Five trends that prove the power of (G)LOCAL innovation!


Trends cross borders...

...local, regional, national and continental – more rapidly than ever before. Welcome to the GLOBAL BRAIN. Now, with initiatives to bring connectivity to billions more (think Google's Project Loon, pictured), Earth's neural network is set to pulse faster by the day.


No new product, service, experience or business model can be fenced into one locale for long. The result? You must scan far and wide in your quest to stay ahead of the emerging customer expectations you'll soon face at home.

Yes, it's a contest. But it's not (just) a race.

In a landscape where change is accelerating, it's easy to think speed is the key to survival.

Tracking trends is vital for staying ahead of the competition. But successful Trend-Driven Innovation is about much more than being quick out of the gates.

Being the first to spot a trend doesn’t – taken alone – unlock any profits. Planting a flag and yelling ‘I saw it first’ doesn’t add value for your customers.

Success means APPLYING the trend to generate winning new products, services, campaigns, business models and more. And even then, being first to market is no guarantee of success (remember Palm? Okay, Friendster? Webvan, anyone?).

It’s not about applying the trend first. It’s about applying it best. Luckily, we have some thoughts on that, too ;)

Adapt, Apply and WIN!

Global trend x local context = (G)LOCAL innovation.

The (not-so-secret) secret to successful Trend-Driven Innovation? It’s all about adaptation.

There are all kinds of ways to adapt a trend. But in a world in which trends cross geographical borders faster than ever, local context is a powerful axis of adaptation for any innovator.

Remember, consumer trends have their foundation in universal, basic human needs. That means any trend – with origins in any corner of the globe – can offer opportunity when adapted around local context. View the trend though the lens of behaviors, customs, concerns, challenges in your market and ask: how can I address that context via this trend?

Then collect your bounty of new innovation ideas ;)

Okay, it’s not that easy. But this is an ideation method you can use time after time. To get you started let’s take a look at five trends as they traveled the globe, being adapted for local context as they went.

It's time to gobble up some GLOBAL BRAIN FOOD!

Five trends, five stories of adaptation for local context.

From South America to the world: discounts and deals that address a customer pain point.

Messaging platforms are kind of a big deal in Asia. Now, the rest of the world is catching up.

Around the world, social conventions are being overturned in favor of new and non-traditional lifestyles.

Born out of necessity in emerging markets, the trend for multi-tasking products is just as powerful among affluent consumers.

Brands around the world are empowering locals to welcome newcomers to their locality.


Ready to be a master of local adaptation?

Once you've seen these five examples of how a trend can be adapted for local context, there will be NOTHING stopping you doing the same. With these trends – or others!



From South America with love (and sympathy ;)


Targeted discounts that address a personal or shared challenge.

The expectation for HUMAN BRANDS – that is, for brands that embrace human virtues such as authenticity and compassion – is an epic mega-trend helping to reshape consumerism around the world.

In South America back in 2013, that meant rising expectations that brands should help with daily lifestyle pain points, lend a hand in difficult times, and address shared social problems.

SYMPATHETIC PRICING emerged as a powerful way for South American brands to prove they really cared, by offering targeted deals and discounts that addressed individual pain points or shared challenges.

Pretty soon, we saw more examples of brands around the world applying this trend in order to show their HUMAN side.

Let’s look at how SYMPATHETIC PRICING has spread around the world, being adapted for local context in the process.


PlayeArte, BGH and Opticolor – South America

A cluster of South American examples brought the SYMPATHETIC PRICING trend to our attention

In December 2013, São Paulo movie theater PlayArte offered discounts to drivers affected by traffic calming rules banning them from the road between 5pm and 7pm. Eligible customers paid BRL 16 for a ticket instead of BRL 20.

December 2013 saw Argentinian domestic appliance brand BGH launch Mi Casa Es Un Horno (‘My Home Is An Oven’): a campaign that gave discounts on air conditioning units to customers who lived in a hot home. Customers inputted their address via an online platform; the hotter the temperature in their area, the greater the discount.

In August 2013, the Venezuela-based optician Opticolor launched a three-month promotion to address the pain point that is getting old! For example: a 55 year old got 55% off, while a 70 year old got 70% off.


