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2020 Trends at the intersection of culture and commerce

By Michael Patent, Founder and president

December 6, 2019 | 7 min read

The most impactful way a brand can connect with consumers is by ‘shaping culture’, engaging in ongoing conversations and seamlessly providing value within their daily life.


In today’s hyper-connected world, consumers are highly engaged in the pursuit and celebration of all things culture, and the content it influences. Tapping into leading cultural trends and passion points is essential for brands seeking to make an impact in 2020. At Culture Group we employ our “5C’s Model” to guide client strategy. At its core, culture has the ability to create strong and provocative relationships with consumers, that in turn, shapes habits around content consumption; content creates communities of like-minded individuals, which engage in conversation, ultimately influencing commerce.

Below are the key trends that we predict will be most important for brands in 2020.

Influencer as product collaborator and developer

As we approach 2020, one thing is certain — the impact of celebrity and influencer brands knows no bounds. Globally, Rihanna’s FENTY beauty and FENTY luxury lines are both on fire. Regionally, Mr. Bags, China’s leading social commerce KOL, sold more than USD 193,000 of his Givenchy Horizons bag in just 12 minutes in 2017. He also collaborated with Tod’s for a limited-edition doggy bag which cost $1,613 and sold out in minutes. In the Philippines, Sunnies, a multi-format eyewear and cosmetics concept created by Georgina Wilson, Martine Cajucom, Bea Soriano, is thriving. The brand’s make-up line, Sunnies Face, sold out in just 15 minutes after they launched their website. With over 100 locations domestically and a focus on international expansion, it’s clear this influencer-developed business has a bright future. What does this mean for marketers? Moving forward, marketers should look at creators and influencers less as advertising spokespeople and more as product development partners. In an era of crossover and collaboration, working with cultural provocateurs to develop unique products or launch new ventures is a move towards securing the millennial market.


Final-mile delivery for cashless payments dominated the commerce stories in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, Conversational commerce, known as C-commerce, will rise as a dominant form of revenue generation. According to Facebook, 63% of consumers in Asia-Pacific have messaged a business in the past year versus 35% in North America. In an era of voice-driven commands and frictionless payments, C-commerce is set to become the next frontier of digital marketing. Brands who understand how to accelerate the velocity of sales through conversation will find themselves bridging the gap between consumer journey and customer service amid the wide variety of traditional in-app or platform-based purchases.

The golden age of audio

In 1895, Marconi invented the radio, the first broadcast medium that would enable people to hear the latest news from around the world and listen to a variety of entertainment formats. With over 1 million radios sold by 1922, The Golden Age of Radio had begun and continued through the 1950s, when television was introduced and became the medium of choice for scripted programming, variety shows and news.

Over the past 100 years, we have experienced rapid technological innovation from car radios and the Sony Walkman to personal computers, the internet and mobile devices, each providing greater access to information, a variety of entertainment programming, and new ways to interact and communicate with each other.

In 2020, over 5.1 billion people worldwide will own a mobile device, providing them real-time access to news, entertainment, and shopping. On top of that, by 2022, there will be 18 billion IoT (Internet of Things) devices which include connected cars, appliances, wearables and consumer electronics. With all of this connectivity, we believe that audio is the key to and is on the rise. This is because:

  • Audio is ubiquitous. Personal. Easily accessible.
  • Audio is delivered in a multitude of formats through billions of devices and public channels.
  • Audio supplements our experiences and stimulates our imagination as we visualize the story world around us.
  • Audio is no longer uni-directional.

The production and consumption of podcasts and other forms of audio-based content will increase in 2020 with significant growth coming from localized programming in Southeast Asia over the next several years.

Sonic boom

Marshall McLuan said the "Medium is the Message”, but in today's’ world, we believe that the “Message is the Medium”. This has become evident with the rise of Sonic Branding, which quite simply, is the 'sound of the brand'.

This bespoke sound is delivered through a multitude of channels/mediums and triggers a thought, memory or reminder of the brand identity which can be “actioned” by the consumer. Examples include Mastercard, which recently created unique sounds that consumers engage with through physical, digital or voice environments; and “Happy Beep” by Coca-Cola in Brazil, which was a five-note melody that played at checkout when the product barcode was scanned.

Despite cultural and language barriers, sound is the most universal form of messaging and over the next year, we expect more brands to establish unique soundscapes that connect with their consumers and create brand experiences.

Voice war

Through new technologies such as far-field speech recognition, machine learning and voice authentication, we are not only able to listen to audio but, our connected devices can listen to us and learn about our needs, wants, habits and desires over time. With over 500 million smart speakers projected worldwide by 2023, Alexa, Google Assistant and Tmall Genie are all able to hear what we ask and respond to our requests be it a podcast or music for bedtime listening, directions while driving the car or grocery delivery to our home. Conversational Consumerism is the new norm for marketers and as more audio interactions take place, conversations with devices will become part of our daily routine.

By tapping into this new “Think, Say, Receive” behaviour, device manufacturers and brand marketers will drive Voice Commerce (V-commerce), which is projected to reach $40 billion by 2022. We define the underlying principle of V-commerce as ‘Triggernomics', a monetizable action or transaction that gets stimulated by the physical or digital experience. Over the next few years, the Voice Wars will be driven by ease of use, device interoperability, audio functionality, conversational speed and accuracy as well as actionable results.

From airports to elevators, iPads to smart speakers, in the future all devices will not only be driven by the sound of our voice but will also naturally interact with us. To achieve scale, brands need to utilize new tools that enhance the Human Experience (HX) while driving Voice Interaction (VI). Every word will drive action and every brand will have the opportunity to deliver a reaction to the consumer.

Michael Patent is founder and president of Culture Group and Doug Scott, is founding advisor of Culture Group.

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