8 important consumer trends for 2008

First published in December 2007 | Another year has almost passed. Over the last 11 months, we have highlighted trends like (STILL) MADE HERE, FEMALE FEVER, TRANSPARENCY TYRANNY, TRYSUMERS and more. No doubt 2008 will be as trend-heavy; to get you going, here are eight trends to watch and capitalize on in the new year. Oh, and may we be among the first to wish you an innovative, prosperous, trendy 2008!



1. STATUS SPHERES

Let's start this December Trend Briefing by looking back. At the beginning of 2007, as part of our STATUS LIFESTYLES trend, we wrote:

"Here's something trend watchers, CMOs and other business professionals should be able to agree on: in the end, when dealing with (and selling to) people, everything always comes back to status. In a traditional consumer society, he or she who consumes the most, the best, the coolest, the most expensive, the scarcest or the most popular goods, will typically also gain the most status."

Now, you guessed it: the above will still ring true in 2008, and should be on your mind whenever/wherever in the new year—when tracking trends, when mapping out new strategies and when coming up with new products and services for your customers. In fact, expect 2008 to be the year in which even more brands realize (if not grudgingly accept) that 'old', mass-era status symbols, from the Audi R8 to the De Beers Talisman Watch Collection are no longer every consumer's wet dream. After all, as mature consumer societies are increasingly dominated by (physical) abundance, by saturation, by experiences, by virtual worlds, by individualism, by participation, by feelings of guilt and concern about the side effects of unbridled consumption, status is to be had in many more ways than leading a lifestyle centered on hoarding as many branded, luxury goods as possible.

We've dubbed the above phenomenon STATUS SPHERES: a variety of lifestyles, activities and persuasions, which can be mixed and matched by consumers looking for recognition from various crowds and scenes. Getting too vague? Here are some STATUS SPHERES to keep an eye out for in 2008:

TRADITIONAL SPHERE

Traditional consumption is about buying more and/or better stuff than fellow consumers. Which is by no means dead. In fact, expect the consumer arena in 2008 to still be about hundreds of millions of consumers who do want to consume more, who do covet all things bling, who do crave in-your-face brands. Oh, and even if (a big if*) conspicuous consumption were ever to subside in mature consumer societies, then count on the emerging middle classes in China,** India, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Nigeria, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil to proudly take over the torch. In other words, count on multiple consumption and status arenas to develop simultaneously for years to come.

However, while the rise of the global middle class is as big a story as they come, the rise of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) has an equally significant impact on consumerism. Consider the following numbers, from the 2007 World Wealth Report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini:

  • The number of HNWIs—individuals with net assets of at least USD 1 million, excluding their primary residence and consumables—in the world increased 8.3% to 9.5 million.
  • The number of ultra-HNWIs—individuals with net assets of at least USD 30 million, excluding their primary residence and consumables—grew by 11.3% to 94,970.
  • The BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) continue to play increasingly important roles in the global economy. China and Russia were among the top ten countries with the fastest growing HNWI populations. China’s HNWI population grew by 7.8% to 345,000 people and Russia’s has increased by 15.5% to 119,000. Brazil (120,000 HNWIs) and India (100,000 HNWIs) also showed continued strength.

With so much (new) wealth and disposable income around the world, not only is there money to be made from selling premium goods, there’s also a constant need for redefining what constitutes luxury, for what constitutes status in bling-driven consumer societies. If millions have access to the same premium goods, to the same premium brands, these premium offerings lose some of their value, as their entire raison d’être was to offer something that others could not get access to. Scarcity is becoming less scarce and wealth is always relative, leading to actual STATUS DESPAIR among those who are by all means, financially well off.

So in an arena that has become crowded with middle class and high net worth consumers, expect luxury goods to take on more outlandish forms and shapes, at ever-higher costs. Our most recent favorite example of STATUS DESPAIR was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia buying himself a USD 320 million Airbus 380, which for another USD 100+ million will be turned into a 'flying palace' with three bedrooms, private lounges, bathrooms, offices, a steam bath and exercise machines. But even here, commoditization is threatening the Prince's purchase: Airbus actually expects to sell about 20 VIP versions of the A380.

* As we’ve pointed out many times before, one mistake both trend watchers and brands make all the time, is to assume or pretend that a certain ‘trend’ will affect or be embraced by ALL consumers. No. Remember, in life and in trends: beauty (or ugliness) is in the eye of the beholder.

** The Chinese middle class consists of those people who have a degree of economic independence, but not a great deal of social influence or power. The term often encompasses merchants and professionals, bureaucrats, and some farmers and skilled workers. Definition of middle class in China: managers, professionals, skilled technicians and service workers earning USD 2,500 to USD 10,000 a year each. It is expected to grow from 100 million people in 2005 to 200 million people by 2010, reaching 315 million by 2015. (Source: Insight Bureau.)

Luckily, before we reach total STATUS DESPAIR, there's still plenty of room for innovation in the traditional sphere: check PREMIUMIZATION (trend # 2) below.

TRANSIENT SPHERE

Attractive to consumers who are driven by experiences instead of the fixed—those who are driven by entertainment, by discovery, by fighting boredom, who increasingly live a transient lifestyle, freeing themselves from the hassles of permanent ownership and possessions.

We dubbed these consumers TRANSUMERS about a year ago, and the trend is still building. Implications for 2008? An obsession with the here and now, an ever-shorter satisfaction span, and a lust to collect as many experiences and stories as possible, is undermining the perceived value (and thus status) of fixed goods and services. More practical examples in SNACK CULTURE (trend # 3) below.

ONLINE SPHERE

Where to begin? In an online world or virtual world, social status 2.0 is all about who you connect to and who wants to connect to you, tribal-style. It also encompasses status gained from the number of views for one's photos on Flickr, to the number of friends on Facebook, to one's gaming skills and levels (just a snippet: Microsoft's Halo 3 racked up USD 170 million in sales on its first day of availability, making it the hottest-selling title in video game history. Total sales since September 2007: 4+ million copies) to the good looks of one's avatar, to finding out about whatever/wherever on anything before anyone else does. More on this in ONLINE OXYGEN (trend # 4) below.

ECO SPHERE

With the environment finally on the agenda of most powers that be, and millions of consumers now actively trying to greenify their lives, status in the eco-sphere is both more readily available, and increasing in value. A substantial subset of consumers is already bestowing recognition and praise on Prius drivers while scorning SUV owners, and this will only accelerate as even more design-minded and branding-savvy eco-firms push to the forefront in 2008. Make it green, make it effortless, make it visible if not bold if not iconic, and don't hesitate to point out your competitor's polluting alternatives ;-) For more on this, see ECO-ICONIC (trend #5) below.

GIVING SPHERE

Find us one high-profile billionaire who's not deeply into 'giving' right now. In fact, whether it's giving away your riches, your time, or sharing your (content) creations with total strangers, giving is the new taking. For an excellent overview of the world's most generous philanthropists (trendsetters par excellence!), check out BusinessWeek's recent special on the topic. For brand implications, see BRAND BUTLERS (trend #6) below.

PARTICIPATIVE SPHERE

Especially for younger (and younger-at-heart) consumers, participation is the new consumption. For these creative beings, status comes from finding an appreciative audience, which is much the same way brands operate. No wonder that it's becoming increasingly important to hone one's creative skills. Status symbols, make way for STATUS SKILLS? What's going to be your participation strategy for 2008? See also trends #7 and 8 in this briefing: MIY | MAKE IT YOURSELF and CROWD MINING.

