The “Nostradamus of Marketing” has predicted some of the biggest trends of the last decade and now she has her sights set on 2017. Faith Popcorn is looking towards the next year as one marked by change, especially as a new administration takes over the White House. Additionally, the marketing consultant and futurist sees the next year at being at odds with itself.
Her predictions are based on the huge trends of 2016, including brand compassion as a major trend.
“People are really looking for understanding from their brands, from their friends, from the sites that they're on; almost a more female set of monitoring that they're looking for. There's a search for compassion, a want for compassion. It's a big want, need,” said Popcorn.
The second big theme of 2016 is, of course, Donald Trump, a person seemingly at odds with the word compassion. But while true compassion may not be in his nature, he did connect and relate to people she called the “have nots” – those who feel misunderstood or ostracized – as well as wealthy people who see Trump as someone who can help make them more money because of his business acumen.
“A lot of wealthy people are very interested, because they think he can make them more money, and a lot of people who love their jobs, the factories and other things, feel that he understands them, he's compassionate to them. He's somehow has bridged this gap, which I've never seen done. It's kind of brilliant. I wonder if he did it on purpose. If he did, he's a genius strategist. That was the surprise of 016,” added Popcorn.
With those 2016 trends seemingly at odds with each other, Popcorn sees plenty of dichotomy for this coming year as well.
Popcorn sees a need for people to seek a safe place. With technology like self-driving cars, intrusive identity theft tactics like phishing on the rise, and foreign powers infiltrating our internet space, people are looking for places that feel safe, and often that space is at home.
“America's trust in American media is at an all-time low, and falling. People are blocking out media,” said Popcorn.
People are blocking their computer cameras because they worry about being filmed and they don’t want to lose their sense of privacy. Generation Z, today’s teens, are more interested in retaining their privacy, even more so than millennials, so they’re less likely to give up their data to, say, save money with a 10%-off coupon.
Trust and gender
What should marketers and advertisers be concerned with moving forward? Popcorn thinks that they should worry about a lack of trust and that they need to prove their trustworthiness to consumers. They also need to understand why men and women buy different brands.
“I think that women are looking to people that respect them, that believe in them…and understand their struggles about having to take care of the kids, having to go to work, and all this. Then, the other thing is what men are facing. I think they're being destabilized with their roles as 20% of them are staying home and taking care of the kids. I think it's a fairly complex and bifurcated marketing platform that marketers are facing,” she said.
The post-truth era
Popcorn is curious to see how marketers can understand the post-truth reality, where fake news can sway an entire nation. She is interested in the idea of “emonomics,” how emotion is the new currency. With Trump, people responded to his shoot-from-the-hip, emotive responses, and it is empowering people to say what they are feeling as they feel it. But how do brands react to that? They certainly don’t want people mouthing off whenever they feel like it, but they do need to help give voice to consumers in a positive way.
“I think that intelligence – I don't call it artificial intelligence, I just call it intelligence – it's going to have the biggest impact. They're going to be caring robots that make you wonderful, know everything about you, can serve you a martini, can go around driving with you, they're the brains of a driverless car. A lot of people are talking about robots that you can have sex with. I think that kind of intelligence that can help you take care of your kids, take care of your mother, be the mother nanny, the kids nanny, your nanny, I think that's enormous. Watson's incredible ability to diagnose where doctors can't, and this whole idea of guaranteed minimum income,” said Popcorn, but she warned that we need to be wary of the impact robots can have on humanity.
“We're seeing that robots will replace 40% of the jobs. We're going to guarantee people that we're going to give them enough money to support them. It's almost a forced retirement, hooked up to a lot of things that they like to do and pleasure, until the society can reestablish itself or revive itself. You know, we're sitting in the middle of evolution, and evolution never feels good. We're being out-classed, out-thought, out-strengthed. They're stronger than we are, they're smarter, and the idea of humanness is going to change as we become more crossed with robotic abilities.”
Diversity and smalling
While consumers might be looking at a “smalling” trend – promoting smaller companies and buying more handmade products – Popcorn feels that larger brands can still reach people through a diversity approach. She mentioned how McDonald’s is promoting the fact that the restaurant has the largest percentage of people who don’t speak English.
“I think what they're doing for society, helping people learn and get maybe their first job, getting them educated, I think there's a lot of opportunity in helping their families. I think there should be recognition of people behind the counter. And they are smalling. They have a snack wrap now that's tiny. You know, this whole miniaturization trend,” she stated.
As people look to their safe spaces in their homes and the like, Popcorn sees that marketers need to reach inside the cocoon and pull people back out without scaring them.
“The cocoon is becoming self-sufficient, so we're delivering everything inside there, and I think they have to figure out ways how they can be important to somebody who they can't see, particularly. The supermarket people should be very concerned.”
Popcorn thinks that advertisers need to recognize unmarried females more, since a lot of millennials don’t want to get married or are getting married at a later age. They also need to be cognizant of people liking to do things together in groups, like with cosplay or making videos. They need to know that culture is the new media. Plus, people can sniff out a phony in seconds, so brands need to be authentic and real. People ultimately want to be reached, not advertised to, and marketers and advertisers need to reach people in their clans, their social neighborhoods and social circles.