Forecasting the future of marketing and predicting trends is always risky, but Faith Popcorn is pretty good at it. No less a source than The New York Times has called her “The Trend Oracle,” while Fortune named her “The Nostradamus of Marketing.” Popcorn is not only a futurist, but also an author and the founder and CEO of marketing consulting firm Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve.
What distinguishes her is her practice of “Applied Futurism,” which translates her cultural trend insights into actionable business strategies to help her clients reposition established brands and develop new and innovative business models, products, and services. She has advised national advertisers including American Express, Avon, Bayer, Campbell's Soup, Citigroup, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, KFC, Mars, SC Johnson, Tylenol, and The United States Postal Service.
Popcorn, who is scheduled to speak at the annual Association of National Advertisers’ Brand Activation Conference in Chicago April 16-18, offers her views on upcoming trends and what to look for in the midterm elections in November.
Q. What is the single biggest emerging trend that you see impacting marketers in the near future?
A. Without a doubt, it’s the End of Old-School Masculinity and the Death of Gender. Not only are we at a moment where women and men are moving to a new relationship, we are at a time when men and women are no longer the only game in town; younger generations, millennials and Gen Z, in particular, are increasingly gender-fluid — 20% — and evolving toward one gender. How we market and message is about to be revolutionized.
Q.What kind of impact do you think the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and the overall gender-equality issue will have on marketers?
A. It’s having a huge impact. Think of the #grabthembythewallet movement that rocked many brands and businesses around the election; the consumer said, “I won’t patronize you if you support brands I don’t believe in.” Now, it’s coming closer to home. The consumer will say, “I won’t patronize you if you don’t elevate the causes I believe in.” Brands need to show that, internally, they are addressing sexual misconduct and gender inequality. They need to visibly support women.
Q. The midterm elections will be held in November of this year. What do you think will happen?
A. As a futurist, I hope people will vote and embrace their role in shaping tomorrow. And in light of this terrible year, may our lawmakers make gun control priority Number One. We all need compassion and healing and hope. I can’t stress this enough: In the marketplace and in the culture, values are the new value.
Q.How can marketers spot key trends and incorporate them in their overall marketing strategy?
A. Look for the signals of tomorrow — step out of your comfort zone, delve into pockets of the culture you usually avoid. We call it TrendTrekking. Then you connect the dots. Go to underground bars and clubs and offbeat cafes; see what people are eating and saying. Go sound-bathing. Try cryotherapy. And ask yourself, what need is this answering, and how can my business address that need?
Q.Do you see advertising as we know it today changing in any material way in the future?
A. Advertising is dead. Over. Two huge changes are happening: One is machine learning will — in real time — customize messages and offers to suit the individual, to an almost DNA-specific level. Next: Culture is the new media. Don’t buy an ad. Put your brand’s belief into the culture. At Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve, we have a 4P model: People, Press, Products, and Places. Your brand must be woven into those realms — not buying 30-second spots.
Q.What advice would you give marketers to help them identify the “next big thing”?
A. There is no “next big thing.” We are at a moment of intense fragmentation — we call it Micro-Clanning. People want recognition of their individuality, and want their every, ever-changing needs constantly met. So you aren’t looking for the “next big thing” but the “next big things.” Think Hyper-Personalization, and move faster than you ever dreamed possible to satisfy this demanding consumer.