ADD YOUR OWN STATUS SPHERES

One thing you can't go wrong with in 2008 is to ask yourself how your current and new products and experiences will satisfy an audience of very diverse status seekers. If you haven't done so already, get rid of the habit of only focusing on traditional status symbols, and you will find there is no end to the number of STATUS SPHERES you'll be able to identify.


2. PREMIUMIZATION

The Champagne Bar

London's St. Pancras International railway station is now home to Europe's longest champagne bar (96 meters)

Definitely part of the 'traditional sphere', PREMIUMIZATION is not going to go away in 2008. Basically, with more wealth burning holes in (saturated and experienced) consumers' pockets than ever before, quick status fixes derived from premium products and premium experiences will continue in full force next year.

What's new then? How about 2008 being about the PREMIUMIZATION of everything and anything. In other words, no industry, no sector, no product will escape a premium version in the next 12 months. Some poignant PREMIUMIZATION examples for that sign of the times feeling:

Waters
  • OK, so we've done wine, coffee and tea, which leaves water to get its much-deserved PREMIUMIZATION moment. And we don't mean of the Pellegrino or Perrier kind: those 'upgraded' bottled water brands have become too mainstream to excite truly premium-obsessed consumers (who don't care about carbon footprints, but we'll get back to that later on). So make way for Evian's limited release Palace bottle, only available in high end bars and restaurants. Features a specially designed pouring top and is accompanied by a stainless steel coaster, selling for USD 15-20 per bottle.
  • Bling H20 is bottled water that comes in limited edition, corked, 750 ml frosted glass bottles, embellished with Swarovski crystals. Established in 2005 by a Hollywood writer-producer who noticed that “you could tell a lot about a person by the bottled water that they carried,” Bling H20 is designed to be as much a fashion accessory as a drink of water. Aiming to be the Cristal of bottled water, it's been spotted at everything from the MTV Awards to the Emmys. The bottles cost from USD 17–480.
  • Tasmanian Rain is captured "on the pristine north west coast of the island of Tasmania, Australia." The water is collected "just minutes from where the World Meteorological Organization records the world's purest air." As this rain has traveled eastward via air currents over Antarctica and 10,000 miles of ocean, it contains 17 parts per million of dissolved solids. Tasmanian Rain is collected by a custom-designed catchment facility and never touches the ground. And so on.
Carlsberg 900
  • Carlsberg 900 (which doesn't have its own website) launched this summer in a very limited number of selected bars in Stockholm. Developed in collaboration with 12 top Swedish bartenders, Carlsberg 900 is “brewed from refined virgin hops and selected crystal malt, and triple filtered with a longer cooler fermentation process to ensure a pure, delicate taste.” Carlsberg 900 is priced at the premium end of the market, about the price of decent glass of champagne.
  • Further proof that *anything* can be PREMIUMIZED: luxury marshmallows. From Dean & DeLuca's 1-pound Boulé Marshmallow Sampler of lemon chiffon, passion fruit, vanilla and rose-petal flavors (USD 28) to Pete's Gourmet dipped and undipped marshmallows, which are 1 USD a piece.
  • Get ready to welcome honey to the world of PREMIUMIZATION. Most supermarket honey is imported from China and Argentina, and/or blended from many sources, creating a homogenous taste. But, like water, marshmallows, and beer, honey is now striking back with a sweet vengeance, and artisanal honeys are on the rise. Since honey's flavor and color are determined by the source of nectar, there's a huge variety of very local and exclusive types of honey, with floral sources varying from tupelo gum tree and Tasmanian leatherwood to cranberry and orange blossom. The Savannah Bee Company, for example, sells its honeycomb jars with this awe-inspiring description: "Filled with honey equaling the life's work of two bees, each golden cell brims with the concentrated nectar of thousands of rare and remote Georgia flowers.“ In New York, the Blue Ribbon Bakery Market has installed a honey bar, selling imported raw honey from Mexico. Seasonal (read: limited time only) varieties include mesquite blossom, orange blossom and golden reserve. Also emphasizing the unique flavors of different varieties, Bee Raw Honey sells sets of honey samples, packaging the liquid gold in test-tubes that are corked and hand-sealed with beeswax.
  • More PREMIUMIZATION of the sweet kind: chocolate succumbed to PREMIUMIZATION years ago, with artisan chocolate boutiques now charging top dollar/euro/pound for wasabi-infused bonbons from San Francisco to Singapore. So what's next? A recent article in the Financial Times' How to Spend It supplement (which, together with Monocle, is probably the best publication dedicated to PREMIUMIZATION) lists a number of chocolatiers who are going 'bespoke'. Check out firms like Melt, Paul A Young and Sir Hans Sloane Chocolate House for some mouth-watering bespoke inspiration, then figure out if the future of PREMIUMIZATION for your industry is bespoke, too. Hey, Puma is already on board ;-)

Now, even though the food and beverage sector definitely leads the PREMIUMIZATION trend, there's much more going on:

  • The Hasbro FurReal Friends Butterscotch Pony seeks to "fulfill every little girl's dream of having her very own pony." From Hasbro: “Butterscotch is a miniature Shetland pony, with a fur coat and mane that feel just like a real pony. Butterscotch also has built-in sensors all over her body, which enable her to respond to children in lifelike ways. If talked to, she will cock her head toward the speaker quizzically and blink her eyes. She will also react to petting, showing her enjoyment by rubbing her head against a child, twitching her ears, and swishing her tail. At over three feet tall, Butterscotch is more than strong enough to support a rider up to 80 pounds in weight. Along with her brush and carrot, Butterscotch comes with a special adoption certificate.” Hasbro told BusinessWeek that “Butterscotch is an attempt to think beyond the toy industry's usual pricing limits to capture a bigger share of the family budgets that regularly go to iPods and video game consoles.”
  • Portuguese paper products company Renova sells Renova Black, lauded as the first fashionable toilet paper. Price per roll is EUR 2.17. Renova Black is also available as Renova Red, Renova Orange, and Renova Green.

Emirates' First Class private suites

 

Singapore Airlines Suites

 

