Trend watchers – us included – love to obsess over the new. But regular readers often ask us what’s happened to past trends, and of course that’s something we religiously track too. Which is why this month, we take a look back at five past trends*, including one from 2009 (gasp!): the developments, the status quo, and the many future innovation opportunities they will continue to offer (for those who still need their NEWISM-fix ;)
* These are a random selection. We could have picked almost any of our past trends here (except for perhaps ‘JINGLE CASTING’ ;-), because powerful trends – being rooted in deep consumer needs, wants and desires – don’t just disappear, or stop being relevant once they get absorbed into the mainstream. They continue to evolve, they spawn sub-trends, they combine with other trends to form hybrid trends and so on…
We defined this trend back in 2009 as:
“Whether it’s selling their insights to corporations, hawking their creative output to fellow consumers, or renting out unused assets, consumers will increasingly become SELLSUMERS, too. Made possible by the online revolution’s great democratization of demand and supply, and further fueled by a global recession that leaves consumers strapped for cash, the SELLSUMERS phenomenon is yet another manifestation of the mega-trend that is 'consumer participation'.”
This is now a trend that is totally and utterly mainstream, with a whole host of platforms servicing every aspect of the ever-growing SELLSUMER economy, from apartments to cars to food and beyond. And since 2009, as everything social and mobile has exploded, (re)selling one’s goods or time or expertise, is infinitely easier, more convenient, more transparent, and more reliable than ever before, as the examples below show.
With SELLSUMER options now available in almost every sector, expect platforms to combine or integrate their offerings with other, complementary platforms: think being notified of local cars to rent when you book an apartment on Airbnb, or nearby home-cooked meals.
The SELLSUMER trend also heralds a bigger shift in the consumer arena too. As people become (mini) businesses themselves (or at the very least deal with fellow SELLSUMERS more often), they will expect ‘traditional’ businesses and brands to behave differently; for interactions to be more authentic, generous, ‘human’, and on an equal footing.
Back in 2009, Airbnb had just launched. The site recently announced that the number of spaces listed on the site grew from 120,000 to 300,000 during 2012, and in the same year, 3 million guests traveled using the site (compared to the 1 million in the three years from launch to the start of 2012). The company also opened 11 global offices, including Singapore, Delhi and São Paulo.
In April 2013, peer-to-peer car rental service RelayRides added its ‘Renting Social’ feature. Users can advertise the fact that they want to rent a car to their Facebook friends, who can then make their vehicles available through the marketplace. The process aims to reduce the probability of dealing with unknown third parties.
Thuisafgehaald is a platform which connects domestic chefs in the Netherlands to hungry diners. Launched in March 2012, users post details of the meal on offer, set a price (or offer it for free), indicate when it will be served, the number of servings available, as well as a photograph if available. The site has over 5,500 chefs registered in the Netherlands, and has expanded to cover 9 countries, including the US, UK, Germany and Sweden.
Launched in April 2013, Sold. aims to make selling online completely seamless for aspiring SELLSUMERS. Users of the mobile app take a photo of the object they wish to sell, and using “smart pricing analytics”*, the service attaches a price tag and finds a buyer. Once a sale has been agreed, sellers are sent a Sold. box, which comes “pre-paid, pre-labeled, pre-insured, tracked, and filled with bubble wrap”. They can then leave it at a designated drop-off spot, or arrange to have it picked up by the Sold. team.
* How’s that for a POINT & KNOW (see below) crossover? ;)
This is what we said about MATURIALISM back in 2010:
“Thoroughly exposed to (if not participating in) an uncensored, opinionated and raw world (especially online!), experienced consumers no longer tolerate being treated like yesteryear’s easily shocked, inexperienced, middle-of-the-road audiences. Able to handle much more honest conversations, more daring innovations, more quirky flavors, more risqué experiences, these consumers increasingly appreciate brands that push the boundaries.”
The MATURIALISM trend is now less about shock-value, and more about entering into a mature exchange with consumers, as shown by the UNICEF and Samoa Air examples below. Start by being brutally honest, if not totally transparent (if not FLAWSOME).
Brands that want to up their maturity levels should think about becoming DEMANDING BRANDS. Forget putting the customer first, don’t just ask nicely, it’s time to take the pro-active step of demanding customers take painful-but-much-needed actions, with you setting the right example, of course. Remember though, customers have to care about what you demand from them, and more importantly why. So make it matter.
April 2013 saw UNICEF Sweden launch its hard-hitting ‘Likes don’t save lives’ fundraising campaign, designed to spread awareness that social media ‘Likes’ have limited or no real-world impact, and don’t finance the delivery of life-saving vaccines.
