September 2012 Trend Briefing:
Consumer and business trends that will yield you some profitable innovations.
Mini Trends


In a world of global hyper-consumption and creative destruction, there are now more consumer trends than you can swing a stick at. Here's just a small selection of 'mini' consumer and business trends that are currently on our radar. And to underscore just how global the game has become, the mini-trends are accompanied by examples from Dubai, France, South Africa, the US, Brazil, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Kenya, China, Spain, Colombia, Japan and many more. All begging to be assessed, applied, partnered with, monetized. How's that for hands-on NEWISM? ;-)


The 'Internet of Things' is finally becoming reality, and what better way to deliver on this tech trend than introducing applications that really serve consumers, like proper 'tech domestics'. Just a few examples, revolving around alarm clocks (yes, alarm clocks!), but you'll get the (bigger) point and opportunity:

Winter Wake-Up

Winter Wake-Up is an app that functions as a standard alarm clock, but (by connecting to online weather forecasts) wakes users earlier than usual if there has been unexpected snow or icy conditions during the night. Users can choose not to be woken at all if extreme conditions make their commute hopeless. 

Uniqlo Wake Up

In a similar vein, Uniqlo Wake Up is a free app which wakes users up with music automatically created based on the weather, with a melodic voice to announce the time, conditions and day of the week.


CUSTOWNERS are consumers who move from passively consuming a product towards actually funding/investing, if not owning a stake, in the brands they buy from. However, these increasingly business-savvy audiences are often looking for both a financial and an emotional return, and therefore only brands that are open, friendly, honest, trusted, transparent, and somewhat ‘human’ will find themselves able to attract enthusiastic CUSTOWNERS:

Buitengewone Varkens

Buitengewone Varkens is a Dutch company that accepts investments in its herd of pigs in exchange for pork products over a three year period. Interested consumers begin by investing EUR 100 in the company's pigs, which are bred sustainably and allowed to live naturally outdoors.


CircleUp is an online platform that enables consumer retail companies to raise funds from a panel of investors. Companies that wish to gain investment must have raised at least USD one million in the year preceding their application. They can use CircleUp to communicate with investors and find funding of between USD 100,000 and one million.

Leon Bonds

UK-based healthy fast food franchise Leon created Leon Bonds to raise GBP 1.5 million from its loyal customers (rather than corporate investors), so it could further expand and open new locations. Investors (of a minimum GBP 1,500 for three years) receive interest and other non-edible perks in return.


For truly time starved consumers, nothing beats the simplicity and convenience of ordering or paying with a single touch, swipe, tap or button press. See also our CASH-LESS trend. The question brands need to answer: is what you offer integral or valuable enough to your customers to award ONE TOUCH WONDER status to?


Smart Drop

The Evian Chez Vous website lets residents of Paris order bottled water for direct delivery to their homes and businesses. Users can order other products from the Danone group, including Badoit or Volvic water. In 2013, the service will be accompanied by the Smart Drop; a wifi-enabled fridge magnet allowing members to order water automatically by pushing a button.

Red Tomato Pizza

The VIP Fridge Magnet from Dubai's Red Tomato Pizza allows customers to order their favourite pizza at the touch of a button. Members of the loyalty program were sent free magnets, which use a smartphone's Bluetooth functionality to connect to the Internet. Once customers have pressed the button on the magnet, the pizza is delivered to their registered address.

Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel

Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel teamed up with Barcelona-based biometric payment provider PayTouch so that guests (who register upon arrival) can make payments with their fingerprints. All the facilities at the destination are equipped with print scanning devices so that visitors needn't carry their wallets or cards around.


For many, entrepreneurialism is a new status symbol, with tech entrepreneurialism at the top of the pyramid. Young people especially are hungrily going after entrepreneurial opportunities, as they're empowered by (and indeed, more proficient in) the online technologies that make it possible to both create and grow a business with little investment. In the years to come, expect plenty of budding teenage tycoons to take on traditional, serious, 'proper' yet often-out-of-touch businesses:


Connecticut-based Hiccupops, a sweet innovation from 13-year-old entrepreneur Mallory Kievman, produces lollipops that put a stop to hiccups. The combination of apple cider vinegar and sugar stimulates the nerves in the user's throat and cancels the hiccup reflex.

