Each year we pull together some predictions of trends that might end up impacting the work we’ll be doing and conversations we’ll be having in the year ahead. We normally score between 5 and 8 out of 10, which is nice as we try not to ride the coat-tails of trends already out there.
2013. A whole year with an unlucky number. The year with no major cultural event in the British calendar (can’t we have the Olympics every year?). What will we do? Well, perhaps brands – and their agencies – can step up to the plate. Perhaps we can all fill the cultural landscape with energy, with rewarding and interesting things. We hope our predictions for 2013 are a good place to start. They’re written in such a way that we can use them as a lens for brands, perhaps working through the possibilities to create cultural artefacts, not just more ads, together.
01. Shifting Cultural Tectonics
As the global economic power bases shift from the stagnant economies of the west to the growing markets elesewhere, so the cultural influences change too. Added to this is the constant search for more interesting, fresher sources of cultural inspiration. We predict 2013 will be the global breakthrough year for two such new national sources and their influence on global culture. Korea and Mexico.
To a certain extent Korea has already embedded itself as the new Japan. You only need to type ‘Korea is the new Japan’ into Google to see across how many categories this is true (pop, cars, phones, etc). Psy’s gangnam, Hyundai, Samsung are all everyday mainstream references. This proliferation of Korean cultural capital is only set to grow as it seeks to assert itself globally even more vigorously against a weak Japan, and seek to redress the many years of Japanese colonial and more recently political dominance.
Less obvious, but equally prolific is the increase in Mexican influence in the United States. Obama’s legalising of the 3 million or so ‘illegal’ Mexicans in the States is now unlikely to be prevented by staunch Republicans, which is a kind of acknowledgement that was unthinkable even a couple of years ago. This coupled with slow but certain increase of Mexican art and cuisine in Western Europe is sure to grow as the country’s tarnished image at home is ‘managed’ through successes overseas.
02. Digital Renaissance
2013 will be the year that past favorites reinvent themselves and comeback with renewed promise to claim a place in our hearts. The ubiquity of Facebook and Google are driving users to seek out alternative means for discovery and social engagement. The redesigned MySpace puts music at its centre, connecting artists to their fans. Boasting an elegant discovery engine, it learns what its users like and keeps content fresh. It’s integration through Facebook & Twitter will boost numbers and fully establish its comeback.
Yahoo is also in the midst of a revival, putting the focus on technology rather than media. 2013 should see Yahoo properties become much more interactive, on PCs and mobile devices, using social media tools to personalize the user experience and make it less cluttered. Renaissance 2013 will also see us hankering for nostalgia, caused by the prolonged economic gloom. Expect to see some interesting comebacks from brands with a once strong heritage, like Nokia or HP. Department stores should also experience a boost as we seek good old fashioned service over the poor attention given from a plethora of vertical branded retail.
03. Collaborative Consumption
Renting is increasingly becoming the choice way for consumers to discover, experience and enjoy a wide variety of new things, from entertainment, fashion, utility, to travel and transport, making them part of their daily lives. With no end in sight to the current economic gloom, this trend is likely to ramp up and break into new categories during 2013.
Technology (location aware smart devices) and social networks are the main facilitators, allowing consumers to find what they need, when they want it, giving the convenience of ownership but without the responsibilities or costs. Social networks add the necessary layer of trust where new consumers can read user reviews, number of likes, or even check a Klout score. Brands should look to this growing trend and consider new revenue models, as the trend moves from ownership to usership.
Peer to Peer models have started to impact financial services by matching borrowers to lenders, giving both more competitive interest rates and greater security at a time when the banks are proving harder to borrow from. See Zopa, RateSetter and Funding Circle. Zilok provides a facility for consumers to rent out their personal belongings to anyone in their local community. While ideal for utility (tools, garden equipment etc), another benefit is it allows people to try before they buy, and indeed question whether they really need that thing they so desire.
Airbnb matches travellers to private homes and apartments, making holidays more interesting, authentic and better value. Whipcar allows people to rent cars from real people in their local neighbourhood, allowing car owners to make a little extra cash at times when their car is not being used. Rent the Runway makes high-end fashion more accessible, a bit like a Netflix for dresses.
Technological developments have bred a desire for instant gratification. We no longer save up to purchase treasured items, wait for photos to be developed or for a letter to arrive. There is an inverse relationship between expectation and patience – as expectations of service, speed and quality increase our tolerance diminishes.
Smartphones provide access to information wherever, whenever we want and with the introduction of 4G this will be even quicker too in 2013. We aren’t prepared to wait around – giving webpages only 0.3secs to load before clicking away (this was 4secs on 2006). This will have significant implications for both brands and retailers and the level of customer service they both deliver.
Twitter and Facebook have knocked down the walls between brand and consumers, and opened up opportunities for conversation. Done well, this builds relationships and loyalty. Done poorly and people feel ignored and sidelined, effectively turning a friend into an enemy and ultimately impacting customer loyalty.
