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Introduction | This year, much as in previous years, some brands may be staring into the abyss, while others will do exuberantly well. And while we can’t offer any help to defaulting nations or bankrupt companies, we do believe that there are more opportunities than ever for creative brands and entrepreneurs to deliver on changing consumer needs. From Canada to Korea. Hence this overview of 12 must-know consumer trends (in random order) for you to run with in the next 12 months. Onwards and upwards:


In 2012, department stores, airlines, hotels, theme parks, museums, if not entire cities and nations around the world will roll out the red carpet for the new emperors, showering Chinese visitors and customers with tailored services and perks, and in general, lavish attention and respect.

Read RED CARPET in full (including examples from Hilton, Starwood and Harrods)


Expect to see consumers take advantage of new technologies and apps to discreetly and continuously track, manage and be alerted to, any changes in their personal health.

Read DIY HEALTH in full (including examples from Jawbone, Ford and Lifelens)


In 2012, not only will consumers continue to hunt for deals and discounts, but they will do so with relish if not pride. Deals are now about more than just saving money: it’s the thrill, the pursuit, the control, and the perceived smartness, and thus a source of status too.

Read DEALER-CHIC in full (including examples from American Express, Nokitum and Daitan)


Brands will increasingly take back all of their products for recycling (sometimes forced by new legislation), and recycle them responsibly and innovatively.

Read ECO-CYCOLOGY in full (including examples from Dell, Nike and Garnier)


Will coins and notes completely disappear in 2012? No. But a cashless future is (finally) upon us, as major players such as MasterCard and Google work to build a whole new eco-system of payments, rewards and offers around new mobile technologies.

Read CASH-LESS in full (including examples from Google, PayPal and Square)


The majority of consumers live in cities, yet in much of the world city life is chaotic, cramped and often none too pleasant. However at the same time, the creativity and vibrancy of these aspiring consumers, means that the global opportunities for brands which cater to the hundreds of millions of lower-income CITYSUMERS are unprecedented.

Read BOUP in full (including examples from PepsiCo, NCR and Aakash)


Anything that makes it downright simple- if not completely effortless- for consumers to contribute to something will be more popular than ever in 2012. Unlocked by the spread of ever smarter sensors in mobile phones, people will not only be able but increasingly willing, to broadcast information about where and what they are doing, to help improve products and services.

Read IDLE SOURCING in full (including examples from Street Bump and Waze)


Why to consumers, brands that behave more humanly, including exposing their flaws, will be awesome.

Read FLAWSOME in full here.


Thanks to the continued explosion of touchscreen smartphones, tablets, and the 'cloud', 2012 will see a SCREEN CULTURE that is not only more pervasive, but more personal, more immersive and more interactive than ever.

Read SCREEN CULTURE in full (including examples from Sky, 8ta and Huawei)


It’s never been easier for savvy consumers to resell or trade in past purchases, and unlock the value in their current possessions. In 2012, ‘trading in’ is the new buying.

Read RECOMMERCE in full (including examples from Decathlon, Amazon and Levi’s)


While cultural differences will continue to shape consumer desires, middle-class and/or younger consumers in almost every market will embrace brands that push the boundaries. Expect frank, risqué or non-corporate products, services and campaigns from emerging markets to be on the rise in 2012.

Read EMERGING MATURIALISM in full (including examples from Diesel, Johnson & Johnson and Sanitol)


Consumers are used to being able to find out just about anything that’s online or text-based, but 2012 will see instant visual information gratification brought into the real and visual world with objects and even people.

Read POINT & KNOW in full (including examples from Starbucks, eBay and Amazon)


For many of you, our free content is enough to keep you going. And yet, this Trend Briefing is just a snapshot of what we track. So, if you need access to all the trends we’re tracking in 2012, including our exclusive 100+ page 2012 Trend Report, then please check out our Premium Service »

Don't forget...

Now, with 'trends' meaning everything from 'Ageing population in China' to 'Fall 2013's felt mania’, we need to clarify that:

  • We’re tracking consumer trends. Not macro trends. Well, actually, we do track those, but don't publish them. So, for 2012's ‘geo-political-environmental macro picture' check out sources such as McKinsey’s Global Institute and Global Trends.
  • Obviously, trends don't just 'emerge' on 1 January or end on 31 December. Professionals craving Top Twelve lists is something we gladly cater for, but all trends are constantly evolving, and all of the content above is one way or another already happening. Major consumer trends are more like currents than one-time killer waves.
  • We’re also not saying there are only 12 consumer trends to track in 2012; there are dozens of important consumer trends worth knowing about and applying at any given time of the year. We merely bring you a selection to get going. If you crave more, do check out other trend firms' lists or check out No. 13 above ;-)
  • All of the above means that many trends we’ve highlighted over the last years will still be as important next year as the ones we discuss in this briefing. From CITYSUMERS to BRAND BUTLERS.
  • Oh, and none of these trends apply to all consumers.
  • Last but not least, trend watching is about applying. About innovations. It's hands-on. And about making money. So forget ‘Nice to Know’ or ‘Pie in the Sky’. See the below for how to apply these trends straightaway.


For loyal readers, this is by now old news: the four ways to apply these consumer trends, and make some money from the innovations they spawn. Just ask yourself if they have the potential to (and if so, how):

  1. Influence or shape your company's vision.
  2. Inspire you to come up with a new business concept, an entirely new venture, a new brand.
  3. Add a new product, service or experience for a certain customer segment.
  4. Speak the language of those consumers already 'living' a trend.

For more tips on how to spot and apply trends, see our TIPS section. Easy peasy, no?

Good luck. And please do make sure you're subscribed to our free Trend Briefings: many more to come your way in 2012 and beyond!