2020 vision

20 trends
for 2020

Philip Morris International SVP Global Communications Marian Salzman has been compiling trends for “more years than [she would] care to remember”. She is perhaps best known for predicting the rise of ‘metrosexuality’ and declaring that ‘sleep is the new sex’.

She has forecasted the latest consumer, political and lifestyle trends that will impact our world in the next year in a new report called ‘Chaos, the New Normal: 20 Trends for 2020’. We present edited highlights in this article – the full report can be downloaded here.

Philip Morris International SVP Global Communications Marian Salzman

Trend 1 – Desperate for touch

It’s never been easier to reach out to friends and colleagues anywhere in the world. But here’s the irony: the more digitally connected we all become, the more we risk becoming disconnected emotionally and physically. At our core, humans are social animals. We need contact—and not just emotional, but physical.

So, how are humans responding to the tech-driven modern disconnect? By seeking out physical contact in any way we can. The most obvious example is the rise of hugging, largely in the form of ‘cuddle therapy’. But there are also products – such as weighted blankets – while everyday compression wear is also becoming a thing.

Trend 2 – The pet therapist is in

Pet ownership is booming around the world. Treating pets as people is pretty much standard in many countries. Being devoted to our pets is nothing new. What’s changing is the range of things we expect of them. Now pet owners are looking for more. A growing number are regarding their pets as support animals—four-legged or winged or even scaly providers of nonverbal therapy. The phenomenon has spawned a mini-industry.

Is it any wonder airlines are frantically crafting rules to stop people from bringing their ‘support’ peacocks, ponies and penguins on board?

Those extremes aside, pets truly fill a gap in modern life – providing the comfort, unconditional love and physical affection so many crave. Part of that comes back to trend number one: touch. So don’t be surprised if more doctors start to prescribe pet ownership.

We’re even seeing universities and workplaces [and airports – Ed] bring in therapy dogs to serve as stress relievers and emotional outlets.

Trend 3 – Neuro-awareness

We are more aware of neurochemicals and what they do. Knowledge brought to us courtesy of powerful new technologies that enable scientists to explore—and potentially exploit—the workings of the brain and body.

For a culture obsessed with innovation, increasingly suffering from mental and emotional disorders and worrying about what technology might be doing to our brains, neuroscience promises new hacks to help make sense of it all.

Trend 4 – Clean-air luxury

We are in an era of growing global angst about air pollution. As living in places with clean air becomes a luxury with a high price tag, expect new takes on face masks to become a must-have item for people forced to brave the growing miasma in cities. Urban planning will continue to evolve to try to make urban areas healthier – with more green spaces and even more restrictions on driving in the works.

Trend 5 – Tree chic

Which city has the tallest buildings? The greatest arts scene? The best restaurants? The most efficient mass transit? For as long as there have been cities, they have competed with each other to garner prestige and talent. And now, amid growing public alarm about air pollution and environmental decline, cities are competing (and cooperating) with each other to be greener—literally. Urban trees bring bragging rights.

Trend 6 – Micromobility

‘Micromobility’ means small wheeled devices that are quicker than walking and handier than cars. This includes bicycles but it is shared e-scooters that are shaping up to be the breakout hot trend for getting around town in 2020.

Major providers such as Lime and Bird have set up shop in more than 100 cities worldwide. Users love them—not least because renters can just leave them on any public sidewalk when they’re done—but opponents claim they’re dangerous (at least 11 scooter riders have died worldwide since 2018, while many others have been injured). And then there’s the issue of all those e-scooters being left willy-nilly on sidewalks.

With fierce competition and tight margins, e-scooters may turn out to be a bad business idea in its current form. But in places where congestion is so dire and so polluting, the incentives to figure out micromobility are irresistible. Sooner or later, companies, residents and city authorities are going to come up with solutions that work.

Trend 7 – Getting off the beaten track

Shuffling through heaving crowds is increasingly part of the experience of the world’s iconic tourist destinations because… well, because they’re the world’s iconic tourist destinations. Those all-important selfies that say, ‘I was there!’ more often than not end up being unintentional group shots of other visitors taking their own selfies.

The crowds are inevitable. International tourist arrivals in 2018 totalled 1.4 billion—more than the populations of Europe and North America combined. That was two years ahead of projected growth.

Not everyone is amused. Mass tourism forces the 271,000 permanent residents of Venice to rub shoulders with 20 million tourists a year. That’s around 74 tourists per resident. And it’s not only historic holiday destinations such as Paris, Florence, Venice and Amsterdam that are being overwhelmed with more visitors than they want to handle. Anyone signed up to climb Mount Everest should factor in long lines of fellow adventurers waiting to get up to the summit—and long lines waiting to come down.