Instant gratification and delivery has always been the thorn in the online retailers paw. Overnight deliveries and 90minute timeslots will become the norm, raising the bar to all other retailers. Speed of delivery will become increasingly important, especially for impulse purchases when the customer wants it, and wants it now.
05. Big Data Is Only Half Of The Solution
The amount of data in our world has exploded, with significant value hiding in the detail. However the potential and power is only unleashed when you know what to do with it. Big data helps to streamline operational processes and identify industry inefficiencies. Big data lets you be small, nimble and personal, and used well it can also be used to execute more effectively. We predict huge growth in big data discussions, but see very few brands and retailers getting true value from it…yet.
There is a fine balance between inviting consumer interaction and invading their territory. Consumers want to feel special, treated as individuals not mass market or hounded by brands. Harnessing the power of big data allows for brands and retailers to provide personalised content or service to meet specific demands and expectations at exactly the right time. This was proved to be highly effective by the Obama 2012 campaign – precise and differentiated messages on a massive scale. Brands who embrace big data and use it correctly can reap the rewards and competitive advantage whilst everyone else plays catch up.
As my friend Sooz triumphantly tweeted she’d got two weeks clothing into just hand luggage, we’re already well aware of the capsule wardrobe. But then you look around at full-fat cameras merging with phones, or the emergence of phablets. You only need one now, not two. We see the popularity of blogs like the Burning House Project with people posting pictures of the core few things that they’d save. And we wonder if the capsule wardrobe effect will be seen in other areas of life in 2013. It might mean weeding out all those apps we really honestly never use. It might mean adding new sentimentality to old technology so they’re elevated to your core set – and so it’s easier not to have to pay for the upgrade. We might see brands and services to help us see and curate what’s truly important. Fewer, better, more emotionally attached things. Capsuling.
Having brewed for years inside the walls of the Googleplex, the concept of Author Rank was finally unleashed in summer 2012 and hit the SEO circles hard. Reputation and hype around a specific author (not just a page or a website) all of a sudden became a crucial ranking factor in the ever important Google SERPs. The cynics may point out this was a sly move to push usage of Google+, but we see this as the inevitable establishment of an important overall social trend for 2013 and beyond.
As social media and the mindset that comes with it has ingrained itself further into our everyday lives, it’s not surprising that the importance of individual author identity has grown along with it. So while transparency and the ‘human’ side of brands has always been a key tenet of social media strategy, 2013 will finally properly push this up to the top of the marketing agenda. Of course overall brand reputation will still count, but see smart brands leverage and emphasise the ‘human beings’ (aka authors) behind their logos a lot more.
The tangible impact of this in 2013 will be the prevalence of individual authors in search results for brand searches. A brand sustained by a team of quality authors will rank higher than one without. We will grow to trust and maybe even individually follow individual brand authors, as they curate and produce content on behalf of the brands they work for/represent. And ,it won’t be enough to have our content seeded far and wide, it will become far more important to have a few quality authors carry it for us.
08. Force For Good
With communication technology people realize that they have a real power: they used it against government (Arab spring), institutions (anonymous), and with projects like Kony 2012 we’ll see it increasing in the near future as people look to improve the world we live in. This has become a threat for traditional and non-flexible charities.In 2013 we will see a blurring of definitions between Brands and Charities, and will begin to question their roles as brands look to create a truly Noble Purpose and build trust.
09. Don’t Listen To What I Say, Listen To What I Can’t Say
At it’s inception, and for a long period since, advertising has been reliant on the idea of the rational individual who is informed by communications and makes purchase choices on the basis of advertising information. The explosion of neuroscientific research and the growth of knowledge in behavioural economics has revealed the serious limitations of this view. We are not always able to accurately explain our own behavior. Rather, we have limited self-awareness, flawed memories and make the large majority of decisions on the basis of mental shortcuts and rules of thumb, not rational reasoning.
Thinking such as this shows how new consumer understanding helps to widen advertising’s remit far beyond communications. Experience architecture and choice design are the new tools for changing behavior and their strategies need to be informed by a greater balance of third person research methodologies (neuroscience, experimental psychology and behavioural economics), over first person research methodologies (self reporting, both quantitative and qualitative). Marketers will need to be well-versed in a much wider range of research available to them and confident in applying a greater degree of insight interpretation to the research they use. In future we will listen less to what consumers say, and pay more attention to what they can’t say.
10. Surprise Me
With ever more targeted advertising, on demand entertainment, and everything at our fingertips people are suffering information overload and serious choice fatigue. This is driving the trend toward people wanting to relinquish control, escape decision-making and relish the unexpected. If we look at the rise of Secret Cinema (and now Secret Hotel and Secret Restaurant), it is clear that people are quite happy to pay before they even know what they’re getting. In an age of Google informed know-it-alls and mobile enhanced have-it-alls, mystery and surprise will be valued more and more. When people don’t know what to expect, it makes the experience a whole lot richer. Sometimes it’s just a whole lot more fun if someone else makes the decisions.