April 2013 saw Samoa Air launch its ‘A kilo is a kilo is a kilo’ scheme. Passengers’ ticket prices are calculated on the total weight they wish to be transported (i.e. the weight of themselves and their luggage), with rates starting from USD 0.50 per kilo on selected flights.
During May 2013, the Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa hosted The Exchange, a pop-up shop to encourage donor registration. The shop was stocked with designer-donated clothing and accessories, but items could not be purchased with cash or credit cards. Instead, only once consumers had signed up to the Foundation’s organ donor program, were they allowed to choose one item from the shop.
February 2013 saw the Hachikyo seafood restaurant in Japan introduce a scheme where diners not finishing their tsukko meshi (rice and salmon roe) dish, must pay a ‘fine’ and donate to a fund for local fishermen. The menu explains that the donation is designed to highlight the dangerous working conditions for the fishermen who harvest the roe.
Not too long ago, February 2012, we looked at the POINT-KNOW-BUY trend, saying the following:
“With textual search and information now abundantly available to most people most of the time, the race is on to make instant visual search and information ubiquitous too. Any real world object (if not person) will soon be able to be ‘known’ by on-the-go consumers equipped with smartphones, which can be pointed at anything to retrieve/ find related information on a whim. And yes, some commerce may follow from that as well ;-)”
With the advent of wearable technologies (from Google Glass to Apple’s rumored Smart Watch, not to mention countless other similar initiatives, from Sony to start-ups on Kickstarter), this is one trend that is subject to massive acceleration.
Indeed, expect smartphones to face ever-stronger competition from devices that are increasingly worn – if not seamlessly integrated – into consumers’ vision, clothes or bodies.
While much of the current discussion about wearables revolves around privacy implications and the challenges of social acceptance, past evidence suggests wearables will be completely mainstream sooner than most people can or like to imagine, perhaps even in a matter of years.
And behavior change will happen very quickly, once brands stop getting excited about simply being able to push alerts literally into people's faces (no, ‘better’ ads won’t be the killer app), and start thinking about the new potential capabilities, behaviors, interactions, platforms, tools and services that will be unlocked by wearable devices, fueled by everything from ubiquitous data streams to hyper-contextual awareness to anticipatory computing. Just look at the new behaviors and expectations unlocked since the iPhone's touchscreen & App Store platform broke the 'simply more-convenient-email-on-the-go' paradigm of pre-2007 'smart' phones (PLANNED SPONTANEITY being just one).
It took Shazam, one of the pioneers of POINT & KNOW technologies, over 10 years to create 1 billion audio ‘tags’, but it announced in February 2013 that its 300 million users were now generating 1 billion tags in 3 months. The service updated its iPad app in May 2013 to offer automatic tagging, enabling viewers to seamlessly access additional digital information on TV shows, ads or when listening to music.
‘Traditional’ augmented reality still offers endless opportunities for innovative brands around the world. April 2013 saw the Indian cricket team Royal Challengers Bangalore launch their new augmented reality ticket app, enabling fans to point their phone cameras at their paper tickets in order to access live traffic information, parking information and a 3D stadium view.
Google’s wearable computing project, ‘Glass’, is currently only available to developers, but that hasn’t stopped feverish speculation as to potential uses. Already, current features include navigation (to allow users to see turn-by-turn directions as they walk around), a camera (able to capture point-of-view images and video), alerts (from social networks or publishers such as the NYT). More creative proposed uses include Insight, a ‘visual fingerprinting’ app that allows users to find friends in a crowd by tagging their clothes, the ability to check on and control connected objects (such as the Nest thermostat) via voice controls, healthier living via real-time product information, on-the-fly translation, the list goes on and on…
US eyewear brand Oakley has already demonstrated a practical application for wearable ‘KNOW’ devices. In October 2012, the brand launched its Airwave Ski Goggles, which feature integrated Bluetooth and GPS. The goggles deliver real-time performance analytics and navigational information in front of the skier’s eyes, with information delivered on a prism technology display to avoid optical re-focusing. The goggles retail at USD 599.
We flagged ECO-SUPERIOR as a trend to watch for 2011, saying:
“When it comes to 'green consumption', expect a rise in ECO-SUPERIOR products: products that are not only eco-friendly, but superior to polluting incumbents in every possible way. Think a combination of eco-friendly yet superior functionality, superior design, and/or superior savings.”
Despite many new products making strides to reduce their environmental impact, increased global wealth and the spread of industrialization and consumerism means too often the overall effect is minimal. Indeed May 2013 saw the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere pass 400 parts per million for the first time*.
