Smoking Gun's 2017 consumer trends

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By Hayley Peters

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The time has come again to talk trends! Boy has it been an eventful year for consumer development… We’ve seen the UK vote in favour of Brexit, Donald Trump win the race to the White House, not to mention the Rio Olympics. All of these important and historical events will continue to have an impact in the year to come…
But, what else is in store for 2017?
I have to say, reading and analysing the latest trend reports has been a pretty mammoth task this year – so much has happened, there are such deep and complex issues driving behaviours – it was quite a task distilling it all into this one document.
But we did it and we truly hope you find it useful!
[Tweet “10 #consumertrends you need to understand for 2017 #pr #marketing”]
Gaining an understanding of the direction consumers are heading will help you accelerate your business ahead of the competition and ensure you’re serving your customer’s needs. Possibly before they’ve even realised for themselves.??So put the kettle on, have a good read of this document, discuss and debate it with your colleagues and get set to do some brand planning of your own.
Are you ready? Ok, let’s go.
MINDLESSNESS, THE NEW MINDFULNESS
We’ve all heard the term ‘Mindfulness’ right? Well what about ‘Mindlessness’? Yes that’s right – the latest trend, courtesy of trendwatching.com is ‘Motivated Mindlessness’. ? ?In our quest for status, the search for self-improvement has supercharged – we want to be smarter, healthier, more connected and creative.
However, we won’t necessarily do it by ourselves. We’ll want to employ the use of Artificial Intelligence services to help us achieve our goals. ??For example, unique users of digital virtual assistants are set to rise from 390 million in 2015 to 1.8 billion worldwide by 2021 (Tractica, August 2016). ?Google has already made headway in this arena with its Goals feature within its Calendar app.
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The app uses AI to help users schedule and stick to self-improvement activities – users add a personal objective to their daily calendar, such as ‘do more exercise’ or ‘do more reading’. The app asks questions and identifies appropriate times in the user’s schedule. Users can postpone an activity and the app will reschedule for them. Overtime, the app will get to know the user and become much better at scheduling activities the user is likely to stick to. ??This trend opportunity has emerged as a result of the relationship between self-improvement, status seeking and technology.
VIRTUAL EXPERIENCES = STATUS CURRENCY
Many brands have dabbled in AR for the last few years but in 2016 it officially landed, thanks to Pokemon Go, a fun and playful AR based game where players hunted Poke monsters in their locality. Pokemon bar crawls popped up, players were paired on dates – it was more than just a digital experience – it became a status currency and a chance for people to connect socially!
2017 is expected to see a host of brands follow in Pokemon Go’s footsteps with similar digital experiences. ??The AR market was worth USD 640 million in 2015, and will rocket to USD 100 billion by 2024 (Grand View Research, May 2016.) ??The key takeout here is, in order to be successful in this arena, don’t just think of digital experiences as a tool. Start thinking about them as platforms that add value to a consumers life experience.
WORLDS APART
In 2017 and beyond, we will see and feel the impact of deglobalisation. Consumers across the globe continue to struggle with the impact of political and economic instability, terrorism fears, the refugee crisis, the threat of job cuts due to automation…
As a result of these very real threats we now face, consumers are turning in different directions in a bid to seek solutions and emotional empowerment. Many remain committed to an open and connected World – and others wish to turn to the familiar – their own locality. ??Purposeful brands have an opportunity to engage the NEW GLOBAL CITIZENS or NATION NURTURERS (as defined by trendwatching.com) – however this will mean picking a side…??A good example of a trend innovation in action here is Copenhagen-based travel website Momondo, which created a video highlighting racial diversity in all individuals.
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In The DNA Journey, volunteers were shown talking about pride in their national heritage, before being shown the results of DNA tests that proved they were a mix of genes from many different parts of the World. Momondo’s ad ended with the message, ‘You have more in common with the World than you think’. As of 8th Jan ’17, the clip had over 15 million views on YouTube.??This isn’t an easy trend to tackle and the brands that do, must ensure careful consideration and thought has taken place before launching a campaign. This trend is all about positive actions, so brands may want to think about how they can help make a difference in this World we now live in.
CULTURAL SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Corporate Social Responsibility has been part of best brand practice for as long as we can remember, however the time has come for brands to truly be a force for positive change. ??We talked about taking positive action in the ‘WORLDS APART’ trend – not just because this is the right thing to do for humanity but because this is what brands are going to need to do in order to survive and thrive. ??In trendwatching.com’s latest trend report they ask the question – ‘do brands have a viable future?
When you can 3D-print yourself a great pair of trainers, what is the point of Nike?’ The point is, brands can still mean something in this new era, they just have to adapt to an environment where consumers are increasingly turning to brands for authentic and ethical consumerism.
According to Mintel – with funding in Europe in crisis, yet the region contains the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites – brands are increasingly stepping in to fund restoration and repair work. One great way to demonstrate a brand’s commitment to its consumers and their locality.
SUBVERSION TACTICS
One brave way to stand out amid the cultural saturation of increasing online media consumption, is to mischievously shout about what you are against. ??According to Nielsen (June 2016), the average US adult spends 10 hours and 39 minutes a day consuming media, up an entire hour from just a year ago – highlighting just how tough it is to achieve any kind of brand cut-through online, today.