Jet Airways' Suite in the Sky

  • Air travel has become one massive inspiration source for PREMIUMIZATION. We're not even going to try to list all the business-class-only carriers that have sprung up, some of which are thriving. Also keep a close eye on the PREMIUMIZATION pissing match in First involving airlines like Emirates ('First Class private suites'), Singapore Airlines (12 suites on board of each of its new Airbus 380s) and Jet Airways (Suite in the Sky).
  • The battle continues on terra firma: Lufthansa has been operating a dedicated First Class terminal in Frankfurt for a few years now, and recently opened a second one in Munchen, but got trumped in size and pomp by Qatar Airways' Premium Terminal in Doha. BTW, notice how these exercises in PREMIUMIZATION do wonders for brand and quality perception across the board...
  • Hauzen is Samsung's new premium home appliance brand. Products include a washing machine, kimchi cooler, fridge and air conditioning system. Some of the appliances are designed by well-known Korean designer Andre Kim (that's right, a premium edition within a premium edition). Not available outside South Korea. Yet.
  • The Plantronics Voyager 855 is the first two-in-one stereo bluetooth headset with "exclusive AudioIQ technology for crystal clear wireless sound." Price: USD 120.
  • The KABE Royal Tower is a double-decker caravan. The 8.2 meter long camper is 4.4 meters high, allowing people to stand up straight even on the top deck. The lower deck features a living room, kitchen and breakfast dinette, plus a bedroom with single beds, while the upper deck has a 'lounge' with an L-shaped sofa and a cocktail cabinet. A door from the lounge leads out onto the roof of the front section, which serves as a sunbathing terrace. The new double-decker caravan is fully equipped with air conditioning on both floors, a dishwasher and more. Price: EUR 105,000.
  • Strollers had their PREMIUMIZATION moment a few years ago when Bugaboos and Stokkes burst onto the scene. Now car manufacturers like Porsche want a piece of the premium pie: their stroller folds up small enough to fit in the luggage compartment of almost all sports cars. It comes with pneumatic tires and Carrera S rims for a high-performance ride, as well as a lockable front wheel, a handbrake and parking brake. Price: USD 690.
  • Next: baby furniture. Combining functionality with style, Ooba designs cribs and high chairs that are touted by everyone from the curator of MoMA to French magazines that cater to parents who want to help their children develop a taste for beautiful objects.
  • Lenovo now offers the ThinkPad Reserve Edition laptop, encased in leather. The Reserve Edition is based on the recently released 12.1-inch Lenovo ThinkPad X61s, and comes with 'Blue-Button Instant Access' for instant messaging with dedicated support staff. Price: USD 5,000, sold by invitation only.
  • The Laundress is a collection of high-end fabric detergents and care products. When Lindsey Wieber, a sales executive for Chanel, and Gwen Whiting, a senior designer for Ralph Lauren, realized that their expensive clothes were suffering from dry cleaning, they took matters into their own hands and created The Laundress. Their line of premium fabric care products provides detergents for superior fabrics, from wool/cashmere shampoo to baby detergent. In their own words: “All fabrics are different—everything needs to be treated differently. All of our products were developed for a specific reason.” Adding to the sense of luxury, detergents and care products come in four signature fragrances: Classic, Cedar, Baby and Lady. The Laundress range also includes laundry bags and 'wet' swimsuit pouches.
  • British Feature Radiators proudly states: “Our collection is made up of the best contemporary designer radiators (including stainless steel radiators), traditional cast iron radiators, electric radiators and towel rails on the market. With over 150 radiators on display in our showroom, expert advice, unrivalled customer service and nationwide delivery, feature radiators has been recognized the UK's leading radiator specialist." And regarding their 'Trend' model: "Tall and flat-fronted, this supermodel in the radiator world is an exclusive addition to Feature Radiators' contemporary collection. Made of lightweight aluminum and created by top Italian designers, the Trend not only has a tidy appearance but also has a magnificent heat output. Available in classic white and silver metallic.”

Clearly, the list goes on forever. In 2008, no self-respecting brand, even those who market the most mundane of commodities, will fail to introduce at least one premium version of whatever it is they're peddling. (Candles! Did we mention candles yet? Check out Acqua di Parma's Design Candle Collection, priced at a cool USD 130 per candle). If only for the premium profit margins that are involved. Is your industry or sector next?

3. SNACK CULTURE

SNACK CULTURE represents the 'transient sphere' on steroids, catering to consumers’ insatiable craving for instant gratification. SNACK CULTURE thus embodies the phenomenon of products, services and experiences becoming more temporary and transient; products that are being deconstructed in easier to digest, easier to afford bits, making it possible to collect even more experiences, as often as possible, in an even shorter timeframe. The signs are everywhere, from ubiquitous commerce to fragmented (shattered?) media to fast fashion to temporary ownership to Netflix-style all-you-can-eat models. SNACK CULTURE, like PREMIUMIZATION, is not a 'new new ' trend, but definitely one that will continue to thrive next year.

To get you going, here’s a list of fairly random SNACK CULTURE spottings that is sure to grow longer in 2008:

  • Food & Beverage | Some numbers on actual food snacks from the New York Times:
    • In just three years, sales of 100-calorie packs of crackers, chips, cookies and candy have passed the USD 200-million-a-year mark, and sales grew nearly 30 percent last year. According to analysts, the market for these pint-size packages could easily double because of their simple appeal: they help consumers eat less without having to count calories themselves. The growing popularity of these snack packs may also be another sign that some consumers have had their fill of supersized food.
    • A report from the Hartman Group found that 29 percent of Americans believed that 100-calorie packages were worth the extra cost. For manufacturers, snack packs are about 20 percent more profitable than larger packages.
    • Some snack makers think even 100 calories might be too much for some diet-conscious consumers. Hershey, for example, now sells 60-calorie chocolate bars. And Jell-O sells 60-calorie pudding packs.
  • Which then may explain the success of Chicago-based burger joint Minnies, which proves that bigger isn't always better. Featuring a wide selection of Lilliputian gourmet burgers and sandwiches—including traditional favorites such as grilled cheese and Reubens, alongside the more inventive Mykonos (roast chicken, tzatziki sauce and kalamata tapenade) and Thanksgiving Delight (roast turkey, cranberries and wild rice gravy)—Minnies applies nouvelle cuisine portions to casual dining.
  • Old-school SNACK CULTURE meets PREMIUMIZATION: in Europe, McDonald’s is replacing bolted-down, yellow-and-white plastic furniture with lime green designer chairs and dark leather upholstery. It is the restaurant chain’s biggest overhaul in more than 20 years and, with its franchisees, it plans to spend more than EUR 600 million euros (USD 890 million), remodeling 1,280 European restaurants by the end of this year.

 

  • Laundry care | Procter & Gamble’s Swash offers students dryer sheets, dewrinkling spray, stain-removing pens, odor-removing sprays and lint rollers that can help give their clothes the look and smell of having been washed without the trouble or expense of actual washing.
  • Cosmetics | Take a high-margin product like cosmetics, and cut prices by at least half. Now add online accessibility with customization, community and values. Throw in a pinch of demystifying expert advice, and you've got e.l.f., short for "eyes, lips, face." Launched by New York-based JA Cosmetics roughly three years ago, e.l.f. appears to be turning the cosmetics industry on its ear. All cosmetics cost just USD 1, and customers can create personalized profiles that generate product recommendations and customized looks. e.l.f. currently ships only to US and Canadian addresses, but versions of the site have recently launched for both the UK and Australia. The company 's products are also available in US stores, including Target and a variety of drugstores and convenience chains.

  • Automotive | Just like bicycles, a pretty staid sector suddenly brimming with innovation, the small car sector seems ready for a truly global boom. Eco-concerns, design savvy and an (urban) willingness to regard cars as a utility instead of the ultimate status symbol will lead to a neverending stream of small-car innovations. Keep an eye on the company who kick-started most of this: Smart. Since its introduction in October 1998, nearly 800,000 people in 36 countries have purchased a ‘Smart Fortwo’. The new Smart Fortwo was released in Europe in April 2007 and will become available in the US, for the first time, in Q1 of 2008. The vehicles will be built at a plant in France and will be equipped for the US market. The Smart Fortwo will come in three trim levels—a Pure baseline model that starts under USD 12,000, a Passion Coupe that starts under USD 14,000 and a convertible that starts under USD 17,000. Consumers can place a USD 99 refundable reservation for a production model on the smartusa.com. So far, more than 30,000 reservations have been received.
  • Fast Fashion | Snacks, cars, magazines…. And fashion, of course! If you need to explain SNACK CULTURE to colleagues who may not totally get it (yet), discussing the success of the Zaras and H&Ms of this world will probably do the trick. Whether it’s fast fashion’s fast moving product cycles, low prices, or SNACK-style ‘wear-only-a-few-times'. In fact, shopping for clothes increasingly resembles shopping for groceries.