This is all pretty discouraging for anyone with a bucket list, or even a modest desire to see great sights they’ve long heard about. If a destination has the sort of place-brand that people talk about, there will be crowds, lots of waiting in line, high prices and too many people spoiling the view you paid to see.

On the upside, it’s a great incentive to seek out little-known destinations that are outside normal comfort zones and aren’t overrun with kiss-me-quick visitors. It’s part of what continues to drive the trend toward ‘adventure travel’ – trips heavy on hiking, biking, trekking, snorkelling and meeting the locals – and ‘purpose travel’, where tourists spend their vacations engaging in good work, things like building houses and volunteering at orphanages.

The emergence of Airbnb was, it seems, ideally timed for travellers looking for more authentic and customised experiences. It has allowed adventure seekers to inhabit homes, apartments, yurts, castles and cottages in remote destinations. In our increasingly chaotic world, I can totally appreciate the appeal of a homestay on Pitcairn Island (permanent population: 50).

Trend 8 – I <3 Robot

We’re in the early days of a new stage in our relationships with artificial intelligence. As our devices get smarter and master the intricacies of natural language processing, we will increasingly turn to them as confidants, friends—even romantic partners.

In 2017, my former agency conducted a global study that found that one in four millennials believe it will be normal for humans and robots to develop deep friendships and even romantic relationships. In some markets, that figure was even higher, reaching 54% in China and 45% in India.

As developers figure out how to make our smart devices ever more personable, it doesn’t take a soothsayer to recognise that a global population increasingly suffering from loneliness and disconnectedness will find solutions of a sort in these devices.

How will that solution affect our social fabric, and human-to-human relationships? Will the eventual perfection of AI make us less willing to accept human imperfections? Stay tuned.

Trend 9 – Scripting third acts

As average lifespans increase, seniors today have quite a few more years of life ahead of them. How do we refer to people’s plans for those extra years of life? It used to be ‘when you retire’, but the idea of retirement is blurring and disappearing. Many keep working well beyond the official retirement age, either because they enjoy staying active or because they don’t have enough money to live a life of leisure in their golden years.

Ageing baby boomers—the cohort now firmly in the frame here—have taken to talking about this phase of life as their ‘third act’, on the grounds that the first two acts of life are childhood and adulthood. Actor Jane Fonda, now in her 80s, popularised the term and talks about feeling “very intentional about realising that it’s up to me how this last part of my life goes”.

Seniors are opting to pursue new careers, new relationships or passions they didn’t have time for before. Now that we are encouraged to think of our life in terms of narrative, it makes sense to script the third act.

Trend 10 – Making every purchase count

Over the past decade there has been a shift in attitudes toward ‘buying stuff’ – a growing pushback against overconsumption and disposable everything.

The underlying issue is simple: people are tired of living cluttered lives—surrounded by items they no longer want and never really needed. The magic formula underlying consumerism – Work hard > Get paid > Buy stuff > Feel good > Repeat – is not so magic anymore. Buying stuff doesn’t feel so good now that so many of us recognise how much waste it involves, and the consequences on both other people and the planet.

Increasingly, purchases are making people feel guilty rather than gleeful. More of us are feeling bad about all the plastic we see littering the streets and choking the oceans. Or about all that food we end up tossing in the trash bin because it’s past its expiration date or has gone bad.

Purchasing feels different today than it did just a few years ago. We are still a very long way from people carefully weighing every decision and buying only what they truly need. And a vanishingly small percentage of consumers are purchasing only items that are good for their own health and that of the planet. And yet we are seeing an uptick in mindfulness and in regrets over poor consumption decisions. It’s a whole new form of buyer’s remorse. That’s the part that’s trending.

This gradually growing awareness is also energising a tendency to ‘vote’ in store aisles and e-checkout lines. It’s that almost subliminal nudge that people feel toward this brand and away from that brand, choosing to buy or not to buy a product because of its brand affiliation and whether its values align with their own. It’s steering clear of a fast-food outlet because of the stance it takes on gay rights or women’s reproductive health. It’s preferring to buy items from a particular brand because it’s supporting Candidate X or Issue Y.

With so many issues being raised in the public domain, it’s getting harder for brands to take a neutral stance. In fact, campaigners and activists are becoming adept at flagging up how even apparently neutral brands make choices that have an impact on hot-button issues. Brands no longer have the luxury of opting out by remaining silent. On the most divisive issues, consumers are looking to see where their brands stand.

Trend 11 – Faux everything

What unites the yin of authenticity with the yang of vat-grown?