This is a light-hearted trend, informed by a deep desire for more authentic and meaningful brands and by being quite clever and shouting about what you’re against, brands are highlighting what they actually stand for and are passionate about – this can be as simple as highlighting how your products are lovingly made.
Be careful though, it’s important to pick your line of attack carefully and always be playful in your approach, you’re trying to be a subversive brand, not a smug git! ??Craft Brewery & Co. is a good example of how to deliver a campaign like this…
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…To celebrate the launch of a new outlet, the brand hosted a Crap Beer Amnesty – asking consumers to bring unopened commercial beers’ to the launch – the beers were then dumped out on the street and destroyed using a mini digger.
What we love about this trend at Smoking Gun is how it goes against the grain. Brands with a challenger attitude that are real, create the opportunity to stand out and be embraced on and offline.
OUT THERE INDIVIDUALS
In 2017 and beyond, emerging technologies will enrich our individuality and help forge deeper meaningful connections. There is a growing trend for people to put themselves out there, to proudly celebrate their real world identity. And yes there is a trend for increased anonymity online which brings a sense of freedom and makes voicing your opinion easier, but as humans, we will never stop wanting to be accepted for who we truly are.
This has created an opportunity for previously marginalised groups, proud of who they are. Take Inclov, for example – a dating app for people with disabilities and health conditions. The app helps people to find matches based on their disability type, as well as their age and location. Users are connected if they both swipe right, and once connected can use the app to chat. Talkback and screen-reader functions also allow the visually-impaired to use the service.
This trend is born out of a basic human desire to be accepted and for equal and fair treatment. The challenge for brands here is to work out how you can help consumers express their identities and connect to other likeminded groups/ individuals.
INNER CIRCLES
An interesting stat from the Bank of America (June 2016) – 39% of millennials say they interact more with their smartphone than with their significant others.
Blurring work life boundaries, smartphone culture, the desire for self-improvement (fitter, stronger, smarter, healthier etc.) – life is becoming increasingly more complex and time-poor.
Now, don’t get us wrong – technology has contributed to so many digital developments, but at the same time, it has been proven to be socially intrusive and psychologically damaging. We just don’t look up anymore – and for that reason, we’re looking for new ways to redress the balance and forge deeper connections with the people that really matter.
A great example of a brand meeting this desire for connection with loved ones is Ikea – last September, they launched pop-up DIY restaurant, The Dining Club in Shoreditch. ?Guests could invite friends and family to dine with them at the venue – they then worked?in the kitchen to prepare the food with a professional chef on hand to help.
So if you’re thinking of tapping into this trend, think about what tools/ services might help reunite loved ones and create some much needed quality time together… Ahhh makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside 🙂
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HUMANS RENEWED
In 2017, the smartest brands will adopt ways to tackle the fears and anxiety surrounding AI and human redundancy.
Let’s face it, technology will continue to unlock so many opportunities for the human race. Yes it will replace certain jobs but it will create completely new professions and allow millions of people to develop new skills and careers. A good example of a brand adopting technology to up skill individuals is VirtualSpeech – a free app that allows you to practice public speaking via VR.
It also won’t always be the tech brands that win with this trend – those that utilise tech to serve human values will have the most impact. The one example we think is truly outstanding and so poignant is Karim – an AI chatbot that provides support in Arabic to Syrian refugees. The concept was developed to help refugees emotional needs and to alleviate the strain on mental-health workers. Karim uses natural language processing to analyse an individual’s emotional state and provide tailored comments, questions and recommendations.
The company behind the chat bot, X2AI partnered with a NGO specialising in tech-enabled disaster relief to ensure as many refugees as possible were able to access Karim – reinforcing that once you have a great idea, it’s essential you communicate it through the relevant channels and with the right partners.
SUSPENDED ADULTHOOD
According to the guys over at Trend Hunter, ‘Suspended Adulthood’ is the latest Millennial trend. ??Faced with an increasingly uncertain outlook on the future, Millennials are escaping the anxieties of “adulting??? and are actively choosing to participate in experience-driven events, faraway from their digital devices and free from the responsibilities of everyday life e.g. giant adult ball pits, carnivals, summer camps – highlighting the desire of young adults to unwind in unique, experience-driven ways that are not centred around their smartphones.
Although this trend is aimed specifically at the Millennial generation, us Gun’s think it spans a much broader demographic – as the need to escape into your inner child, away from life’s stresses and strains, is a desire we all share.
BRANDED EDUCATION
Our final trend focuses on the demand from consumers for greater transparency, as well as the need for self-education, as part of the status/ self-improvement trend.
Many brands are already adopting this trend in a bid to control the narrative in a World of digital information overload. Brands are releasing online documentaries, tutorials and tours surrounding an area of their own expertise or an issue they want to champion.
A great example of this trend in action – last June, makeup giant, Mac Cosmetics created a social documentary offering viewers a snapshot of the lives of transgender and nonconforming individuals. The series was directed by Silas Howard — who has directed episodes of acclaimed Amazon series “Transparent??? and is a member of the trans community. Mac has always been a purpose driven brand – in 1994 it launched Mac AIDS Fund – the documentary series was an opportunity to push the issue further.

Looking for more advice on PR, social media, and marketing? Why not get in contact or submit a brief to inject a little ingeniousness into your brand.

Submit a brief