Humus Bar – Israel

Restaurant uses SYMPATHETIC PRICING to reward Arab and Israeli diners

Since we first identified SYMPATHETIC PRICING, we’ve seen brands around the world apply the trend to address the local issues that matter to their customers most…

October 2015 saw Israel-based Humus Bar launch a promotion giving tables with both Arab and Jewish customers a 50% discount on plates of hummus. According to the restaurant, the discount was launched in response to ‘growing intolerance by both Arab and Israeli extremists’, with the aim of bringing Israelis together.


Jet and Cuties – US

SYMPATHETIC PRICING in response to the White House's call for better access to diapers

These two brands applied SYMPATHETIC PRICING to a local issue highlighted by President Obama in 2016…

March 2016 saw the launch of a program from US-based etailer Jet and diaper brand Cuties to offer high-quality, affordable diapers to low-income families. By simplifying packaging and adding more diapers per box, the brands were able to lower the price per diaper from 30-50 cents to 13-17 cents without sacrificing quality. The initiative was a response to a wider strategy, initiated by the White House, to tackle the reality that one in three families lack sufficient access to diapers.


Sunweb and Transavia – Netherlands

SYMPATHETIC PRICING for those traveling to help with refugee crisis

How about targeted discounts that help customers in their (location-specific) quest make the world a better place?

Between February and April 2016, Dutch travel agent Sunweb partnered with airline Transavia to offer cost-price accommodation and flights from Amsterdam to Lesvos. Aimed at volunteers helping with the refugee crisis on the island, the initiative was created in partnership with aid organization Movement On The Ground. Customers were asked to contribute EUR 419 to 459 per person, with any surplus funds donated to the work on Lesvos.

This is also a great example of the OPEN ARMS trend – scroll down for more on that!

Your Adaptation?

There is an endless supply of consumers craving your SYMPATHY - adapt this trend to them, ease their pain and earn their love!

Consider SYMPATHETIC PRICING as the opposite of price gouging: pricing that proves you have a HUMAN side!

We’ve seen brands adapt the trend to address controversial local issues, to respond to a Presidential call to help citizens, and to help customers address a continent-wide refugee crisis.

Want to adapt this trend for your market? What daily pain points do customers in your locality face? What shared local issues and challenges are currently at the front of their minds? How could your offer a targeted discount or deal to help?

Think broadly about the kinds of lifestyle issues and shared challenges that are amenable to some SYMPATHETIC PRICING. Perhaps you can identify an overlooked, under-sympathized customer (like Ashley Madison’s hacked users!) to target with your own initiative.



A smartphone-fueled message from Asian consumers to the world.


Messaging apps become feature-packed remote controls for daily life.

There’s no two ways about it. Messaging apps came into their own in Asia.

From maddeningly cute stickers, to grocery shopping, to ordering a taxi and much more, many messaging apps have become feature-packed ALL ON MESSAGING ecosystems that function as a remote control for daily life. 

Why Asia first? For many Asian consumers, smartphone-powered connectivity was the first connectivity they’d experienced. They grabbed it by the horns and took it to new extremes.

Today, the ALL ON MESSAGING trend is conquering the world (and we have the examples to prove it ;). A glimpse of this trend in action? Consider these two complementary facts:

In the US, half of all time spent on smartphone apps occur in the individual’s single most used app (comScore, September 2015). And for many that means messaging app: these apps are opened an average of nine times per day by users, against an average of twice per day for all apps (Flurry, April 2016).

So lets follow ALL ON MESSAGING’s worldwide evolution…

The monthly active users for Facebook Messenger is 900 million; for WeChat: 700 million; for WhatsApp: 1 billion, and for QQ: 860 million.

Facebook, April 2016 / Quest Mobile, April 2016 / WhatsApp, February 2016 / Tencent, November 2015

WeChat - China and more

The Chinese messaging app integrates services from takeout to taxis

While LINE wasn’t far behind, China’s WeChat pioneered the messaging app as ecosystem. In July 2014, WeChat piloted the ability to order an Easy Taxi from within the app. In December of the same year, it partnered with food delivery service FoodPanda. In Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines and India, users could search for nearby restaurants and order food within WeChat.

As Connie Chan, from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, put it while describing WeChat in August 2015: ‘The app-within-an-app model changes everything we think we know about web vs. mobile’.


