Euro RSCG: Brutal Honesty, Beached White Males
We are all going to "Urinetown," but anti-socially -- and we'll tweet about it. That might be one of the tweetable takeaways from a half-year trendspotting report revealed at Euro RSCG's New York office on Thursday.
The agency typically does a yearly trend forecast, but because of the natural and political chaos of recent months, Marian Salzman, trendspotter and CEO of the agency's worldwide PR operations, decided to do a mid-year, Janus-like gaze backward and forward. Salzman said using trends as part of brand strategy is the only way to be proactive and plan for long-term success by identifying driving forces. Here are the Salzman trends in no particular order:
- The above-mentioned "Urinetown" trend, which is not news, since someone has already written a musical about it. "Water will be the new oil," said Salzman. "One-third of counties in the lower states are at risk of shortages, and many seas, like the Aral, are basically drying up." The good news? "There's no business like flow business," said Salzman, who noted there are big opportunities for businesses to roll out water-efficient products and policies.
- The paradox of social media: it's anti-social. Salzman said people disengage with real people to engage people online. "The new social interrupts physical interactions with people ... in 10 years will all social interactions be through technology? For businesses, the more social interactions get mediated by technology the more opportunity there is to make money with software and services that enhance them."
- The explosion in neurological research and engineering will replace "e" with "n." "The world will be focused on how technical tools we are using are changing our brains. It will turbocharge products and services that include the word 'smart,'" she said, adding that the market will be awash in things like nBoosters, nHancers and nGames."
- Global warming and other cataclysms, and there's not much anyone can do about that, but Salzman said companies had better be better prepared than Tokyo Electric Power was, since in addition to the little problem of a near meltdown, most people aren't as quietly stoic as the Japanese. Actually, the BP disaster, if it shows us anything, demonstrates that it doesn't much matter whether people are stoic, meek, or angry as hell and not willing to take it any more. We won't take it until the needle's on empty.
- Cell phones are the new trans fat. "Poll after poll shows large numbers of Americans don't believe the basic science around things like cell phones, and marketers need to take fear, uncertainty and doubt seriously," she said, adding that the cell phone debate, far from going away, is going to take off. "For example, expect near-term legislative debate about cell phone use by people under the age of 14."
- Growth in hyper-local services targeting consumers where they live and work: Groupon, LivingSocial; here-and-now location-based products like Foursquare and Gowalla; and local community media like Patch. "People are fed up with what's very far away. And marketers have to be much more sophisticated, tracking consumer choices and offers to regions.
- A return to brutal honesty, or "Awesome killed us." "Mr. Rogers was death to all of us," said Salzman. "What he didn't do, political correctness did." The widespread condition of "everyone gets a medal" is seeing a backlash evinced by books like The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. "Most people who turn up for life are hopeless. And in America we are golden retrievers in a world of Rottweilers." What it means for brands is that consumers are aware of this and are becoming more interested in brutal honesty. "Messaging will need to locate the sweet spot between hype and brutality. It's 'just say it and get to the bloody point.'"
- Beached White Males, a condition of sullen disenfranchisement and unemployment among the typing impaired. "If you can't type, you can't compute, and if you can't compute you can't compete," said Salzman. "As their spending and employment status sinks, [these men's] needs come to the surface," she says, meaning that marketers who understand their pain will get their affection. "They need a group hug."
- "More real than real" reflects what might be called a Neuromancer trend of Matrix-like digital experiences that are becoming more entrancingly real than what passes for reality these days. "It also means that interactions on text-based social media like Facebook are just like a real interaction, and voice has become a nuisance. As brand marketers, you can't be a robo voice. You can either go with big bucks à la Matrix, and Avatar or find smarter lower-cost engagements through things like text," says Salzman.
- Americans are also looking for new rituals, per Salzman, who says the royal wedding was more interesting to Americans than it was to Brits for that reason. "Interactive technology distorts the fabric of space and time. People are looking for things that become ritualistic -- a whole new calendar of traditions. It is a big opportunity to identify emerging new traditions and align with them. We like things that are ritualistic. We will embrace and celebrate them. We like the idea of again and again."