Baby boomers embrace the gig economy while millennials seek balance, report suggests

Older person texting

Mindshare North America's annual Culture Vulture Trends report, released today, looks at the latest consumer shifts and cultural trends forecast to grow over the next year and suggests that its time to reject FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and predicts a shift away from the focus on millennials, as well as the continuing rise of niche brands and an acceptance that brands know increasingly more about our lives.

The annual report also notes that 67% of Americans surveyed are 'tapped out' with productivity and growth suggesting that the focus is shifting back to the baby boomer generation. Boomers are reportedly controlling 70% of the disposable income in the US and now see themselves as 'middle-aged millennials' as they invest more time in social media, the gig economy and e-commerce.

The trends report also suggests that the US now has two definitions of the American dream. For many (e.g. first generation immigrants), the traditional one remains, with such aspirations as going to college and owning a home. For others, success is about time for self-development and the pursuit of personal passions. Further, as people seek out a different type of fulfillment, companies like Amazon and Netflix are testing out 30-hour work weeks and flexible parental leave to help.

The study also suggests there is a widening gulf between people's perceptions of their individual lives (85% of adults say that they're satisfied with their personal life), versus how they feel about the world overall (only 29% of Americans are satisfied with the US's direction). And, as consumers become less trusting of institutions and mass media, brands are finding creative, humorous ways to cut the tension and play in both worlds.

There is also a sense among those surveyed that technology giants in particular now rule the world. Companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google are cash rich and moving into everything from fashion to transportation to delivery – once the sole domain of retailers, car makers and our friendly UPS guy. Yet niche brands, from craft beers and gourmet burger joints, are snatching share from global brands like Budweiser and McDonald's.

The report also suggests that from livestreaming to ambient listening (e.g. Amazon Echo), lives are more open and exposed to the world than ever before — particularly as AI and machine learning platforms learn more of our habits. And consumers are OK with that, but only if they trust the brand and feel some sense of control. To prevent hostility and backlash, brands have started to combat some of the negative consequences of being too open – for example, Instagram and Twitter added features to block and remove unwanted comments and users.

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Laurie Fullerton

Laurie Fullerton is a writer based in Boston, MA with a background in business, sports, community, medical and travel writing. She has been a newspaper editor in the Boston-area, a sports writer covering yacht racing and a community reporter. She has been reporting for The Drum since October 2015.

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