) examples:
As good health is now as important to some consumers as having the biggest, newest or shiniest status symbols, growing numbers of consumers will expect health products and services to prevent misery if not improve their quality of life, rather than merely treating illnesses and ailments. Some signs of the times:
In the next 12 months, count on even more monitoring technologies becoming portable or even wearable, as well as getting cheaper (the smartphones held by many consumers are now more advanced than most dedicated medical devices).
Also, both regular and dedicated medical social networks give audiences a platform to share, compare and discuss their personal health issues with other consumers.
Last but not least, the 'consumerization' of health means that more consumers will choose products with embedded health benefits that are actually well designed, desirable, accessible, fun, tasty, interesting or storied. Some examples:
Both Microsoft and Sony have recently released motion-sensing game controllers: the X-Box Kinect and Playstation Move. The systems use cameras (and a controller for the Move) to detect users' movements during gameplay. The controllers were designed not only to heighten the gaming experience but also, much like the Nintendo Wii, to add a physical and healthy dimension to it, with games like EA Sports Active 2 and Get Fit with Mel B.
In 2011, GENERATION G(ENEROSITY) will continue to give. Consider EMERGING GENEROSITY, which is about brands and wealthy individuals from emerging markets (yes, especially China) who will increasingly be expected to give, donate, care and sympathize versus just sell and take. And not just in their home countries, but on a global scale. It's a profound cultural change and a consumer demand that their counterparts in mature markets have had a few years to getting used to. Some fun stats:
This year, any brand or individual doing exceptionally well, will be expected to join GENERATION G. Thanks to shifts in power and a relentless TRANSPARENCY TRIUMPH, the ones who don't know how to give will have no excuses left, and nowhere to hide ;-)
Two years ago, we highlighted NOWISM: consumers' lust for instant gratification being fuelled by ever quicker, more accessible real-time products and services.
We also noticed that NOWISM was part of a larger cultural, social and technological trend towards greater spontaneity. With lifestyles having become fragmented, with dense urban environments (URBANOMICS!) offering consumers any number of instantly available options, and with cell /smartphones having created a generation who have little experience of making (or sticking to) rigid plans, 2011 will see full-on PLANNED SPONTANEITY.
Expect to see consumers rushing to sign up to services (the PLANNED part) that allow for endless and almost effortless MASS MINGLING with friends, family, colleagues or strangers-who-may-become-friends-or-dates (the SPONTANEITY part ;-)
What's next? Look beyond Twitter, and expect (younger) consumers voluntarily opting in to passively and continuously share their location*, in return for truly smart suggestions about what they could be doing or who they could be meeting up with. Will consumers accept their mobile data being collected, aggregated, analyzed and shared? If the benefits are interesting, fun or life-enhancing enough, then most likely yes.
*According to Jeff Jonas at IBM, mobile devices in the US are creating approximately 600 billion geo-spatially tagged 'transactions' a day (that's every call and text, not just web connected smartphones!)
For consumers, knowing where they are and what's / who's around them is the key to PLANNED SPONTANEITY. That's about to get a whole lot easier, as geo-location becomes a key feature of social networks and web apps (from existing providers adding location information, such as Facebook's Places, Twitter's locator, and Google's Hotpot, to dedicated services like Foursquare, Gowalla and Brightkite). Examples:
The number one challenge for governments, consumers and businesses (recession or no recession) remains the quest for more environmentally sustainable societies and economies. When it comes to 'green consumption', expect a rise in ECO-SUPERIOR products: products that are not only eco-friendly, but superior to polluting incumbents in every possible way. Think a combination of eco-friendly yet superior functionality, superior design, and/or superior savings.
Why the need for ECO-SUPERIOR? The number of consumers actively seeking out 'green' products is reaching a plateau, as mainstream consumers start to question the value and efficiency of going green:
Expect to see a number of leading brands switch from purely marketing their products' sustainability and eco-friendliness (with its niche reach) and taking aim right at the heart of traditional alternatives: stressing the superior quality and design, increased durability and/or lower running costs of products in ways that will appeal to even the most eco-skeptic, self-centered or financially-challenged consumer.
ECO-SUPERIOR examples? How about the Ovopur, a well-designed natural and environmentally friendly water purification device, or the Stealth Toilet, which contains a flushing system that only uses 0.8 gallons of water per flush - saving the average family approximately 20,000 gallons of water each year, or the Renault DeZir; a 'green' concept supercar that travels from 0-60 in five seconds, or Philips' 12-watt EnduraLED bulb...
Meanwhile, our ECO-EASY trend, which we highlighted in our 10 trends for 2010, is still going strong.
This is what we said a year ago:
"While the current good intentions of corporations and consumers are helpful, serious eco-results will depend on making products and processes more sustainable without consumers even noticing it, and, if necessary, not leaving much room for consumers and companies to opt for less sustainable alternatives to begin with. Which will often mean forceful, if not painful, government intervention, or some serious corporate guts, or brilliantly smart design and thinking, if not all of those combined. Think anything from thoroughly green buildings, to a complete ban on plastic bags and bottles, to super-strict bluefin tuna quota — anything that by default leaves no choice, no room for complacency, and thus makes it 'easy' for consumers (and corporations) to do the right and necessary thing".
Here's just one ECO-EASY example that recently caught our eye:
We covered the re-emergence of fractional ownership and lifestyle leasing business models (no more dodgy timeshares!) in our TRANSUMERS briefing way back in 2006. Brands like Rent the Runway (fashion) and Avelle (handbags - formerly Bag, Borrow or Steal) and P1 (luxury cars) have shown that for many consumers, access is better than ownership. Indeed, over the past few years, there have been few industries that haven't got the 'Netflix treatment', from textbooks to jewelry to educational video games to calculators.
For consumers, the appeal is obvious:
Now, this could be the year when sharing and renting really tips into mainstream consumer consciousness. Two key developments:
Expect to see more and more big brands getting in on the action. Take for example car sharing, one of the great successes of the OWNER-LESS trend, with car clubs springing up all around the world: Zipcar is the market leader, but similar services can be found everywhere from Australia (GoGet) to Brazil (Zazcar). Big brands, having seen the success of these smaller startups are increasingly getting in on the action: Hertz launched their car sharing service Connect back in December 2008, and now Daimler has added Hamburg and Austin, Texas following the successful pilot of their car2go pilot in Ulm (Germany). In July 2010, Peugeot launched its Mu 'mobility' service in the UK after successful launches in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Customers can rent cars, scooters, vans or even bicycles.
Another big boost for the OWNER-LESS economy is that with so many highly visible transportation initiatives, all consumers are becoming used to seeing schemes in action, and more and more are feeling comfortable with the idea of sharing and renting large, expensive or often-idle objects.
P.S. The brief introduction above only looks at brand/ government offerings. There is also a whole host of P2P sharing sites that are springing up to facilitate renting and sharing between consumers, with everything from homes to fashion, to cars (and car parking spaces) available. Watch this space for a full Trend Briefing on the rise of OWNER-LESS.
For loyal readers, this is by now old news: the four ways to apply these consumer trends, and make some money from the innovations they spawn. Just ask yourself if they have the potential to (and if so, how):
For more tips on how to spot and apply trends, see our TIPS section. Easy peasy, no?