Here we go. If you plan to make waves in 2019, then consider running with one (or more!) of these big five emerging consumer trends:
1. LEGISLATIVE BRANDS.
Progressive consumers will welcome the ‘law of the brand’.
2. LAB RATS.
Why an extreme test and fix mindset is the future of wellness.
3. OPEN SOURCE SOLUTIONS.
A bold new frontier for sustainability.
4. SUPERHUMAN RESOURCES.
It’s time for our emerging AI overlords to play fair.
5. FANTASY IRL.
Imagined and real worlds collide in the name of play.
Regular readers can dive straight in. New readers, here’s the deal. The brands and organizations living these trends are already setting consumer expectations. You can too. As you read this report, keep asking yourself: how will these trends shape the expectations of our customers? What opportunities will the new behaviors they reflect present to our organization?
Read. Share. Discuss. But then far more importantly, do something with these trends! Good luck!
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Patagonia — Anyone watching trends will be familiar with Patagonia’s boundary-pushing environmental initiatives. But over the last 12 months, Patagonia’s initiatives have moved beyond consumer-facing marketing campaigns and become more formal and legal: last December the company sued the US federal government over planned cuts to Bear Ears National Monument; in November 2018 it endorsed political candidates in Nevada and Montana for the first time ever.
Beautycounter — Beautycounter is a US-based direct sales skincare and cosmetic brand with a network of 30,000 consultants. In March 2018, 100 Beautycounter consultants went to Washington D.C. to lobby members of Congress about the Personal Care Products Safety Act: a bipartisan bill that aims to give the FDA authority to regulate cosmetics ingredients (the bill is currently still under review). Beautycounter offered the all-expenses paid trip to Washington to the top two salespeople in each state, with attendees receiving training on effective lobbying strategies. The brand also released a new lip color, Beautycounter Red, to coincide with the day of lobbying.
Ceramiracle — Ceramiracle created a novel workaround to avoid China’s strict animal testing laws. Shoppers at the cruelty-free US beauty brand’s Chinese popups had to purchase items by scanning an in-store QR code which took them to the brand’s WeChat store. This is because local regulations require all beauty products sold in China to potentially be be tested on animals, if requested by the authorities. Instead, Ceramiracle ships its products to customers from a warehouse in a free-trade zone in Eastern China, where goods can be despatched without intervention from customs.
Microsoft — August 2018 saw Microsoft announce that all suppliers will be required to provide their employees with paid parental leave. Expanding on a 2015 initiative to only work with companies offering paid time off, Microsoft’s suppliers will be required to grant employees at least 12 weeks of paid parental leave, after they give birth to or adopt a child. The company cited Washington state’s recently-announced parental leave policies, as well as increased morale and productivity among both men and women, as inspiring the requirement.
Nestlé — Launched in Japan in May 2018, the Nestlé Wellness Ambassador is a service providing customers with personalized nutritional advice based on their dietary habits, DNA, and blood test results. Users upload pictures of the food they eat via the Line messaging app. Meanwhile at-home DNA and blood tests assess their vulnerability to common diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. The service then provides personalized dietary advice, as well as specially formulated vitamin supplements. The program costs around USD 600 a year.
Timeshifter — Released in July 2018, Timeshifter is an app providing personalized plans to help people minimize the effects of jet lag. The app operates via an algorithm, used by NASA astronauts, that takes users’ ages, sleep habits, flight schedules, and whether they consume caffeine into account. Timeshifter then sends advice via push notifications. An individual trip costs USD 9.99, while a yearly subscription is USD 24.99.
Kolibri — In July 2018 British beverage brand Kolibri partnered with glass packaging manufacturer Beatson Clark to create bottles that let consumers control sugar levels. The caps contain an agave-based syrup that customers can add to their taste, or omit altogether if they prefer a sugar-free beverage. Kolibri products are priced from GBP 6.
Pax — US-based vaporizer company Pax introduced its ‘session control’ feature for its Pax Era cannabis vape in Q2 2018. The feature ensures that smokers do not consume more cannabis than they intend to. Via the app, users pick from one of four dose sizes: micro, small, medium or large. The device monitors the user’s consumption, and when the dose is reached, vapor stops flowing and the Pax Era locks for 30 seconds (preventing users from inhaling). The Pax Era retails for USD 29.99.
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In the coming weeks and months, they'll be using the platform to ensure their plans remain deeply aligned with what their customers want next.
HP, IKEA & NextWave — In October 2018 it was announced that HP and IKEA had joined NextWave Plastics, a coalition to reduce ocean-bound plastics. Both HP and IKEA already have numerous initiatives focused on reducing their plastic consumption. By joining NextWave Plastics the brands pledge to share their learnings and technologies in ‘a collaborative, open-sourced and transparent fashion to create the first global network of ocean-bound plastics supply chains’. NextWave plastics was founded by Dell Technologies and Lonely Whale in 2017 and now includes 10 companies including General Motors and Herman Miller.