LINE and Burberry – Japan

ALL ON MESSAGING offers Japanese fashion-lovers front row access to runway show

Millions of Japanese consumers live inside their messaging apps. So how about pushing the ALL ON MESSAGING trend beyond m-commerce and taxis?

LINE’s 2015 partnership with Burberry offered users a real-time front row seat at London Fashion Week. Using the app’s live cast function, LINE users in Japan could watch the Burberry Prorsum Autumn/Winter 2015 womenswear runway show. They also had access to a range of adorable digital stickers (of course!), with characters dressed in iconic Burberry trench coats and cashmere scarves.


Pockettour – Ukraine

Travel agency runs its entire research and booking process in a messaging app

As messaging app adoption (with Viber, WhatsApp and Messenger) boomed outside Asia, ever smaller brands started to ride the trend in their own country. And if officially partnering with a messaging app wasn’t an option, many did it alone!

In July 2015, Ukraine-based Khoroshiy Otdyh announced the launch of Pockettour: the world’s first Viber-based travel agency. The entire booking process of discovery, reservation and payment is handled in the app. Customers can choose which of the agency’s managers they communicate with. They can also share documents and invite friends into the chat to organize a group holiday.


ChatClass – Nigeria

Students take classes via WhatsApp

The high-profile kidnap of three children by a nanny in Nigeria in April 2015 highlighted the dangers of letting strangers into the home. But Nigeria also has a strong culture of in-home private tuition for children. So how about adapting ALL ON MESSAGING around this local context?

Launched December 2015, ChatClass allows high school students to take classes via WhatsApp. The company offers classes in six subjects, including Physics, Math, and Economics. Teachers use text, voice notes, images and videos during 60-minute lectures and students can select individual or group classes, with prices starting from NGN 500 (USD 2.50). ChatClass say the app is intended partly as ‘a safer alternative to letting someone unknown into your house’.


Facebook, Telegram and Kik – worldwide

Global messaging app culture fuels the rise of chatbots

With ALL ON MESSAGING going global, Facebook and others are looking to push the trend further. The next evolution? Using natural language processing to create chatbots that provide conversational interactions with brands.

Following the lead of Telegram and Kik, Facebook announced the Messenger Platform in April 2016. Brands can build bespoke chatbots to serve Messenger’s 900 million users with commerce, rapid access to information and media. Bank of America, StubHub, CNN, 1-800-Flowers and Burger King are among the fist brands to create a bot.

Your Adaptation?

A massive shift in mobile behavior has spread far beyond Asia. Get the message!

As consumers around the world crank up their mobile media time, they are also narrowing their focus onto a small number of social apps. Your brand should be there for them.

Ask yourselves how your customers might benefit from your presence within a messaging platform – whether you provide a bot, a human representative, a retail service or an exclusive range of cute stickers ;)

While Asian brands dominated ALL ON MESSAGING first, there is plenty of opportunity left. This isn’t just about harnessing new channels for spam; these apps could bring you closer to the customer service nirvana that is being in the right place at the right time. See CONTEXTUAL OMNIPRESENCE for more on that!



Times change – so should brands.


Consumers look to brands to celebrate and empower diversity.

Across the globe, many consumers are discarding convention and embracing new, self-constructed beliefs and lifestyles.

Of course, human beings have always pushed against convention, but now unceasing urbanization, global connectivity, rising affluence and more choice (for many) are accelerating changes around family and marriage, sexuality, gender roles, aging and more.

True, that it’s not happening everywhere, universally. But connectivity means that even those in comparatively conservative locations are more able than ever to witness new ways of living, and demand change at home.

No wonder, then, that we’ve seen rising expectations that brands embrace the NEW NORMAL by celebrating and empowering new, non-traditional lifestyles and mindsets.

Of course, the NEW NORMAL looks very different depending on where on the planet you stand. Making this a hugely powerful trend for local adaption…


JCPenney – US

Retailer doubles-down on support of same-sex families in the face of protests

Examples of brands pushing against convention go way back – Ikea ran this commercial in the US featuring a gay couple in 1994. But a rising trend for brands to celebrate the NEW NORMAL arrived on our radar in 2012, when one US brand doubled-down on support for same-sex couples against a backdrop of rising concern for equal marriage.