* Source: U.S. Department of Commerce & National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
Which is why the only real sustainable future will be rooted in products that are not just ‘better’ than (polluting) alternatives, but products or services that are truly ECO-POSITIVE: i.e. whose consumption or existence actually benefits the environment and leaves a lasting positive impact.
In Q4 2012, Peru’s University of Technology and Engineering (UTEC) created a billboard that generates water by extracting it from humidity in the air. In its first three months it collected over 9,000 liters of drinkable water, enough for hundreds of families per month.
Netherlands-based gift store niko niko is offering Throw & Grow event confetti, which grows into wildflowers after it’s been used. The confetti is made of biodegradable material embedded with wildflower seeds. When the confetti is thrown, it can be left to naturally disintegrate and if it lands on fertile soil then it may grow into plant life.
Completed in April 2013, the Torre de Especialidades building (part of the Mexico City hospital) absorbs and breaks down chemicals in the surrounding air. The construction features a layer of tiles painted with titanium dioxide, which reacts with UV light to break down pollution into less toxic chemicals such as CO2 and water. The Prosolve370e tiles were developed by Berlin-based design firm, Elegant Embellishments.
Opened in December 2012 in Hong Kong, the Zero Carbon Building produces more energy than it consumes. Using over 80 different green energy-saving technologies including photovoltaic solar panels, natural ventilation, micro-wind turbines and biodiesel fuel generators fed by used cooking oil, the building produces surplus energy of up to 99 megawatt hours per year, which is pumped back into Hong Kong’s public power grid. It cost HKD 240 million to build.
Scheduled to open in Q3 2013, The Green Leaf Inn in Delavan, Wisconsin is a net-zero energy hotel that will generate more electricity than it consumes. The boutique hotel includes an on-site aerobic wastewater treatment system, a wind turbine, multiple solar panels and a rainwater collection program. Rooms are equipped with en-suite bathrooms and hot tubs, while QR codes enable guests to discover more about the energy initiatives throughout the hotel.
MADE FOR BRIC is just one of the many trends we’ve seen as power shifts towards emerging markets. In 2010, we said:
MADE FOR BRIC
“Expect an increasing number of 'Western' brands to launch new products or even new brands dedicated (if not paying proper respect) to consumers in emerging markets.”
With the IMF announcing that this year will see the GDP of emerging markets exceed advanced markets for the first time (USD 44.1 trillion against USD 42.7 trillion*), brands will continue to find endless opportunities in the ever-growing consumer classes in the BRIC economies, as shown by the L’Occitane example below.
* Measured in Purchasing Power Parity terms (IMF, October 2012).
The next step for ambitious global brands? Extend the MADE FOR… concept of tailored, localized products beyond Chinese, Indian and Brazilian consumers into N11 markets: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey, South Korea and Vietnam, and beyond. Coming soon? BRIC brands launching tailored products celebrating N11 markets, too, as the EMERGING² trend continues to evolve as well.
In March 2013, French beauty brand L’Occitane announced the development of a line of products that will be produced entirely in Brazil, using ingredients from some of the nation’s indigenous plants (such as the Mandacaru cactus). L’Occitane au Brésil will be sold in all 89 of Brazil’s L’Occitane retailers for the first year of production. In future the brand intends to distribute it globally.
We featured Absolut’s City Series back in 2009, as part of our URBAN PRIDE trend, and now the brand has taken the initiative global, collaborating with Mexican tattoo artist Dr. Lakra to create three custom-made vodka bottles in August 2012. Taking influences from Mayan culture and traditions, the colorful bottles (available exclusively in Mexico), showed Balam the warrior jaguar, Kukulkan the feathered serpent, and Hurakan the god of wind, fire and storm.
In May 2013, Lamborghini unveiled the Gallardo MLE: a special Malaysia-only vehicle. The result of a partnership between the Lamborghini Kuala Lumpur dealership and Italy-based Automobili Lamborghini, only 20 of the vehicles are being manufactured, each with a limited edition numbered plaque. The Gallardo MLE is priced at MYR 868,000 (USD 285,996).
December 2012 saw the release of an edition of the board game Monopoly, set in Lagos. Places on the board have been changed to match real locations in the city (the artificial Banana Island is the most expensive spot), and the chance cards reflect the challenges faced by Nigerian citizens, one reads: “For attempting to bribe a law enforcement agent, pay a fine”. Partners in the project include the Lagos State Government, First Bank of Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank and THISDAY Newspaper.
Ultimately, trend watching is all about applying. If you don’t use consumer trends and insights as input for your innovation processes, then they’re nothing but 'nice to know'. So run with them, combine them, take them in new directions. If you don’t know where to start, check out our free TIPS page, which contains tips on how to apply trends. And ideally, you'll end up driving the evolution of a trend, too.
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