Why smart brands are acting as servants that make offline social interactions easier, more effective and more meaningful!
Talking to a complete stranger on Tinder? Totally acceptable.
Striking up a conversation on the street? Super weird...
The online world has allowed for faster, easier and more far-reaching social connections. The result has been new expectations and new, more progressive norms around connection.
But it can often feel as though the offline world has failed to keep up. Same social codes of conduct? Check. Same old stigmas and embarrassments? Check. And that can apply doubly in Asia, where local traditions, conventions (spoken or unspoken) and taboos are often still powerful.
The disconnect between the two has led to an expectation gap. Asia's connected consumers increasingly expect offline social interactions – from asking a stranger a question to communicating with a loved one – to be as seamless and comfortable as their online interactions.
Now, smart brands are addressing this gap by becoming SOCIAL SERVANTS. That means creating tools and services that facilitate conversations and interactions – even awkward ones! – in the offline world.
1. Closed-up Culture
Yes it's a generalization, but Asia's social conventions often mean its inhabitants are more reserved when it comes to interactions with strangers. Social platforms like Snapchat and Tinder have helped break some of the social barriers in the digital world. However, the offline world hasnt caught up and some (seemingly trivial) inter-personal conversations still remain difficult to broach.
2. OFF=ON Expectations
The open culture fostered social media and dating apps has made online connection effortless, effective and fun. And as the boundaries between the online and offline worlds continue to blur, consumers are looking to bring the same level of comfort and social ease to connections in the real world.
3. Connected Objects
As new technologies and connected objects become more mainstream, there are more opportunities for brands to embed online functionalities into the offline world. Smart brands are starting to utilize this to translate the online communications culture into the physical space in subtle but useful ways.
See how these smart brands and businesses are already riding the SOCIAL SERVANTS trend!
Transport system prioritizes pregnant passengers
In April 2016, Busan City launched a pilot project to alert transport passengers sitting in priority seats to the presence of someone requiring the seat. Pregnant women who register with the South Korean city's Pink Light Campaign receive a free Bluetooth-enabled disc which causes the light near the seat to blink as they draw closer. The light switches off again once they are seated. The campaign was the result of a collaboration between Busan City and Daehong Communications Inc., a company providing marketing communication services.
Pink Ribbon Pakistan
Bespoke bra created to encourage Pakistani women to check for cancer
Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia: 40,000 women died from it in 2015. But there is a powerful taboo around speaking about the disease, particularly among underprivileged women. Launched in April 2016, The Pink Bra is designed to help Pakistani women detect breast cancer early, by leveraging the local habit of tucking money inside a bra. Created for Pink Ribbon Pakistan, the bra contains pockets lined with raised outlines that act as guides to prompt women to self-examine. Illustrations inside the bra cups explain each step of the self-test in detail, and there is a hotline to call for free medical advice.
Device signals when users are willing to share their umbrella
Hong Kong-based group Umbrella Here created a USD 28 donut-shaped Bluetooth device that fixes onto the top of umbrellas. When it rains, owners can use the companion app to signal (via color LEDs) to nearby strangers they are willing to share. Users who meet this way and share a journey can log their walk online via the Umbrella Here site. When kept at home, the gadget blinks to warn if it is a rainy day.
GOVT Kuala Lumpur
Guidebook helps Malaysians navigate tough questions during the holiday season
Hari Raya holiday is a time for family gatherings, which also means fielding tough questions from relatives. July 2016 saw GOVT Kuala Lumpur come up with Toyol Aidilfitri (rough translation: mischievous spirit of Aidilfitri), a guide book containing five most common questions asked by relatives, complete with suggested answers that range from polite to defiant. One of the questions included was 'When are you going to get married?', which was accompanied with answers including: 'When the time comes, I haven't found the right one yet' to 'Doesn't matter since I'm still young. When are you passing away?'
Melting digital love letters help Chinese teens express their feelings
July 2016 saw Cornetto launch a campaign to encourage young people in China to pursue love. Based on the insight that Chinese youngsters are less experienced in expressing love compared to their Western counterparts, the ice cream brand created melting digital love letters that can be accessed by scanning QR codes on special edition Cornetto packaging then sent via WeChat or QQ. The receiver had 520 seconds to read the letter before it 'melted' away.
WeChat stickers help Indians explain embarrassing illnesses
In July 2016, Narayana Health partnered with McCann Health India and WeChat on a series of health-themed stickers aiming to help users express a range of ailments without having to give elaborate, sometimes embarrassing, explanations. People can also make their own suggestions for the next stickers to be added to the collection, with the public voting on the most popular. The stickers are available for download from the WeChat sticker gallery under Health Expressions.
Personalized manuals help Singaporeans show paternal affection
In many Asian societies there is still a social stigma that means paternal affection is often harder to express than its maternal counterpart. So for Father's Day in June 2016, Philips launched a project in Singapore to help consumers express affection to their fathers more comfortably. At the Best Denki Ngee Ann City retail outlet, consumers who purchased Philips electronic gadgets as gifts for their fathers could personalize the gadget's instruction manual and write custom messages.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Trends don't arrive out of the blue or disappear in a puff of smoke. It's all about evolution!
Spotting trends? It all starts with innovations...
The not-so-secret secret to spotting trends (including this one!) Stop watching customers, and start watching the innovations – products, services, campaigns – flooding into the market now. Draw lines between similar innovations, and interrogate them for the new customer expectations they're helping to create. There's much more on our end-to-end methodology in our book, Trend-Driven Innovation. So how do we process thousands of innovations we spot? It helps to have a Framework...
The Trend Framework
16 mega-trends that provide context and structure when tracking the evolution of consumerism
We map all the expectation-changing innovations we spot against our Trend Framework: the 16 mega-trends – that is, the big, slow-moving currents in the consumer arena – that taken together form our complete picture of consumerism today and where it's heading. All of the 100+ trends we track fall under these 16 mega-trends.
Having a robust and comprehensive Trend Framework allows us to assess the implications of the hundreds, if not thousands, of innovations we receive from TW:IN (TrendWatching’s global network of spotters) every day.
And when a cluster of innovations doesn't fit neatly under one or more of our trends, that's when we know we're on the verge of identifying something NEW!
That's how we spot all our trends: including SOCIAL SERVANTS.
This trend will keep evolving...
SOCIAL SERVANTS is really a new direction of travel under the mega-trend that we call JOYNING. That's the mega-trend via which we track the epic evolution – both online and offline – of social connection.
Tracking this trend in the context of our Trend Framework means crucial added insight on where it came from and, crucially, where it's heading next.
You can get a glimpse of here. Clients of our Premium Service have full access.