In 2012, JCPenney released a catalog featuring a lesbian couple and a Father’s Day campaign depicting two gay dads playing with their children. The initiatives followed a backlash orchestrated by conservative campaigners following JCPenney’s move to employ openly gay talkshow host Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson.


McDonald's – Taiwan

Coming-out commercial highlights gay rights at crucial time.

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Taiwan, although a 2015 poll by the Ministry of Justice revealed that 71% of the population approves of it. Recently, one brand decided to address the disparity between government policy and popular opinion…

A gay-friendly McDonald’s McCafé ad in Taiwan stirred up opposition from local religious groups when it was published online in March 2016. In the YouTube video, a boy tells his father he is gay by writing it on the side of his cup. The angry father walks out, but returns to write his acceptance on his own cup. As of April 2016, the video had received over two million views.


Ariel – India

Detergent brand's campaign addresses unequal gender roles in the home

Remember, a campaign that would be standard in one market can be progressive – even shocking – in another. NEW NORMAL is location-dependent!

In February 2016, Procter & Gamble-owned laundry brand Ariel India continued its Share the Load equality campaign with a second commercial. The ad shows a mother engaged in a range of household chores while her husband and father do nothing to help. Her father then narrates a written apology to her. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg posted the campaign on her Facebook page where it received an additional 12 million views – proving that a locally adapted initiative can have international reach.


Zara – international

Fashion retailer embraces more fluid view of gender

As consumers in Europe, North America, Asia and beyond break away from binary assumptions around gender, savvy brands are adapting their product lines and marketing to keep up.

March 2016 saw Spanish fashion retailer Zara unveil Ungendered: a 16-piece unisex clothing line. Including jeans, t-shirts, bomber jackets and more, the entire collection is gender-neutral and features both men and women in ads sporting the attire interchangeably. The collection was available to buy online and in stores internationally.


PayPal – US

Office that would create 400 jobs cancelled in protest of discriminatory law

As the NEW NORMAL goes global, it’s worth remembering that how a brand shows its values can go way beyond advertising. How about applying the NEW NORMAL trend inside your business? See INSIDER TRADING for more on this.

April 2016 saw PayPal cancel plans to open an operational center in North Carolina. The company decided against the expansion after the state passed a law stating that transgender people must use bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. PayPal’s CEO, Dan Schulman, said the law ‘violates the values are principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture’.

Your Adaptation?

The NEW NORMAL will never stop changing. Watch, adapt and keep up – or get left behind!

We can’t say this enough: there won’t be an Official Announcement when social conventions – around gender, sexuality, relationships and more – are about to shift and create a NEW NORMAL. So it’s up to you to look out for signals (like when Caitlyn Jenner beat the US President’s record for the fastest to a million Twitter followers: that’s a signal).

That means applying this trend is about constant vigilance. How are lifestyles and mindsets evolving in your market? Are you keeping up with – or even better, ahead of – the shifts? How can you celebrate the emerging NEW NORMAL in ways your customers will love? Your work here is never done!

Apply this trend to create new products, services, campaigns, and even to overhaul your internal culture. It will be good for your brand. And even better for your soul ;)



From emerging market necessity to developed market decadence...


Everyday objects embedded with innovative new functions.

When resources are scarce and affordability is key, single purchases that solve multiple needs are loved – and can even be life-saving!

No surprise, then, that we first saw the MULTITASK MADNESS trend – for everyday physical products embedded with innovative multiple features and functions – arise in emerging markets, as entrepreneurs, nonprofits and big brands tackled the challenges faced by local citizens.

Yet when we witnessed MULTITASK MADNESS in more developed countries, it was largely driven by something quite different. Urban consumers from Singapore to San Francisco already adept at EXPERIENCE CRAMMING – that’s collecting as many new experiences as possible – were lapping up physical products packed with features. While their stated purpose was utility, these products were really all about the status of owning something new, exciting, and innovative.

Take a look at both strands of this trend below, and ask which version meets the needs (or desires ;) of your customers…


SP Brewery – Papa New Guinea

Beer case can be burnt to repel mosquitoes and reduce the spread of malaria

Papua New Guinea has one of the highest rates of malaria in the world; 280,000 cases were confirmed in 2013 according to the World Health Organization. What if an everyday object could MULTITASK as a weapon against the disease?

