Trendwatching and forecasting have always been a passion of mine, and in late 2014, JS quietly began providing trend insight reports to clients through a partnership with Trendwatching.com. Before I went to Singapore in March, I spoke with the owner of Huntington Communications, the agency I was visiting, and asked if I could also present to their clients on the potential impact of the 2015 trends on their business and marketing communications. Over my two-week visit, I presented tailored insights to Huntington’s employees and clients, including Ikea, Akzo Nobel, and beauty companies Institute Dermologie, Dermalogica and Davines.
What I quickly realized is that Asian countries are leading the way in almost every aspect of global trendsetting. I knew Japan was ahead of the curve in technology and fashion, but what surprised me was how much Singapore and neighboring Indonesia were factors in setting trends that ripple globally. Below are a few of the key trends that resonated with each brand. How might they also impact your brand?
Status Seekers – Status Seekers aren’t just the logoed brand devotees they once were. These days, they fall into two distinct categories: Brand Fanatics and Status Deniers. Status Deniers tell the world (and themselves) that they’ve got zero interest in the “circus of consumerism” and the pursuit of consumer status. But look closer at their obsessions with utility, quality, generosity, simplicity or ethics, and you find it’s all about status. The example I like to give of Status Deniers is Starbucks’ legion of Pumpkin Spice Latte fans. Consumers may pretend they don’t care about affiliating with a brand, but every #PSL fan knows they are talking a secret language to each other when they see those three letters written on the side of their cup.
On the other hand, Brand Fanatics are encouraged by a host of more transparent, ethical, sustainable brands making consumption something to be proud of, not guilty about. A great example of this was Ikea’s Indonesian customer contest to dress up like their favorite Ikea product (picture below). Another great example in the U.S. is my client, Chick-fil-A, and their legions of fans who come out dressed like a cow each July to celebrate Cow Appreciation Day.
Mentor to Peer (M2P) – Leveraging the proliferation of social media, consumers are embracing innovative new ways to connect with mentors. In this case, “mentor” means professionals and peers who have the knowledge, skills and experience another consumer thirsts after. A great example of a brand leveraging this trend is Hellman’s Mayonnaise in Brazil. Hellman’s created a What’s Cook website with recipes using mayonnaise. Customers can make an appointment via the website with a professional chef to cook the recipes “together” virtually. Using the aforementioned What’s App, the professional chefs respond to cooking questions via text in real time throughout the duration of the appointment to ensure the customer is able to make the recipe with success.
Similarly, in the “Peer Armies” trend, brands are leveraging the skills or expertise of other consumers to create inexpensive or even free peer networks to provide valuable services. This trend follows the lead of Uber, where individuals use their cars to provide an inexpensive and trusted taxi service. Globally, Air bnb is beta testing an add-on app where locals can connect to visitors to give them travel advice, or where hosts can invite groups of visitors for dinners in their homes to give them a truly local experience.
Local Love – Building on the trend of pop-ups that was hot several years ago, smart brands now stand out from the crowd by making deeper commitments and lasting, meaningful impact on a chosen location. Brands are encouraged to fill the gaps left by the government when it comes to public spaces and resources. Now, consumer expectation is rising above ‘gap filling’ and to proactive, surprising, meaningful enhancement of a locality.
A great example of this is an outdoor movie park opened by Indonesian airline brand Achilles under a highway bridge flyover (pictured below). Up to 500 people can gather to watch movies or soccer matches for free in this permanent, and branded, community space. In Singapore, Huntington Comms’ client Akzo Nobel is planning to revitalize the landmark Clarke Quay later this year with newly-painted, rainbow storefronts in celebration of the country’s 50th anniversary.
Finally, brands that are playful resonate best with consumers in today’s crowded economy. By asking customers to play along and take a “Leap of Faith,” brands can engage consumers in meaningful and lasting ways. KLM Airlines, a partner of JS’ client Delta Air Lines, offers Monday Mystery Tickets for $99 to one of five potential destinations. On Tuesday, those who purchased the ticket find out where they’re heading for the long weekend. It’s a way of keeping customers surprised and building brand loyalty all in the name of fun.
So, how is your brand emboldening your fans to show their love for your products, being playful, giving back to the community or even providing [potentially free] expertise in a way that customers are constantly surprised and delighted? If you don’t have an element of at least one of these trends in your plan, you may be missing the boat with today’s multi-faceted and global consumer.
Want to learn more about the trends that might impact your business in 2015, 2016 and beyond? JS has a dedicated team of trend forecasters who can help translate Trendwatching’s research into actionable plans, strategies and tactics for your teams. And, stay tuned to the Thinkstand for more trend forecasting and for details on upcoming client events.