    The numbers are impressive: H&M’s turnover in 2006 was SEK 68,400,000,000 (EUR 6.8 billion). Currently, H&M has 1,400+ stores in 28 countries. Most of its future expansion will take place in the USA, Spain, Italy, Germany, the UK and Canada. In 2007, H&M opened first-time stores in Hong Kong and Shanghai, with a Tokyo store planned for fall 2008. Zara is part of Spanish Inditex, which also includes fashion chain Bershka. Zara’s turnover (EUR 5.35 billion in 2006) accounts for two-thirds of Inditex’s turnover (EUR 8.2 billion in 2006). For the next years, the focus of Inditex’s expansion will be on Europe (outside home market Spain) and on Japan and China. Zara had 990 stores in 62 countries at the end of last year, and expects to have added another 130-140 before the end of this year.
  • Media | Described as "Rocketboom for Wall Street" and "Squawk Box meets Saturday Night Live", Wallstrip offers stock advice in a format that's second nature to viewers who watch YouTube instead of CNBC. Wallstrip's daily videos are taped in New York, hosted by actress Lindsay Campbell, and feature one public company in every 3-minute online show. Wallstrip was founded in October 2006, aiming to be both sassy and serious while teaching a new generation of investors to pick their own stocks. The show was created by Howard Lindzon, who runs an investment firm and hedge fund in Arizona and a venture capital fund in Toronto. Following Lindzon's personal investment philosophy, the focus is on stocks at all-time highs, like Apple, Google and Toyota, analyzing why they're strong and whether they'll continue to increase in value. 'Man on the street' interviews add to Wallstrip's informal vibe. The show has been voted one of the top podcasts on iTunes, and is also distributed via social video sites like Revver and YouTube. With enough VC backing to wait and see how its own value will develop, Wallstrip is in no hurry to chase advertising revenues, focusing instead on building a dedicated following of valuable eyeballs.

    Wallstrip perfectly fits what Wired Magazine touted as 'snack-o-tainment' earlier this year (yes, that inspired us to come up with SNACK CULTURE). People are becoming accustomed to consuming large amounts of 'bite-size' content rather than the longer-form stuff of traditional media. Online video clips, the iPod Nano, pay-per-view TV shows on iTunes, short games played on handheld devices, the list goes on. From Wired's article:

    “Music, television, games, movies, fashion: We now devour our pop culture the same way we enjoy candy and chips—in conveniently packaged bite-size nuggets made to be munched easily with increased frequency and maximum speed. Today, media snacking is a way of life. In the morning, we check news and tap out emails on our laptops. At work, we graze all day on videos and blogs. Back home, the giant HDTV is for 10-course feasting - say, an entire season of 24. In between are the morsels that fill those whenever minutes, as your mobile phone carrier calls them: a 30-second game on your Nintendo DS, a 60-second webisode on your cell, a three-minute podcast on your MP3 player. Like Homer Simpson at the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, we are capable of devouring whatever is in front of us—down to the plastic crustaceans—and still go fishing for Colbert clips at 3 am.
  • OK, so one more: 20 Minutes, which distributes more than 2,3 million copies every weekday in Spain, France and Switzerland. Forget free newspapers that want 1 hour of your time; 20 minutes is all consumers need to get their daily fix.
  • Surprise | Infusing SNACK CULTURE with a dose of surprise, Singapore beverage company Out of the Box caters to consumers who respond to "What would you like to drink?" with a non-committal "anything" or "whatever". The company has launched two complementary brands: Anything and Whatever. Anything is fizzy and comes in six flavors (Cola with Lemon, Apple, Fizz Up, Cloudy Lemon and Root Beer), while Whatever is non-carbonated (Ice Lemon Tea, Peach Tea, Jasmine Green Tea, White Grape Tea, Apple Tea, Chrysanthemum Tea). The surprise part? Consumers don 't know which flavor they're getting until they take a sip. Cans are simply labeled Anything and Whatever, and the list of ingredients is limited to generic wording. Judging from the buzz on Singapore forums, teens immediately got the concept and are loving it. Surprise fits SNACK CULTURE well, as it satisfies the desire for the thrill, for discovery. Worth bringing a surprise to market in 2008, even if it's just a one-off, and even if only for creating a buzz.
  • People | SNACK CULTURE applies to more than consumption of goods and services. Consider Adult FriendFinder, the ‘casual encounters’ site now claiming more than 19 million active members. (Real world) sex too has now become something that can be instantly gratified, with the help from millions of other ‘willing and able’ participants. The ‘rate before you date’ features add a level of TRANSPARENCY TYRANNY, too.

Note: not everything will come in bite-size format. If only for the mass-scale infrastructure that is needed to jet off countless ‘sun snack’ travelers, or to ship those millions of containers loaded with SNACK CULTURE goods and ingredients. So in addition to the ever-smaller, we’re seeing the ever-bigger. In fact, 'biggest of the biggest' is going to grab quite a few headlines in 2008. Check out:

  • The Emma Mærsk was named in August 2007 at Odense Steel Shipyard, Denmark, and at 397 meters long, 56 meters wide and at 11,000 TEU*, she and her sister vessels** are the largest container vessels in the world. EMMA MÆRSK, and three of her sister vessels, are visiting the following ports: Algeciras, Bremerhaven, Hong Kong, Ningbo, Rotterdam, Suez Canal, Tanjung Pelepas, Yantian and Xiamen.
  • Singapore Airlines debuted the first of its new A380 airplanes last month. Singapore Airlines has configured the aircraft in a 471-seat layout, even though it has the potential to hold 853 people in full economy class configuration.

* TEU stands for 'twenty-foot equivalent unit'; a measure of volume based on the size of a container that is twenty feet long by eight feet wide by eight feet high.

** There will be a total of eight of these mammoth ships, with the last one due for delivery to Mærsk Line in January 2008.