On the one hand, there’s the trend of people seeking handmade, high-touch antidotes to the high-tech, plastic-coated, artificial, Photoshopped sheen of so much in our world. We love the feeling – tactile and emotional – of artisan-made linens, handcrafted wooden cabinets and small-batch chocolate. On the other, there’s the trend toward faux everything, from vegan leather to plant-based burgers and artificial wood.

What ties these two apparently contradictory trends together is how they embody the things we value in this digital era.

We want to push back against the fast-paced, impersonal world by connecting in some small way with old-world makers and local producers.

And we value faux versions of hamburgers, leather, wood and other such goods because they, too, have a sort of personal back story, one that’s rooted in the ethically aware smarts of the individuals who invented and market them.

Faux products that serve as substitutes for items we worry about (e.g., unsustainable meat production, threatened forests) give us control over the ingredients we consume and the impact we’re having on people and the planet. If you buy a vegan X Burger (yes, that’s an actual brand name) and cook it at home, you can see with a glance at the packaging just how much harm you have avoided by consuming a burger made with eight times less water, nine times less land and eight times less CO2 than a conventional beef burger.

These sorts of products may be described as ‘fake’, but the feelings people get of having made an ethically better choice are very real indeed. In fact, there’s pleasure in noticing how much the product tastes or feels like ‘the real thing’ while knowing that it’s not. Unlike fake news and fake branded goods, such ‘ethical fakes’ are not intended to deceive or mislead. They are intended to do what the ‘real thing’ does, but with less harm.

These trends go back to people’s desire to be smarter, more mindful consumers and planetary citizens. It’s all about consuming in ways that reduce the harms we worry about, temper our feelings of guilt and increase our sense that we’re doing something that benefits the greater good. Expect an explosion of such products in 2020 and beyond.

Trend 12 – The age of rage continues

Is it my imagination, or does the online world sometimes seems to be fuelled 30% by memes and cat videos and 70% by viciousness and vitriol? That’s definitely been my impression—at least on social media. Unless you’re in the business of monetising clicks, the age of rage is a destructive and counterproductive force.

Fortunately, over the past year or two, more individuals (and brands) have decided to fight back. They’re refusing to be cowed by online bullies – naming names and standing their ground rather than remaining silent and waiting for things to calm down. I know because my company is one of the entities fighting back – immediately correcting falsehoods and engaging freely with critics on social media and in other forums.

The best way to deal with the rage of others online is to stay calm, avoid reacting to personal attacks, deploy facts and be willing to understand what drives the rage of others.

It’s my hope that a trend for 2021 will be the age of courage.

Trend 13 – To the bunkers!

So-called preppers and survivalists are hunkering down and preparing for the worst. More mainstream are the millions who aren’t worried enough to go all-out prepper but still view the outside world as a threat.

Driven by concerns about personal security and terrorism, CCTV covering public and commercial spaces is becoming a global norm. Equally reassuring for individual consumers is home video surveillance, courtesy of Google Nest, Ring, Wize Cam and a bunch of other start-ups. Home security devices connect to Wi-Fi and deliver images and alerts to smartphones. Sales of these smart home surveillance cameras are booming.

Marketers will need to understand the implications of this bunker mentality across industries. What sorts of investments make sense for people who think the world is about to implode? What products, other than guns and cameras, can help people feel safer within their own homes? How can brands establish a sense of trust and security among consumers who have grown increasingly sceptical and skittish? Uncertainty begets fear. And that has a strong influence on consumer behaviour.

Trend 14 – Raising the drawbridge

That bunker mentality is very much in evidence online, too. In 2020, watch for many more people to start to rethink their relationship with the internet and social media – being far more vigilant about guarding their privacy, their anonymity and their sense of security.

Trend 15 – #MeToo 3.0

With the #MeToo movement now part of mainstream dialogue, men can no longer count on women’s reticence, embarrassment and fear of reprisals to keep them quiet. Women around the globe will follow Ariana Grande’s example and call out ‘mansplaining’ publicly, without a filter, about everything and anything. The fight for equality is changing.

Trend 16 – The rise of ‘ish’ ness

The ambiguities and complexities of modern life can cause discomfort for some. These people long for the reassurance of simple categories, of black and white with no shades of gray. They are certain to be disappointed. Flux, fusion and blending are part and parcel of modern life.

Trend 17 – How am I doing today?

For growing numbers of people, there’s something irresistible about gadgets that put statistics to the common activities of everyday life and give them a dashboard of personal KPIs.

For technophobes and skeptics, tracking may seem a tad too self-obsessed, not to mention a point of potential vulnerability to snooping and hacking.