In July 2014, Papua New Guinea-based brewing company SP Brewery created the Mozzie Box: a beer case that works as a natural mosquito repellent.  Aimed at customers who enjoy a drink outside, the Mozzie box is scented with eucalyptus to repel mosquitos and prevent the spread of malaria. The cardboard box must be burnt to release the eucalyptus fragrance. The same brewery later tackled another life or death problem (for soccer fans) when it created the Cantenna, a beer case that, when used with empty cans, works as a TV antenna.



Asiri Group of Hospitals – Sri Lanka

MULTITASK bus tickets promote positive hand-washing habits

In this instance, a brand tackled a local issue – the spread of germs on crowded public transport – with a specially created bus ticket.

In May 2015, Asiri Group of Hospitals, one of Sri Lanka’s largest healthcare providers, created the Soap Bus Ticket. Special ticket rolls were developed using soap-infused paper, allowing commuters to use their disposable bus tickets to wash their hands and protect themselves from germs.


Coolest Cooler and BauBaux – US

Some of Kickstarter's most popular projects tap into MULTITASK MADNESS

So what does MULTITASK MADNESS look like when adapted to a market where basic needs are met, and status is everything? Back in August 2014, the multifunctional cool box Coolest Cooler became the most-funded Kickstarter project ever. And then…

September 2015 saw a 15-feature travel jacket from US-based BauBax raise over USD 9 million on Kickstarter, far surpassing its original goal of USD 20,000. Available in four styles, the USD 160 jacket includes a neck pillow that inflates in two seconds, earphone holders, an eye mask, built-in gloves and a portable charger pocket. It is Kickstarter’s most successful apparel campaign to date.


Lenovo – France

Jacket turns into screen

Again demonstrating that in developed markets MULTITASK MADNESS often provides status more than genuine utility…

In December 2015, Lenovo launched the Screen Jacket, which transforms into a screen when turned inside out. Designed to accompany the technology company’s new Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro tablet, which has a built-in projector, the jacket folds out to reveal a white canvas with hooks to attach to surfaces. Available in a variety of designs, the jacket launched in France and retails at EUR 350.

Your Adaptation?

How can you save lives or confer status with feature-packed products?

There are a million and one local contexts around which you could adapt this trend.

Could you turn your existing product, or even its packaging, into a multi-purpose object that provides value or even saves lives for consumers in an emerging market?  Ask: how do customers come into contact with your brand? What associated issue or challenge could your product tackle? For the Asiri Group of Hospitals it was about using a bus ticket to help prevent the spread of germs on the bus. Your adaptation?

Or perhaps, if you’re targeting highly status-driven urbanites, can you embed a myriad of features that give your customer something to tell their peers about and gain points in their race to experience and feature cramming?

It goes without saying, but there are many people living in poverty in developed markets too – how about addressing a challenge for them?



As many geographical borders become more porous – this trend is happening EVERYWHERE!


Consumers look to brands to help them welcome new arrivals.

Migration, even mass migration, is by no means a recent phenomenon. But today the world is smaller – and geographical borders are more porous – than ever.

Indeed, 2015 saw an epic global movement of peoples in the Middle East and Europe: the EU say 1 million refugees arrived in Europe in 2015, and predict a further 3 million will arrive in 2016. Meanwhile, North America saw the intensification of debates around immigration and citizenship.

One consequence of a world in which more people cross borders ever more easily? While some citizens fight to protect their locality from ‘outsiders’, plenty will welcome newcomers on a human and economic level – and they’ll look to brands to support them.

The opportunities here aren’t limited to charitable initiatives that support refugees. There are countless opportunities to adapt this trend for your location – and help local consumers interact with new arrivals, share their own heritage or celebrate their culture with OPEN ARMS.


Refugees Welcome – Germany

Platform matches refugees in Europe with people willing to share their homes

As refugees fled the Syrian war in 2015, Germany reported the arrival of 1.1 million migrants. No wonder we spotted multiple innovations aimed at helping them and those who wished to welcome them…

Founded in Berlin and launched in multiple European countries in October 2015, Refugees Welcome is an ‘Airbnb for refugees’ that connects individuals in private homes with refugees in need of lodging. By the end of its first month, the site had matched 258 refugees.