Teens in Tech Incubator

The Teens in Tech Incubator (Silicon Valley) is an eight week hands-on program for entrepreneurs between the ages of 13-19 who are serious about building products and learning about entrepreneurship.

I Love My Life

Chinese twin sisters Viviandan and Miu Miu run the fashion blog I Love My Life under the username 呛口小辣椒 (which in English means 'Tiny Chili Peppers'). The fashion blog is so popular that there are thousands of items on ecommerce platform Taobao tagged with their Chinese username. The teenagers earn money from the site by featuring products.

Caine's Arcade

Caine's Arcade, a film about 13 year old, California-based Caine Monroy's hand-built cardboard arcade, became a viral sensation and led to the creation of a scholarship fund for innovative kids.


Developed by 16-year old Nick D'Aloisio in his London bedroom, Summly is an app that condenses information from web browsing into simple summaries. The software uses artificial intelligence, a specialized coherence algorithm, and machine learning to help collect the most relevant sentences from text.

Junior MasterChef Australia

Junior MasterChef, is a spinoff from the MasterChef series that started in the UK and has been aired in 29 countries worldwide. This weekly series features kid home chefs aged 8 to 12, competing against one another in a point system to be declared the best kid home chef in Australia. They are judged by the adult MasterChef judges, guest chefs and even have cook offs against adult celebrity chefs. Unlike the adult series, these kids are shown techniques, helped by the judges in a pinch and given more positive feedback. Even those eliminated are given prizes. The winner of the Junior MasterChef title is given an AUD15,000 trust fund.


Governments in the 'developed' world are (running) out of money, while in many 'emerging' nations and cities, governments can't keep up with the breakneck demand for their services. All this creates huge opportunities for brands that offer more than just products and services for sale. Basically, BRAND BUTLERS, but on a civic scale. And yes, we know that in an ideal world, brands shouldn't have to do this, and that brand-creep is always a potential issue. So apply wisely:


OUTsurance is a South African insurance company that put traffic wardens on the streets of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Tshwane – to ease the traffic flow at dangerous or congested junctions.

Pothole Brigade

In South Africa, insurance firm Dial Direct launched the Pothole Brigade, a road maintenance initiative that repaired over 50,000 potholes (at a cost of ZAR one million per month) in and around Johannesburg, as drivers reported them. Sadly, red tape recently killed the initiative, but there are plenty of other cities that could benefit from a similar set-up.

Telefonica Vivo

The Brazilian Secretary of State for Health and telecommunications company Telefonica Vivo partnered to launch an initiative to fight dengue. Vivo sent 50,000 SMS to its customers living in the State of Maranhão (where dengue is a problem) explaining how to ensure that they stayed dengue-free.

Nissan: The Big Turn On

From March-July 2012, Nissan ran a contest in which Europe-based visitors to its The Big Turn On website could click a button to 'turn on' their city. Nissan awarded Linschoten in The Netherlands the city with the most 'turn ons', offering 30 quick electric charging stations to develop the area's infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Terra Wi-Fi

Mexican internet provider Terra launched a campaign in partnership with marketing agency DDB Mexico, encouraging dog owners to clean up after their canines in exchange for free wifi. Dog owners that disposed of their animal's feces in one of the dedicated boxes (located in ten of Mexico City's parks) received wifi credit.


Colombian white goods manufacturer Mabe launched a campaign in Q3 2011 to promote its water-saving washing machine (which uses 180 liters less water than similar models per load). In converted buses and retail outlets in Bogota, Mabe set up booths where individuals could push a button to donate clean water to rural towns in Colombia. Each booth was connected with a webcam so that the villagers saw exactly who was donating water. In two weeks, 15,000 participants helped donate 50,000 liters of water.


Online, there's no shortage of useful information and good advice. Indeed, there are few areas left where consumers are genuinely in the dark about what they should be doing. Of course, actually doing it is another thing entirely. Which is why consumers will welcome products, apps or services that (constantly) monitor, remind, prod and even force them to behave and perform 'better'. Check out these NANNY APPS (and re-read our DIY HEALTH trend):


California-based LUMOback aims to improve a user's posture through a combination of small, wireless sensors and a smartphone app. It will monitor posture in real time and send reminders to sit up straight using vibrations.