But plenty of people clearly have a desire to take control of their life and to see tangible evidence of their progress. And as long as affordable gadgets can help them get results, make the process more fun and look cool, expect the self-tracking trend to run and run.

Trend 18 – Plant-to-plate

Growing numbers of consumers think the case against meat is getting stronger because of the intertwined concerns about the suffering of factory-farmed animals, the impact of meat production on the environment and the effects of meat on human health. There’s something for everyone to fret about.

Consequently, the trend toward meat-free has been growing. All it needed was hero products to lead the charge.

This year, the Impossible Burger has been wowing consumers who had wondered whether a totally plant-based burger could really match a meat-based burger for look, taste and mouth feel. The answer reported by many is yes. The patty is made of heme, a protein that’s cultivated from soybean roots that are rich in iron with a flavour that has hints of blood. Burger King’s Impossible Whopper is looking like the breakout product that will make the trend not just acceptable but cool—a high-profile oddity that consumers will actively seek out and prefer.

Dairy products are also implicated in factory farming, which partly explains the trend toward non-dairy alternatives – oat milk, almond milk and coconut milk to name but three. It’s a global market that was worth US$11.9 billion in 2017 and is projected to reach revenues of more than US$38 billion by 2024, with more than +14% annual growth. Non-dairy milk has quickly become one of the standard options at a coffee shop near you.

As consumers and investors are finding, plant-based eating is hitting the sweet spot between animal welfare, environmental anxiety and the obsession with health and diet. It’s a trend that’s only getting started.

Trend 19 – Farm-to-table-to-plastic

The notion of farm-to-table and local product sourcing has been around for some time. Its essence could soon seep into other parts of the value chain. What that means: looking beyond the sourcing of our food to the sourcing and afterlife of product packaging.

More of us are realising that something has to be done to slow, and even reverse, the environmental impact of plastic on the environment. Recently, recycling has been revealed to be a weak solution to a massive problem.

As consumers clamour for accountability, businesses are listening. Earlier this year, UK grocer Marks & Spencer launched a plastic-free packaging approach for fruits and vegetables to give consumers the option to reduce their waste. Taking the concept even further are companies that are creating biodegradable, natural packaging solutions with gourds.

The innovation doesn’t stop there. In Southern California, a cannabis company is creating packaging from plastics recovered from the ocean. In India, a start-up is building bricks from plastic waste. Big brands are taking action, too: Colgate has released a recyclable toothpaste tube; hotel chains are eliminating the small plastic toiletry bottles that have been a mainstay; Heineken UK is ditching the plastic packaging (those plastic rings that have long been out of favour) from its six packs.

These are just a few examples. More brands will tap into technology and developing science to meet consumer demands for better sustainability in both products and packaging.

Trend 20 – Youth power

Greta Thunberg is emblematic of a new generation – and a new form – of cause activists who have grown up in a world where bullies feel free to intimidate people of any age both online and offline. They’ve grown far thicker skin that most adults possess, and they’ve shown time and again that they won’t be shut up or shut down.

Social media is a key tool. Unlike most of their adult counterparts, these activists understand the value of humour, reason and even gentleness over anger and finger-pointing. They recognise that progress relies on dialogue and shared understanding, and that neither is fostered by shouting.

A chain reaction

“Companies of all sizes are coming to realise that they can make a positive difference in the world while also preserving – or increasing – their profits,” says Philip Morris International SVP Global Communications Marian Salzman.

“I’m witnessing that in the transformation of my own company, Philip Morris International. I joined the business nearly two years ago and have since been living and breathing its purpose of ‘unsmoking the world’.

“There are around 1.1 billion smokers today, and the World Health Organization estimates that around the same number will be smoking in 2025, despite best efforts to get them to quit. My job is to help persuade those adults who otherwise would continue smoking to go smoke-free. To switch to better, scientifically substantiated alternatives. We’ve already moved more than 8 million people off cigarettes. That’s a tiny fraction of the world’s smokers, but it’s still a lot of people, and that’s encouraging. It’s my job to ensure that figure continues to grow.

“There’s a lot going wrong in the world right now, but there’s also a good deal going right. I believe that the pressures on corporations to act in more responsible and socially proactive ways – pressure from their employees, their customers and, increasingly, their investors – is a trend with staying power, and one that has far-reaching implications that will emanate throughout the globe.

“In an era in which 71 of the world’s 100 top revenue producers are individual companies rather than countries, we can’t afford to have it any other way. Here’s to a more mindful, purposeful – and far less chaotic – 2020.”

The Moodie Davitt eZine

Issue 274 | 31 December 2019

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 20 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd).

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