Fatiado Discos – Brazil

Record store hosts welcome dinners for refugees

This store found that the best way to welcome refugees with OPEN ARMS in Brazil was with a welcome party – of course we’d never propagate the stereotype that Brazilians love to socialize ;)

In October 2015, the Brazilian record store Fatiado Discos hosted Jantar dos Refugiados, a welcome dinner for Syrian and Palestinian refugees in the neighborhood of Gliverio, São Paulo. All dishes sold at the hosted dinner were made by refugees and locals.


Lush – US & Canada

Cosmetics brand tackles resistance to refugees with multiple initiatives

In a world where profits cross geographical borders <cough> #panamapapers <cough>, rising numbers think responsibility should, too.

When politicians in North America and other countries pledged not to take in Syrian refugees, UK cosmetics brand Lush was inspired to act. Along with writing ‘Ahlan wa Sahlan’ (the Arabic for ‘welcome’ on store signs), the brand created the Hand of Friendship Soap, 100% of the proceeds of which go into a fund for refugees arriving in North America.

Your Adaptation?

This trend tackles a global issue and yes, a controversial subject.

Welcome to 2016, where a British beauty brand provides OPEN ARMS to Syrian migrants on North American soil, because doing so puts them on the ‘the right side of history‘.

As with NEW NORMAL, applying OPEN ARMS might invoke the fury of some consumers, while earning adulation from others. You might think it’s safer to sit this one out…

But the bravest brands recognize that no attempt to cater to emerging expectations can be risk free – and that every innovation will please some people but not others.

Play it safe at your peril!


These trends will keep traveling – and we'll keep tracking them via our Trend Framework.


The Trend Framework

16 mega-trends that provide context and structure when tracking the evolution of consumerism.

We’ve tracked these five trends as they traveled around the world. But they also live somewhere else – as far as we’re concerned ;) – and that’s inside our Trend Framework.

That’s because all the trends we spot and share are really newly-emerging directions of travel in one (or more) of our 16 mega-trends. These mega-trends are the big, slow-moving currents in the consumer arena and, taken together, they form the Trend Framework: our complete picture of consumerism today and where it’s heading.

Grab a glimpse of the Trend Framework below (clients of our Premium Service have full access).

Via the Trend Framework, we’ll keep tracking the global spread and evolution of these trends – as we continue to receive examples of them from TW:IN (TrendWatching’s global network of spotters) every day.


See where these five trends are heading next...

Seeing these trends in the context of the Trend Framework means understanding more about where they came from – and where they’re going. Take, for example, JOYNING: the mega-trend that captures the endless human quest for connection and interaction. It won’t surprise you to hear that ALL ON MESSAGING falls under that mega-trend. What’s more, it has evolved out of past JOYNING trends around intuitive digital connection, and will no doubt one day evolve into future trends (as yet unknown). We’ll be watching!


You must SCAN far and wide! You must ADAPT! You must APPLY!


You're primed to adapt trends around local context.

But remember, other kinds of adaptation are possible, too!

We’ve seen how local is an immensely powerful context when it comes to adapting and applying a trend to create new products, services, campaigns and more.

And now you’ve mastered the idea of adapting around local context, it also pays to remember that there are other powerful contexts around which to adapt a trend. Think adaptation around expectations, behaviors and challenges unique to your industry. Think adaptation around a particular demographic: regular readers will know we have plenty to say on that score ;)

So get going – with one of these five trends, or one of your own!



Check out our Regional Trend Briefings

Because the next trend to reconfigure the expectations of your customers could come from ANYWHERE.

Anyone who’s only scanning for trends within their region is likely to be blindsided by the many trends that now cross international borders in the blink of an eye (likewise for those who just look within their industry).

One of the many upsides of having a 3,000 member spotter network, spread from Moscow to Mumbai, is that we are able to identify trends emerging in all corners of the map. And of course, we don’t keep these trends to ourselves ;)

So why not broaden your (G)LOCAL trend sources and subscribe to our Asia, Africa and South and Central America briefings?


Ready to start adapting and applying trends today? Our free CONSUMER TREND CANVAS tool will help get you started!