Audi's e-bike Wörthersee

Audi's e-bike Wörthersee features an onboard computer that connects to a smartphone, offering challenges and tips on how to improve performance. An online point-rewarding platform enables users to keep track of successes and compare their achievements with fellow cyclists.

Color Frame

Japan-based Color Frame is a mobile app designed to help users track the condition of their skin over time. Users take four photos of various facial areas, which are scored on factors including spots, dullness, and pore size; results can be saved for future comparison.

Play & Connect

The Babolat Play & Connect tennis racquet provides real-time information (via integrated sensors) on gameplay, which can be used to improve technique and share results online.


GymPact offers users cash incentives to use their gym and exercise. Individuals create a 'Pact' regarding how many times they plan to visit the gym during one week, and how much they're willing to be fined. If users meet their target, they earn a cash reward; if they don't, they pay a fine to the GymPact community.

Nike + FuelBand

The Nike + FuelBand is a wristband that tracks movement, calorie intake, and completion time for specific tasks. The device can be set up to monitor the wearer's efforts toward pre-programmed goals (the LED display turns from red to green with progress), which can be managed by computer or iOS smartphone.


22seven is a financial services platform that looks at users' bank statements to determine where they could save money. Consumers can see where they generally spend money, and where they might be overspending. Then they're offered strategies and plans to help reduce the outgoings.


SuperBetter is an online social game, which aims to enable consumers improve their health and wellness through challenges - which might include anything from quitting smoking to losing weight.


Runtastic offers a selection of products to accompany its mobile fitness app. The GPS Pulse watch analyzes performance by monitoring GPS and heart rate data, which is then synchronized with the runtastic site. The chest strap syncs with the runtastic PRO mobile app and offers users a personal coaching experience.

Caffeine Zone

Caffeine Zone is a free mobile app which allows users to monitor their caffeine intake. It advises on the best times to consume caffeinated beverages for optimum mental alertness, as well as when to avoid caffeine in order to sleep soundly.

NHS Health Apps

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) began to recommend health apps to patients (such as a mobile drinks tracker), after finding that 25% of the users of the NHS Choices app or website visited their doctor less frequently.


Kahnoodle uses web and mobile technology to help build and maintain good relationships. Couples are given a "relationship dashboard" which displays key metrics on the health of their relationship through simple diagrams.


In a world that is completely dependent on being connected, with ever-more powerful and exciting devices, it's now actually extended battery life and charging options that are the holy grail for anyone addicted to an online lifestyle. An absolute miniscule snapshot of the JUICE JITTERS examples coming our way on a daily basis:


US-based lean tech firm myFC developed the PowerTrekk, a USD 225 portable fuel cell charger that runs on water. It can be used to charge mobile devices, such as smartphones or digital cameras.

Vodafone and Richard Nicoll

Vodafone UK and fashion designer Richard Nicoll created a handbag that can power a mobile phone while on the move. After the bag is charged from a mains power outlet (using a cable that magnetically attaches to the exterior), it carries up to two days worth of extra battery.


Belgian We-Bike table uses the power of its users to generate electricity for devices such as laptops and cell phones during meetings, while providing gentle exercise.

Anthony Mutua's Crystal Chip

Anthony Mutua, a Kenyan entrepreneur, developed a tiny chip of thin crystals (insertable in the sole of any shoe), which can gather and store energy as the wearer walks. Devices can be charged via a thin extension cable that runs from shoe to pocket, and it costs KES 3,800 (approx. 45 USD) to fit any footwear.


The Lotus charger from Italian product design brand LumineXence is a solar-powered electric vehicle charger, which also functions as an LED streetlamp and bench.

Power Felt

Power Felt (not yet in mass production) is a flexible thermoelectric fabric that can be attached to a smartphone. The device is then able to convert body heat into power, and charge the battery whilst inside its owner's pocket.

Sony Japan

Sony Japan's wind-up mechanical USB charger is for places or situations (natural diasters for example) where no power is available. Three minutes of winding up, gives users one minute of talk time, whilst five minutes of winding yields one minute of web browsing.


TUME is a project from Mexican design studio NOS that helps reduce the dangerous energy theft prevalent in informal economies without access to the grid. The TUME BASE station can be installed on lamp posts or other hubs, and users then plug in a TUME ACCESS device to gain access to pre-purchased electricity (similar to prepay cell phone credit), available from local vendors, scratch cards or SMS.