Oh, and then we haven't even discussed SNACK CULTURE infiltrating banking (ING Direct, anyone?) or hotels (from Ginger Hotels to Yotel to Qbic)... Needless to say, we’re truly looking forward to your transient, SNACK CULTURE innovations in 2008. Let us know, so that we can include them in our 2009 overview ;-)

SEE-HEAR-BUY

  • SNACK CULTURE meets 'Instant Gratification 2.0': the growing number of sophisticated SEE-HEAR-BUY services that enable consumers to instantly purchase anything virtual they see or hear. Best example to watch in 2008: the iTunes WiFi Music Store. How it works: when a user hears a particular song playing at his or her local Starbucks, he/she can instantly find the artist, album and name of the track on his iPhone or iPod Touch. By tapping the Starbucks button in either device's main menu, the current song shows up, as well as the last ten songs played. They can be purchased and downloaded instantly via Starbucks' wifi connection.
  • Amazon.com's just-launched Kindle, a digital book reading device, is going after the same market for the written word, with books and (international or niche) paper-based magazines as the most desirable 'must have right now' items. (We're not sure about charging for otherwise free blogs, though ;-)
  • However, taking the SEE-HEAR-BUY trend one step further is Midomi; anyone who's ever had a song stuck in his or her head (and who hasn't?) but was unable to place the title or artist is bound to think Midomi pure genius. Users need only sing, hum or whistle a few bars into their computer microphones, and this online search engine can match the tune against its ever-growing musical library. The customer then has the option to purchase the track and can connect with others who share the same musical interests. Currently available in six languages and with more than two million licensed music tracks and a growing collection of user-created files, Midomi still has lots of potential for further enhancements, such as allowing for customers to call Midomi and download songs directly to their mobile devices.

So... Who's going to build similar SEE-HEAR-BUY services in 2008 for looking up movies, television shows and even commercials by just saying a few lines? And how will these instant gratification services further shape expectations among demanding, INFOLUSTY consumers? More on this in our January 2008 Briefing, which will highlight the EXPECTATION ECONOMY. Stay tuned ;-)

 

4. ONLINE OXYGEN

Online Oxygen

Ah, the Online Revolution, the mega-trend that keeps on giving, one that single-handedly dominates the 'connecting sphere'. While Web 2.0 has already single-handledly created young brands that are now bigger and more valuable (at least on paper) than many an old economy stalwart, Web 3.0 and 4.0 and 5.0 guarantee enough motion for this innovation-orgasm to continue uninterrupted for years to come. Five years ago, we introduced ONLINE OXYGEN as the engine behind all this excitement: control-craving consumers needing online access as much as they need oxygen.

Fast forward to 2008, when we would need a thousand pages/screens to highlight every noteworthy online sub-trend and Big Idea to watch; the Joosts and Androids and Spores and ordering burgers in Seoul by RFID and the hundreds of yet-unknown start-ups that are about to make an appearance on TechCrunch. So instead, we'll look at a few developments that will spread and encourage ONLINE OXYGEN even further in the next few years to come.

If there's one device that's going to introduce another few hundred million people to the online world, it's the phone. And yes, initiatives like Google's Android and 'their bidding on the 700MHz band' and WiMax and so on are definitely going to speed things up. We know this is not a new insight, and nor will it happen overnight in 2008, but if you're inclined to look beyond 2008, consider this:

  • Right now, there are 2.7 billion mobile phones in use.
  • The number of worldwide mobile phone users is expected to grow to approximately 3.3 billion in 2011. The Asia-Pacific region is expected to account for 47.9% of global subscribers by 2011.
  • Globally, nearly 1 in 3 mobile subscribers will use a mobile broadband connection by 2012. This will represent over 1 billion users.

(Sources: Juniper, EITO, MIC, Strategy Analytics.)

2008 will also see a number of initiatives to bring (back) ONLINE OXYGEN to the last vestiges of offline-ness, the pockets of the real world that have managed to keep even regular mobile broadband connections at bay (planes, trains, and automobiles anyone?):

  • Even though Boeing discontinued its Connexion inflight internet service last year, don't count on consumers' insatiable demand to be online 24/7 to remain unmet forever. In fact, the problem wasn't passenger demand; the satellite-based service was simply too expensive and too heavy (weight equals cost in aviation). So Lufthansa and American Airlines are among the first airlines to bring back inflight internet somewhere in 2008. Lufthansa is working with T-Mobile to bring back wifi to its planes and will also offer text messaging, e-mail and data access for cell phones, but not phone calls.

    American Airlines has signed up with AirCell and will initially test a broadband service on trans-Atlantic flights on its fleet of 767s. Virgin America has also teamed up with AirCell to offer broadband internet services for passengers traveling in the continental US sometime in 2008. The service will allow passengers to go online using either Virgin America's Red inflight entertainment system or their own wifi-enabled devices while in flight. Virgin America will launch the service across its entire fleet of aircraft.

    Meanwhile, Australian carrier Qantas will offer wifi and electrical outlets on its new A380 and renovated 747-400s in the second half of 2008.
  • European high speed train operator Thalys will provide wireless broadband internet access to passengers traveling in Comfort 1 and Comfort 2 between Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne by 2008. It will be the first international high speed train to provide this service across European borders. A consortium, consisting of Nokia Siemens Networks, satellite operator 21NET and Belgium broadband cable operator Telenet, will combine satellite, GPRS and UMTS technologies with wireless networks similar to wifi hotspots to provide a continuous internet connection on board trains traveling across the borders at speeds of 300 km/h. The first Thalys trains equipped with wifi will run commercially in the next few weeks.
  • AutonetAutonet Mobile is a wireless internet service designed to maintain seamless connectivity while driving. The service turns a car into a wifi hotspot, allowing multiple people to connect their own wifi-enabled computers to the internet. Autonet runs over both 3G and 2.5G cellular data networks. Users simply plug the in-car router into their cigarette car lighter, connect their wifi device(s) and surf the net. Autonet Mobile claims to be effective on more than 95% of roads in the US. Avis is the first corporate customer of Autonet, rebranding the service as Avis Connect. Avis Connect is currently available at San Francisco, Las Vegas, Newark, New York LaGuardia, Chicago O’Hare and Chicago Midway, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Miami, West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale airports, as well as at a San Francisco Avis office. The cost of the Avis Connect service is USD 10.95 per day. For individual users, the equipment will cost USD 399 plus monthly costs.

ECOMMERCE | THE SEQUEL

Sometimes, the Next Big Thing can be right under your nose. Consider the online riches to be reaped in 2008 from... ecommerce! Sure, it's been around for years and years, but prepare for a forceful 'sequel'. After all, never before have so many consumers been willing to overcome security threats, still shockingly bad (or boring) design, and delivery screwups. In other words, 2008 could be a goldmine for smart e-tailers, who, if they get their act together, could make billions and billions of dollars, euros, pounds, yen, kroner, lira and rand that are impatiently waiting to be spent by web-savvy consumers around the world.
So iIn 2008, spend blood, sweat and tears on improving your ecommerce presence; the pay-off will be immediate, and far more substantial than investing in Web 2.0 me-toos!

We'll let the numbers do (some of) the talking:

  • Some very recent US holiday spending numbers: online retail spending hit a record USD733m on 'Cyber Monday', the Monday after Thanksgiving which usually represents the first significant spike in online holiday spending in the US. The spend figure increased by 21% on last year and was an 84% jump from the average daily online spending totals during the preceding four weeks, according to ComScore. More than USD 10.7bn has been spent online during the holiday season, covering the first 26 days of November 2007, a 17% increase on the same period last year.
    All in all, ecommerce in the US is expected to reap sales of USD 259 billion this year, representing an 18% gain over 2006.
  • Forrester estimates that in the US, almost USD 400 billion of store sales — or 16% of total retail sales — are directly influenced by the web as consumers research products online and purchase them offline. This will expand at a 17% compounded annual growth rate over the next five years, resulting in more than USD 1 trillion of store sales by 2012.
  • In the UK, online shopping sales exceeded GBP 4 billion a month for the first time in July 2007. On a 12-month basis, online sales are up 36%. (Source: Brand Republic.)
  • South Korea's ecommerce sales soared more than 26% in 2006, thanks to increased spending on children's goods, fashion and sports-related items. Combined ecommerce transactions reached 13.45 trillion won (USD 14.29 billion). (Source: Yonhap.)