Allbirds & Braskem — After three years of development, US shoe brand Allbirds debuted its Sugar Zeffer flip-flops, which use the first sustainable version of EVA foam. The typical EVA foam used in shoes is produced using fossil fuels, while Allbirds’ SweetFoam is made from sugarcane. SweetFoam has a molecular structure that is identical to EVA foam and feels the same way on the foot. Allbirds and its partner petrochemical company Braskem has also made the formula for the material open-source, meaning that any company – in the footwear industry and beyond – has access to it. The Sugar Zeffer flip-flops retail for USD 35.
Uber, Lyft & Ford — In September 2018, it was announced that Ford, Uber and Lyft were joining SharedStreets, a public-private data platform designed to help reduce urban transportation issues. The platform is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies will operate in over 30 global cities, including Paris, Melbourne and Washington DC. The platform aims to create shared, machine-readable standards for data such as curb usage and traffic speeds, enabling cities to make better investment and management decisions.
Starbucks — In May 2018 Starbucks closed all its 8,000 stores across the US to train its staff in identifying racial bias. The training was triggered by a widely publicized incident in which two African-American customers waiting for a meeting were arrested after an employee called the police. Starbucks then published its training program and all supporting content, making it freely available to other organizations that want to raise internal awareness of racial bias.
At its May 2018 F8 developer conference Facebook announced a tool called Fairness Flow, intended to help identify biases in the platform’s algorithms. The tool was first targeted at the platform’s jobs algorithm, where it sought to identify gender and age-based bias. Fairness Flow is now available to any Facebook engineer to evaluate an algorithm for bias. In September the American Civil Liberties Union filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against Facebook and ten of its advertisers, citing a tool that allows advertisers to target job ads solely at men.
IBM — September 2018 saw IBM announce a suite of tools to tackle bias and increase transparency in AI services. The package enables users to check whether certain individuals or groups are subject to bias, tools to help developers identify what might be causing biased outcomes, and suggestions on how to correct them. The tools can be used on IBM’s Watson platform, as well as with third party frameworks such as Tensorflow and AzureML.
Crisis Text Line — Texas-based nonprofit Crisis Text Line has trained over 12,000 counselors who have handled over 62 million messages. In April 2018, it spun out Loris.ai a commercial platform designed to help educate managers in how to handle challenging conversations. The company hopes to apply its learnings to corporate situations, such as performance, upset customers and firings and layoffs.
Forbes Brasil — Forbes Brasil created a composite ‘person’ based on multiple white-collar criminals to draw attention to corruption issues in the country. Named Ric Brasil, the AI-created figure was allotted the number eight slot in the magazine’s annual billionaire list, based on the collective USD 61 billion annual cost of corruption in the country. Created by tech companies Nexo and Notan for the magazine’s April 2018 edition, Ric Brasil’s features emerged by combining the profiles of corrupt individuals named in the media, investigations and books.
Louvre — The Louvre in Paris began offering Jay-Z and Beyoncé at the Louvre, a self-guided tour, in July 2018. The art museum’s tour stops at each of the artworks featured in the couple’s music video for APES**T, which was filmed at the museum and released in June 2018. The 17-stop tour explains the history behind each artwork, but not specifically why Jay-Z and Beyoncé displayed them in the clip.
Tiffany & Co and Tiong Bahru Bakery — August 2018 saw jewelry brand Tiffany & Co. partner with Tiong Bahru Bakery to make Breakfast at Tiffany’s a reality. The Singapore-based bakery’s flagship was painted in Tiffany’s signature eggshell blue, with the surrounding area dressed up to look like a New York sidewalk. Of course, with it being 2018, visitors were invited to share their #tiffanyxtbb experiences on social media.
Blizzard — In July 2018 video game producer Blizzard donated USD 12.7 million USD to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) after a successful two-week charity campaign. Gamers could purchase a special USD 15 pink skin for the Mercy character inside the popular online shooter game Overwatch. Many players also held special charity livestreams where viewers' tips would go to the BCRF. The donation was the largest corporate donation in the BCRF's history.
Celebrity Cruises — Launched in October 2018, Celebrity Edge, the latest cruise ship from Celebrity Cruises includes Le Petit Chef, a restaurant experience with a ‘digital chef’. Using ceiling-mounted projectors, an animated chef appears beside diners’ plates to create the dish virtually. For example, for the dessert course the chef creates a giant snowball on the table, before heaving it onto the plate. Nuts are then ‘fired’ from a cannon as a garnish. Once the animation is complete, waiters bring out the real-world plated dishes.
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The 5 trends featured here are important, but they represent just a small fraction of the consumer landscape.
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As always, we wrap up these annual Trend Briefings with a call to action…
While it‘s our job just to watch trends, ambitious business professionals should read this Briefing with only one thing in mind: how to apply these trends to create compelling new innovations that will delight your customers (and win new ones!).
So, what are you waiting for? Time to make 2019 your best year yet!
Cheers! Proost! 干杯! Salud! Skål! 건배! Santé! Prost! Şerefe! Mabuhay! Saúde! Chok dee!
This Trend Briefing has many hands on it. A huge thanks to the team that pulled this together with such positivity and enthusiasm, especially: Vicky Kim and Nikki Ritmeijer (for design!), and also Maxwell Luthy, Vicki Loomes, Henry Mason, Alida Urban, Harry Metzger, Harvey Gomez, Jareth Ashbrook, Jonathan Herbst and Lisa Feierstein. THANK YOU!