The benefits to both accessing and contributing to the wealth of information appear to have no end. Indeed, far from simply making life more efficient and enjoyable, there are now a whole host of products, services and (especially) apps, that help keep people safe, right when they might need it most.


Agentto is a free mobile app from Brazil that provides rapid access to safety services. Users can also create a network with up to 12 people who can be instantly alerted to their precise location in dangerous situations.

Seguridad en Linea

Colombian site Seguridad en Linea is a platform for netizens to alert each other to security-related incidents. Members report and monitor real time activity by location, in categories such as robberies, scams, violence or terrorism.

China Survival Guide

The China Survival Guide is a free iPhone app that tracks food and health scandals across China, so users don't need to keep up with the news reports themselves. It was downloaded 200,000 times within a week of launching.


Softbank released the Pantone 5 107SH in Japan, a smartphone with an inbuilt Geiger counter. The Android device can measure radiation in the surrounding air to within 20% accuracy, via a button adjacent to the LCD screen.


Bicibuscadores ('Bikehunters') is a Spanish social network, set up with the aim of reducing bicycle theft. Users who have been the victim of theft can indicate on an online map where their bike was stolen, thereby alerting others to places where thefts happen frequently.


If CUSTOWNERS are consumers who own a stake in a venture, SELLSUMERS are consumers who make money from selling their insights to corporations, hawking their creative output to fellow consumers, or renting out unused assets. As the SELLSUMER trend has steadily evolved since we started tracking it five years ago, with more and more ways for consumers to make money, we're now seeing rapid growth of what we've dubbed TASKSUMERS: consumers who make money from carrying out small tasks, for other individuals or corporations. Amazon’s Mechanical Turks, and ShortTask already lead the way, but do also check out the following ventures:


Foap is an iPhone app that helps users earn money from the photos they take on their phone. Members upload their pictures onto the Foap Market, where they are tagged by category and sell for USD 10 each. If an image is bought, the money is split so the photographer earns USD 5.


PleaseBringMe is a website from Turkey, which enables users to request that incoming tourists bring hard-to-find items from outside their own country in return for a reward.


Microsoft and the University of Toronto tested a mobile program in India that allows low-income individuals without a computer or smartphone, to use old USD 10 cellphones to complete paid tasks. mClerk sends images as bitmaps that can be viewed on low cost devices with basic displays. Participants type out the words displayed in the images for a reward of phone credit.


Bistip is a peer-to-peer courier service from Indonesia that helps travelers to discover (and negotiate a fee with) an individual that needs something delivered to their end destination.


Japanese Vites matches people with talent and/or time, to those who need to get things done. Users can create a Vites account using their Facebook profile and then start listing their service. When a user finds something of interest, they press the outsource button. Vites charges a USD 5 service fee for every transaction. When the worker signals the completion of a task, payment is transferred to their PayPal account.


CloudFactory has access to over half a million remote laborers from emerging markets that work on digital tasks. Workers can be divided into stations (like a factory assembly line) depending on their skill level, where they check the previous station's work for errors. 'Cloud Worker Kits' will be offered in future, providing the web-enabled devices that low-income individuals need to participate.


Gigwalk is a free app that provides businesses with a temporary, mobile workforce. The app connects users (known as ‘Gigwalkers’) with companies that need on-location tasks completing. Gigwalkers are paid to collect, capture and report back with real-world data, using their smartphone. The app pushes each ‘Gig’ to the appropriate person based on their profile and real-time location. Tasks include verification of urban data (such as street names), confirmation of in-store product placements, and information on local real estate.


Launched in May 2012, EasyShift is a smartphone app from San Francisco that rewards users for completing 'Shifts' (tasks for other businesses). Shifts are mapped out so that users can find the nearest available one, whether it's answering a few questions, or taking a picture of a promotion at a shopping mall. Payments are made daily via PayPal, and regular users can build on their reputation to reach opportunities for higher pay.


The quest for sustainable consumption continues, but with many consumers ever more skeptical of half-hearted eco-initiatives, or indeed seeking truly compelling eco-stories, eco-producers will have to step up a gear, and embrace SUPER-ECO, where every aspect of the product or service is unquestionably and utterly sustainable.