Now, if you want some tried and tested tips and examples of how to make the most of your ecommerce presence in 2008, including collaborative filtering 2.0, upselling and cross-selling, establishing offline outposts for your online brand, real world pick-up services, luxury e-tailing, group buying services and more, you will have to purchase the 2008 Trend Report. But even if you decide to stick just to this Briefing, we hope ECOMMERCE | THE SEQUEL is on your radar now!

NETHOODS

OK, one more ONLINE OXYGEN subtrend, if not sub-sub-trend: our two cents on social networking. As discussed in earlier briefings, nichification based on interest, background, affiliation, hobbies, travel destinations and so on is now a fact. In fact, expect experienced social networkers to not only have a Facebook, Xing, Bebo, Linkedin or MySpace profile, but to also spend time on smaller networking sites (from Mesh Tennis to Yideoz to Goodreads to Trupoli to KLM Airlines' Club China to (soon) DanceJam) when things get, well, focused.

So what's next for 2008? One thing to watch is social networks of any kind going local, if not hyperlocal. Neighborhoods. Streets. Buildings. Floors. Like many subtrends, this one isn't spanking new, in fact, we dubbed this opportunity NETHOODS ("neighborhoods, streets and even apartment buildings will get their own internet and intranet sites: not just to promote the many qualities they have to offer their (prospective) inhabitants, but also to provide communal interaction and localized services") in 2003, but sometimes timing is everything, and now that networking on a grander scale is in place, connecting locals if not neighbors is just a business opportunity waiting to happen. To get you going, here's what our sister publication Springwise New Business Ideas recently wrote about LifeAt:

  • Launched in March 2007, LifeAt offers property managers a turnkey solution for launching a 'nethood' for their building. So far, over 335 buildings have joined. The property websites are private and password protected, for use by residents only. Besides offering a platform where residents can meet and communicate, sites also allow users to post classified ads and rate and review local businesses. In addition, property managers post news about vacancies and maintenance work. By connecting people who tend to share not only a building but also similar socioeconomic backgrounds, and offering them a source of hyperlocal information, LifeAt is creating valuable links between cyberspace and 'meatspace'. The concept is likely to find a wider audience now that people of all ages are getting used to sharing information online. Free for residents, LifeAt charges buildings a one-off fee of around USD 6,000 to create and launch a site. One to set up in other countries? And how about a version focusing specifically on office buildings? Also check out Neighborology, Neighbours.ie, and townconnect.com.

Yours to run with in 2008, and yes, if you do this well (just think of the local advertising opportunities), Google Local or Yellow Pages will buy you. Don't forget, all politics and business is local ;-)

5. ECO-ICONIC

The reason so many people fell for our ECO-FATIGUE spoof last month (rest assured, we'll never spoof anyone again ;-) is that an eco-backlash is actually quite plausible. After all, while millions of consumers are firmly rooted in the aforementioned ECO-SPHERE, millions of others are not. But let's focus on those who are now getting their status fix from consuming in a more sustainable manner.

Over the past few years, the ECO trend has moved from ECO-UGLY (ugly, over-priced, low performance alternatives to shiny 'traditional sphere' products and services) to ECO-CHIC (eco-friendly stuff that actually looks as nice and cool as the less responsible version) to ECO-ICONIC in 2008: "Eco-friendly goods and services sporting bold, iconic design and markers, that help their eco-conscious owners to visibly tout their eco-credentials to peers."

So what does ECO-ICONIC look like? How about the new Honda FCX Clarity, or the Mitsubishi I, or the Bahrain World Trade Center:

  • Honda's FCX Clarity is a fuel cell vehicle that runs on electricity powered by hydrogen, and emits only water vapor and heat. It will be certified by the California Air Resources Board as a Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) and by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Tier-2 Bin 1, the lowest possible federal EPA emission rating. It will also receive an EPA Inherently Low Emission Vehicle rating due to its entirely sealed fuel system. It will qualify for accessing High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in California with just one person on board. As the fuel cell technology was developed by Honda exclusively for the FCX Clarity, and was not retrofitted to an existing model, Honda's engineers "cleared away all preconceived notions of automobile design, challenging themselves to discover the new possibilities that can only be realized with the fuel cell vehicle." Our verdict: the FCX will be more recognizable than the Prius, making an even more telling statement about the owner's 'STATUS SPHERE'.
  • Another zero-emission car with iconic potential is the Mitsubishi i, first exhibited at the 40th Tokyo Motor Show, this September. From the brochure: "The 'fastback' exterior design expresses the quickness of the car with an appearance that is pleasing and lively. Geometry, metallic materials and body epitomize the futuristic electric vehicle. The light green exterior marks another association with nature. The pearlescent paint, which shines when hit with direct light, brings feelings of advanced, futuristic technology and environmental peace of mind."
  • The Bahrain World Trade Center is the first commercial building in the world to incorporate large-scale wind turbines within its design to harness wind power. It has three massive wind turbines that measure 29 meters in diameter that are supported on bridges between the BWTC’s two 240 meter high towers. The tower structures themselves help funnel the existing on-shore Gulf breeze that is used to generate greater power efficiency. Very….iconic!

When designing your 2008 or 2009 eco-product line, don't mirror what's already out there in the non-eco world, but be bold, original, and yes, iconic. Whether it's cars, buildings or detergent bottles. Find your own Jonathan Ive (see trend #8, CROWD MINING) and get going.

ECO-EMBEDDED

There's also going to be some serious ECO-EMBEDDED activity taking place in 2008, with governments taking the lead. After all, corporations’ and consumers’ good intentions don’t always cut it. So expect 2008 to see much more of the 'fourth R', aka regulation (remember: reduce, reuse, recycle..) For more on this, see our 2008 Trend Report.

6. BRAND BUTLERS

Consider this for 2008: if consumers value the authentic, the practical, the exclusive, and they're also forever looking to make life more convenient, even save some time, then why persist in bombarding them with your mega-million dollar/euro/pound, one-way advertising campaigns? Instead of stalking potential and existing customers (which is not very 2008), why not assist them in smart, relevant ways, making the most of your products and whatever it is your brand stands for? Remember, giving is the new taking ;-)

Think baby food or diaper brands opening a lounge area, including diaper-changing facilities and microwaves, for parents and their offspring at a major airport or in malls. Or a bank installing secure, high-tech lockers next to the beach, so beachgoers can safely store their belongings when going for a swim or walk.

