Behind 2014′s most important media trends
We'll feel both love and contempt for technology
December 19, 2013
Technology has never been more impressive than it is today. But with smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and all the other advanced devices fighting for our attention every minute, people are starting to feel ambivalence toward the digital realm. Though we appreciate the things technology can do for us, we feel resentful of how far it has encroached on our daily lives. That push and pull between embracing and eschewing technology is one of the trends on the horizon for 2014, according to JWT’s annual trendspotting report. Other things media buyers and planners should be on the watch for: Immersive experiences, such as ads that surround you with music, bright colors and things to touch; embracing the visual; the rise of mobile; and praising imperfection. To see last year’s trends, click here. Ann Mack, Ann Mack, director of trendspotting at JWT Worldwide, talks to Media Life about why trendspotting is important for media people, how mobile can open new worlds, and why mental telepathy could be a new client buzzword.
Why is trendspotting important for media people?
In a world of hyper-abundant information and constant innovation, it’s important to be on top of changes in the global zeitgeists so as to convert those shifts into compelling opportunities.
Media people can leverage trends in an opportunistic way for communications, product, brand and business development. Being trend-aware helps to inspire, instigate and inform ideas beyond brand, category and consumer conventions. It also allows businesses to stay ahead of their competitors, meeting emerging consumer needs and wants before anyone else does.
Are there any themes that unite this year’s trends? What are they?
In our ninth annual forecast of trends for the near future, we see consumers both welcoming and resisting technology’s growing omnipresence in their lives.
For many, technology serves as a gateway to opportunity and an enabler of hyper-efficient lifestyles, but those who are most immersed are starting to question its effect on their lives and on their privacy. One result is that people are trying to find a balance and seeking to be more mindful and in-the-moment.
Did any themes carry over from 2013? Which ones?
New technology continues to take center stage, as we see major shifts tied to warp-speed developments in mobile, social and data technologies. Many of our trends reflect how businesses are driving, leveraging or counteracting technology’s expanding role in our lives, and how consumers are responding to its pull.
One trend you note is “immersive experiences.” How do you see that playing out in advertising?
In the years ahead, entertainment, narratives and brand experiences will become more immersive and altogether more enveloping in a bid to capture consumers’ imagination and attention.
Going beyond interactive and multimedia environments, tech brands, retailers, marketers, museums, theater producers and others are creating experiences that allow participants to leave their “real” worlds behind. Thanks in part to new tools and technologies, these immersive environments put the participant at the center of the action. They strike a chord with today’s consumers, especially younger ones, who are seeking out unique and shareable experiences.
As a result, you’ll see more immersive brand experiences. Marketers are harnessing technologies like smart sensors and gesture recognition to create immersive installations that showcase products or create multisensory environments tied to the brand’s positioning.
For instance, Lucy, the California-based active wear chain, installed 10,000 solar-powered lights along the Charles River in Boston that made sounds according to a passerby’s movements. The temporary display was set up in October 2013 and will be recreated in other locations.
Another example comes from Sonos. To bring the tagline “Fill Your Home with Music” to life, the maker of internet-connected wireless music systems created immersive installations in New York and Los Angeles. Digitized color washes, lighting and animation coordinated the color and mood of a room to the music playing through Sonos speakers.
How has our digital-dependent culture ushered in your third trend, “the age of impatience?”
Thanks in part to mobile-enabled lifestyles, faster connectivity, instant downloads, streaming services and our always-on culture, consumers are developing ever-increasing expectations for speed and efficiency. Impatience will come to define the generations growing up in a real-time, visually oriented world.
Businesses are catering to the rising demand for instant gratification in various ways, offering same-day or even same-hour delivery services, providing full seasons of TV series for binge viewers, using mobile to make payments and shopping more effortless, and creating dating apps that enable yes/no decisions at a glance.
Brands will be pressured to satisfy consumers promptly, removing or reducing friction points and enabling more seamless transactions. Alternatively, marketers can tap into a countertrend, the rising interest in mindfulness, by encouraging focus and patience.
How can advertisers take part in your fourth trend, “mobile as a gateway to opportunity?”
In emerging markets, the mobile device is coming to represent a gateway to opportunity—helping people change their lives by giving them access to financial systems, new business tools, better health care, education and more.
Thanks to the unique benefits mobile can bring, emerging-market consumers are more optimistic and positive about the technology than people in developed markets.
Brands will need to understand this mindset, as well as mobile’s integral role in these markets and the many innovative ways that people are using mobile devices. Brands may benefit here by embracing shared value: becoming a force for positive change while enhancing their long-term competitiveness in these markets.
As brands look to help mobile consumers gain access to new opportunities, they may benefit from partnerships with nonprofits serving the relevant communities and local governments. Nonprofits can be especially useful in supplying content for information-based health, education or other services. Nokia, for instance, works with the British Council to make mobile-based English lessons available around the world.
Marketers can also turn to government or charitable funding to help support beneficial projects, and conversely can sponsor important initiatives started by governments or non-governmental organizations. Vodafone’s M-Pesa mobile banking service in Kenya got off the ground with financial backing from the UK’s Department for International Development, and its Farmer’s Club in Turkey received essential government support.
How could telepathic technology help shape brands’ understanding of how people react to advertising?
The past decade has given rise to pared-down, inexpensive versions of electroencephalography (EEG) headsets and affective computing technologies–computers that read emotions. These developments, along with the trend toward greater personalization, are pushing telepathic technology into the commercial realm.
Marketers are complementing traditional research methods with neuromarketing. Using a variety of means—from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and EEG to facial coding—this relatively new area of consumer research aims to determine consumers’ nonconscious responses to products, packaging, media content, etc. Technological advances are making neuromarketing increasingly mobile and immediately actionable, taking it out of research labs and into day-to-day environments.
For instance, NeuroFocus (now the Consumer Neuroscience division of Nielsen) launched the first portable, wireless EEG scanner in 2011, dubbed Mynd. The skullcap-shaped device doesn’t require people to put wet gels on their heads to be tested. The aim is to capture subconscious data in real time while participants are watching TV, for instance, or out at a mall.
You note another trend is “raging against the machine.” Are people starting to resent the constant intrusion of technology on their lives?
As we move further into the digital age, we’re starting to both fear and resent technology, fretting about what’s been lost in our embrace of unprecedented change. As a result, we’re putting a higher value on all things that feel essentially human and seriously questioning — while not entirely resisting —technology’s siren call.
There’s a Jekyll and Hyde quality to this backlash. Many people will simultaneously embrace and lament technology, while others will land squarely on opposite ends of this equation.
While ire is currently focused on mobile phones and social media as we become more aware of their downsides and more eager to be mindful, it will widen to a range of new technologies — robots, for instance — as they intrude on life as we know it. Consumers will be searching for the best of both worlds, and brands can help them navigate the line between too immersed and too disconnected.
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