Honest by

Launched in Belgium in January 2012, Honest by is an apparel brand and etailer which offers sustainable, fully transparent garment collections for men and women. For every product available on the Honest by site, full information is available on manufacturing (including working conditions), material and supplier sources, pricing, and ethical or organic certifications. As Honest by supports animal welfare, no apparel using leather or fur is available, and wool is certified as recycled, organic or from ethical sources.


US-based aluminum manufacturer Alcoa unveiled a new solution to deal with urban pollution. Reynobond with EcoClean is a 'smog-eating' material which cleans both itself and the air around it, decomposing the smog, pollutants, fumes and dirt that can coat a building's surface.

Gru Grococo

Gru Grococo chocolate bars are made from organic cocoa harvested and roasted at a solar-powered microfactory in Grenada. They are transported to the UK via wooden sailing ship (Fair Transport). During the journey, products are cooled using solar and wind-powered refrigerators. The bars cost GBP 11.95 each, with 100% of the profits going to the producers.

Lowline Park

The Lowline Park (once completed) will be a large 13-acre subterranean park, constructed on the site of a disused trolley terminal in New York City's Lower East Side. A system of fiber optics and solar panels will light the space and support photosynthesis, meaning that plants and trees can survive underground.


Consumers’ desire to broadcast their lives on social media is truly unabated (check out SOCIAL-LITES), and ‘liking’ things is an integral part of that. Last year we saw the first initiatives to bridge the offline physical world with online liking: here are a few more, plus an example of visualizing the number of online likes in the offline world. Sounds confusing? The examples will make sense:

Coachella Festival

Attendees of the 2012 Coachella festival in California were given encrypted NFC enabled wristbands instead of tickets. Those wearing the wristbands could wave them at various stations around the grounds and their Facebook status would automatically notify their friends which stage they were at, and which band they were watching at that moment.


C&A introduced special Facebook-integrated hangers across stores in Brazil. The hangers display the number of times items have been 'Liked' on the brand's Facebook store, updated in real-time, so that shoppers can see the popularity of specific products.

RFID Bracelets

Several theme parks, including Walibi in Belgium, Luna Park in Australia, and a temporary space set-up by Coca-Cola in Israel, have introduced RFID bracelets that let visitors update their Facebook status while on the move. By swiping their wrists over sensors before going on rides, participants can 'Like' features, notify friends about their activities, and have their pictures captured and tagged.


If individualism is the new religion, then uniqueness is its goddess. Consumers stand out by doing, visiting, owning, wearing, eating, driving, enjoying those products and services that (most) others don't. Yet, with mass prosperity and mass access, that's becoming an ever-harder feat to achieve (see also our recent Trend Briefing on NEWISM). So expect the ARTIFICIAL SCARCITY trend (even more products, services and experiences that take scarcity to a carefully crafted extreme), to continue to make waves for quite a while to come. A few examples (music and food & beverage, but the trend applies to all B2C industries) to get you going:

Adam Tensta

Adam Tensta launched his latest song online in a format which meant that only one person could listen to the track at a time. After installing the necessary app from Tensta's Facebook page, fans that wished to hear Pass It On had to take a place in the digital line.

Doughnut Vault

The Doughnut Vault is a Chicago bakery that closes its doors after it sells out of doughnuts. Once the last pastry has been bought, it does not reopen until the next morning.

Absynthe Minded

Belgian band Absynthe Minded released its latest music video on a dedicated website where the clip could only be viewed while it was being played live on the radio. Fans of the band were encouraged to contact their local station to request the track.

Liberty Coffee

Liberty Coffee is a small speakeasy café in Singapore, that freshly roasts and serves single origin coffees and homemade cakes. They are open when they get a new shipment of coffee in for tasting i.e. on random days, and sometimes stay closed for over a week at a time. To find out when they are due to open, customers need to like and follow their Facebook page for updates.


Next is that you run with these mini-trends. Or at least with one of them. But more than one is better ;-)

Apply them to your business. Your industry. What new business concepts, new products/services/experiences or new campaigns can you come up with if you get some colleagues together and brainstorm for 30 minutes per selected mini-trend? Hey, you can sleep when you're dead.

Our next Trend Briefing will feature a MEGA trend, coming your way early October, so make sure you're subscribed! logo

Next is that you run with these mini trends