Now, we're not branding gurus, and we're not suggesting that BRAND BUTLERS is the new (or rehashed) 'lovemark', but if the following examples don't inspire you to do something truly useful and new with (a small part of) your advertising budget in 2008, then we don't know what will:

  • Continuing the tradition of using shipping containers to house all things pop-up, a spotting from the Netherlands caught our eye. At the Lowlands music festival, jeans brand Wrangler offered festival-goers a much-needed service: laundry. At 18 meters wide and 9 meters high, the Wrangler Laundromat was hard to miss. People dropped off their mud-encrusted laundry and were sent a text message the moment it was ready. No change of clothes? Wrangler came up with a generous solution to that problem, too: they handed out black overalls to anyone who used the laundromat. Like most other pop-up ventures, Wrangler Laundromat is an exercise in experiential marketing, aimed at surprising and delighting consumers in a way that magazine ads or TV spots usually can't.
  • Wrangler isn't the only brand to have tackled dirty laundry at pop festivals. In Slovenia, home appliance manufacturer Zanussi-Electrolux has been offering free laundry services at Rock Otočec for several years and has cleaned thousands of muddy t-shirts and jeans. After picking up their spotless garments, visitors are given a "Dear Mom, I'm clean" postcard to send home.
  • Acknowledging that traveling with infants can be a strain on both parents and children, Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport opened the Schiphol Babycare Lounge by Nutricia last summer (2007). Located in the airport's main departure terminal, the lounge is (as the name indicates) a co-branding effort by Schiphol and Nutricia, a Dutch baby food brand. Designed by MV Architects, the lounge is serenely stylish and geared to ensuring a baby's well-being while en route. The 90 m2 area features seven circular 'cabins', each of which can be closed off with sheer curtains to create a personal zone. The booths have comfortable circular seating curving around a crib. Lights in the lounge are dimmed for sleeping babies, with individual reading lights for parents. For infants that need a bit of distraction, each booth has a gadget that projects colored lights onto the ceiling, just above the crib. Other facilities include a changing area, baby baths and a microwave for heating food. Although Nutricia hasn't stocked a pantry with samples of their own baby food, the brand does offer tips on baby nutrition and traveling with children. The space is open daily from 6 am to 10 pm, accessible free of charge to parents and children aged 0–3.
  • Also check out Turkish diaper brand Evy Baby, which is reaching out to parents by placing changing rooms in Turkish shopping malls. The diaper manufacturer has already installed 22 changing rooms in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, Adana and Mersin. Each clean and cheerful room has a changing table and comfortable chairs for nursing. And, of course, samples of Evy Baby's products.
  • More on sanitary stops meeting BRAND BUTLERS: Charmin restrooms. Due to its success last year (close to 430,000 people made use of the service), Procter and Gamble's bathroom tissue brand has just reopened its temporary 20-stall restroom in the heart of Times Square at 1540 Broadway, between 45th and 46th Streets. Open until 31 December 2007, the facilities offer clean, deluxe bathrooms, baby changing stations, stroller parking, seating areas and of course lots of luxury toilet and bath tissue (including Charmin's new product lineup, which includes a choice between Ultra Soft and Ultra Strong versions). Specially designed, water-conserving toilets and faucets are provided by Kohler, while cleanliness is guaranteed by the presence of plenty of bathroom attendants.
  • MeridienHotel chain Le Méridien is marketing itself as a destination for art enthusiasts. As part of its “Unlock Art” program, it has cut deals with local contemporary cultural institutions to allow hotel guests free entry by presenting their artist-designed room key cards and it has hired modern art curator Jérôme Sans to organize special exhibits. Partner arts institutions include the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, the Museum of Contemporary Arts (MOCA) in Shanghai, the Vienna Succession, Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, Galleriiizu Contemporary Arts Centre in Kuala Lumpur, and About Studio/About Café in Bangkok. Ultimately, the goal is for every Le Méridien hotel worldwide to have partnerships with leading cultural institutions.
  • Austrian Airlines offers passengers free entry to cultural institutions in Vienna with their boarding cards. Passengers traveling with the airline can keep the tear-off stub from their used boarding cards (along with a photo ID) for free entry to five museums in Vienna.

Again, there is no brand that cannot apply the BRAND BUTLERS trend in 2008. Being relevant (gasp), assisting and facilitating potential and existing customers when they truly appreciate it (as opposed to inundating them with advertising) will go down well. Promise. More examples in our 2008 Trend Report.

7. MIY | MAKE IT YOURSELF

Let's have a more in-depth look at the 'participation sphere'. For years, we've been going on about GENERATION C, with the C mainly representing 'content'. In other words, digital creation. Pictures. Movies. Blogs. Music.

It's a mainstream trend now, one that keeps giving, with millions of consumers uploading their creative endeavors online, and tens of millions of others enjoying the fruits of their creativity. User-generated content, at least in the online world, has grown from a teenage hobby to an almost equal contender to established entities in news, media, entertainment and craft.

And yes, as predicted, GENERATION C is increasingly being rewarded for its output. In fact, with some members of GENERATION C attracting mass audiences, there's real money to be made. In its first year, video sharing site Revver, which matches every video uploaded with advertisements and splits the ad revenue 50/50 with the video's creator and then shares 20% off the top with the video's distributor, has paid USD 1 million to video creators and sharers.

So what's next for GENERATION C? With (in particular younger) consumers having come to expect to be able to create anything they want as long as it is digital, and to customize and personalize many physical goods, the next frontier will be digitally designing products from scratch, then having them turned into real physical goods as well. In fact, expect MIY | MAKE IT YOURSELF (and then SIY | SELL IT YOURSELF) ventures to become increasingly sophisticated in the next 12 months:

  • New Zealand-based Ponoko (which works like a CafePress for 3D objects) is offering consumers a new way to turn their creative ideas into real-world objects. After uploading their own design to the website (in EPS file format), or choosing a free design, users can choose from a variety of materials. Ponoko then runs the design through a laser cutter. Besides offering access to professional tools to manufacture products, Ponoko also helps users bring their products to market. Once they’re ready to sell, members can add photos of their product to their profile page, together with a description and pricing information. Products can either be delivered to the designer for assembly before being shipped to customers, or self-assembly products can be sent directly to the end-customer. Ponoko currently only offers two-dimensional sheet cutting, which limits designs to flat objects or three-dimensional objects that can be assembled from flat pieces, but plans for 3D printing are in the works.

    As well as being a manufacturing platform, Ponoko also serves as a community where fledgling one-off fabricators and designers can exchange ideas and help solve each other’s problems. The larger goal, according to Ponoko, is to be a catalyst that helps bring personal manufacturing of individualized products to the masses.
  • Swedish design group FRONT has launched Sketch Furniture, which is a method to materialize freehand sketches. Pen strokes made in the air are recorded with Motion Capture, and the resulting 3-D patterns are output digitally to a laser sintering machine. Over several days, the machine produces the object by shaping and hardening 0.1-mm layers of liquid plastic. Sketch Furniture is on view and on sale (about USD 10,500 per piece) at the Barry Friedman Gallery in New York.
  • Fab Lab Bcn (Barcelona) is part of the worldwide network of Fab Labs, an initiative of MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, and provides a laser-cutter, water jet, 3D printer, mini-mill and other machines for participants to use. Fab Lab Bcn's 4x8 Workshops focus on creating objects from 4x8 feet sheets of plywood using digital tools. One of Fab Lab's initiators is Neil Gershenfeld, professor at MIT and author of FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop. Other Fab Labs have been opened in rural India, northern Norway, Ghana, Boston and Costa Rica.

Even sweeter? Designing something and then have it made at home (which reminds us of INSPERIENCES):

  • The Desktop Factory 3D printer, with a list price of USD 4,995, uses an inexpensive halogen light source and drum printing technology to build robust parts from composite plastic powder, layer by layer. Desktop Factory envisages that within three years, Desktop Factory's 3D printers will be affordable for home use.
Now, we're not saying every consumer is going to design and manufacture his or her own furniture or appliances. Rather, MIY is yet another piece of the participation puzzle: enabling those consumers who feel like it to call the shots, bypassing traditional players. In future briefings we’ll address the implications of what this choice – being able to consume ready-made or create their own versions of anything and everything – will mean for the behavior and expectations of younger generations.

8. CROWD MINING

No! Not another crowd-esque trend! Don't worry; CROWD MINING is simply a moniker for how we see crowd-based business concepts evolving in 2008. But first let's take a look at some of the 'crowd pleasers' we enjoyed tracking this year:

  • Remember SellaBand, which lets fans sponsor unknown bands and artists by buying the band's shares or parts? (Once a band has raised USD 50,000 by selling 5,000 parts, SellaBand sets up a professional recording session. The recorded songs are sold to new fans, and both the artists and owners of their parts (Believers) receive a share of the income generated through music sales and advertising revenues.) They're certainly having fun: a few weeks ago, Believers who own parts in Cubworld, Nemesea, Second Person and Maitreya received their first payout, which was transferred to their Believer Balance. While the first payout wasn't massive (in SellaBand's words: "Enough to buy a beer at the pub, or maybe even a round or two"), it's a sign that SellaBand's crowdfunding and crowdrewarding model is working as planned. Ad revenues are expected to grow over the next few months, as SellaBand is working on deals with media agencies for countries outside their main three markets—the Netherlands, United States and United Kingdom. One to watch in 2008.
  • MyFootballClub, which launched in May 2007, recently announced that they've agreed to buy a controlling stake in Ebbsfleet United FC, with the option to buy the the remaining share in the future. To refresh your memory: in less than three months, MyFootballClub signed up 50,000 people willing to pay a GBP 35 membership fee to buy and manage a soccer team with a crowd of other dedicated fans. MyFootballClub members will vote on player selection, transfers and all other major decisions. When it got down to picking a team to buy, MyFootballClub was approached by nine football club owners and also sought contact with several others. Some of the crowd's favorite clubs didn't make the cut, because they had too much debt or were too regional. One of the reasons for picking Ebbsfleet United is that it stands a good chance to reach the national Football League. We'll definitely keep score of this one in 2008.
  • P2P banking pioneers Zopa and Prosper are still doing well, in fact, P2P banking is an excellent example of how fast a new concept can spread, and also how much opportunity remains in turning consumers into mini-banks. Quick recap: peer-to-peer lending marketplaces allow people to lend money directly to others, cutting out banks and other middlemen. Which means better interest rates for borrowers and higher returns for lenders. Described as eBay for loans, the P2P money exchanges work as follows: borrowers list loan details and a personal profile, and lenders bid on the loan. Lowest interest rates win. Lenders bid in increments and minimize their risk by bidding on numerous loans. A study by Online Banking Report predicts that by 2011 person-to-person lending in the US could surpass 100,000 loans a year, worth more than USD 1 billion. Unlike eBay, which can connect buyers and sellers from around the world, peer-to-peer lending is generally bound by local financial regulations. Which means there's ample room for national or regional versions. Besides Zopa and Prosper, here’s what was out there last time we looked, from the promising to the obscure, and from the established to ‘coming soon’:

    So... lots of innovation going on, yet there’s plenty of room for a second player in all of these markets; and dozens of countries don’t yet have a P2P banking brand. And what about the many other financial concepts waiting to be explored, from crowd investments (check out You Be The VC) to insurance plays? Will more consumers become comfortable with these concepts? Will big banks step in? This one too is all yours in 2008 ;-)

Now, let's go back to CROWD MINING: when co-creating, co-funding, co-buying, co-designing, co-managing *anything* with 'crowds', the emphasis in 2008 will move from just getting the masses in, to mining those crowds for the rough and polished diamonds. How to do that? Shower them with love, respect and heaps of money, of course. Two examples, from Netflix and Google, setting the standards for CROWD MINING in 2008:

Netflix Prize
  • Still going strong: Netflix, the DVD rental site, is offering a Grand Prize of USD 1 million to the individual who can substantially improve the accuracy of predictions about how much someone is going to love a movie based on their movie preferences. From their site (great copy if you ever want to set up something similar for your own brand):

    “Netflix is all about connecting people to the movies they love. To help customers find those movies, we’ve developed our world-class movie recommendation system: Cinematch. Now there are a lot of interesting alternative approaches to how Cinematch works that we haven’t tried. We’re curious whether any of these can beat Cinematch by making better predictions.

    So, we thought we’d make a contest out of finding the answer. It’s 'easy', really. We provide you with a lot of anonymous rating data, and a prediction accuracy bar that is 10% better than what Cinematch can do on the same training data set. If you develop a system that we judge most beats that bar on the qualifying test set we provide, you get serious money and the bragging rights. But (and you knew there would be a catch, right?) only if you share your method with us and describe to the world how you did it and why it works. To keep things interesting, in addition to the Grand Prize, we’re also offering a USD 50,000 Progress Prize each year the contest runs. It goes to the team whose system we judge shows the most improvement over the previous year’s best accuracy bar on the same qualifying test set. No improvement, no prize."

    To keep things transparent, progress can be monitored on an online leaderboard. So far, more than 27,000 contestants from 161 countries have submitted their guesses, with the winner for 2007 being Team KorBell for their October 2007 submission, achieving an 8.43% improvement over Cinematch, which netted them the USD 50,000 Progress Prize. Now, they got close, but not close enough, which means the USD 1 million grand prize is still up for grabs ;-)

  • The Open Handset Alliance's most prominent member, Google, is developing Android: the first complete, open, and free mobile platform. To support the quest for apps that surprise and delight mobile users, to be created by developers around the world, Google has launched the Android Developer Challenge, which will provide USD 10 million in awards for innovative applications. The first part of the challenge (submissions are accepted from January 2 through March 3, 2008), will reward 50 entries with USD 25,000 to fund further development. Those selected will then be eligible for even greater recognition via ten USD 275,000 awards and ten USD 100,000 awards.

So... What's your brand's biggest challenge (or opportunity), and what kind of dough would you be willing to dole out to have brilliant crowds solve it for you in 2008?

Opportunities

Sure, there's much, much more in 2008 that's worthy of your attention. But for now, take any of the eight trends above, sit down with your colleagues and/or clients, and figure out how, in 2008, to come up with at least one new premium product, one 'snack' version of an existing product, two or three major tweaks to your ecommerce presence, one eco-iconic innovation, two or three marketing campaigns that are about aiding consumers, not stalking them, introducing one MIY concept, and asking the rest of the world for help with at least one of your company's major opportunities or challenges.

For some help, don't forget our 'How to Apply Trends' checklist:

  1. Vision—Do these trends have the potential to influence or shape your company's vision?
  2. New business concepts—Can these trends point you to new business concepts, or entirely new ventures?
  3. New products, services, experiences—Can these trends inspire you to add 'something' new for a certain customer segment?
  4. Marketing, advertising, PR—Will these trends help you speak the language of those consumers that are already 'living' a trend?
Tips

For more tips on how to apply trends, please check out our Trend Tips section.

And, hey—we're counting on the entrepreneurs amongst you to turn some of these predictions into self-fulfilling prophecies in 2008!