Commentary

'Advertising Is Dead,' And Other Thoughts From Faith Popcorn

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.

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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.

6 comments about "'Advertising Is Dead,' And Other Thoughts From Faith Popcorn".
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  1. Jennifer Jarratt from Leading Futurists, LLC, March 16, 2018 at 10:39 a.m.

    Faith Popcorn, bless her heart, is a brilliant marketer and a wizard at reframing what we all actually know today, in words that exactly capture the feeling and the impact of what she is talking about. She isn't a futurist.

    Futurists think about the next 5 to 10 years and beyond. As I've experienced in working with people in advertising, and media, this is way beyond their perspective, which is usually six months to a year at most. They just aren't organized to think long-term, and usually don't need to. Ms Popcorn knows this, and also knows that to frame her work as "Applied Futurism" gives a nice frisson of being in the know to her clients.

    However, the rest of us have a huge need to be thinking and planning long term, something Ms Popcorn is not likely to help us with.

  2. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, March 16, 2018 at 10:41 a.m.

    Does anyone besides me find that being right 50% of the time is a stellar record for a prognosticator? I've been following Faith Popcorn for a long time. If her record is greater than 50% I'd be surprised. Many of the "predictions" listed here are already smacking us right in the face. What she excels at are giving names to trends that are already in place. 

    That list of clients she advises are hardly bellwethers of forward thinking (American Express, Avon, United States Postal Service??). Trend Trekking is a very brand-y way to say get out from behind your desk and watch people. Marketers who make that a practice will always do better. 

  3. bob hoffman from type a group, March 16, 2018 at 1:37 p.m.

    Advertising is dead again? Oy.

  4. David Vawter from Doe-Anderson replied, March 17, 2018 at 11:08 a.m.

    So many things are dying in Faith Popcorn's mind!  I wonder if the internets have gotten the memo that "advertising is dead."  If so, all those fun gadgets that people love to spend their time on will also be disappearing, as most of them are supported by advertising.

  5. Peter Feinstein from Higher Power Marketing, March 17, 2018 at 11:18 a.m.

    I’ve seen Ms. Popcorn as being well-attuned to what may happen next, and offers some interesting, if not sometimes peculiar notions of what she thinks she sees. 

    Gender is not dead, nor is advertising. Saying they are gets Ms. Popcorn headlines but does not affect reality. Truth is always true and illusion is ever-changing to fit what might sound flashy at the moment.  

    So the truth?  Gender itself is not evolving, but the correct insight is that a small segment of the population is eschewing the body-type identification in favor of moving, however unconsciously, closer to their genderless Origin of Creation (why not just call it God and be done with it). This, by the way, is revolutionary. And it IS happening. But for none of the reasons Ms. Popcorn state’s, so her guidance on what to do with it is false.

    And advertising is not dead either. The truth is always self-evident. All one needs to do is observe and see that advertising is alive and well, AND so too is social influence. They are not the same, and not supplementary of one another, but rather complimentary. 

  6. Claudio Marcus from Visible World, March 18, 2018 at 4:30 p.m.

    On her reply to the question on the future of advertising, Faith Popcorn is less of a futurist and more of a salesperson as she puts forth BrainReserve's, 4P model of People, Press, Products, and Places. For large consumer brands that depend on millions of consumers, the Reach of mass advertising will continue to be critical to cost efficiently build awareness and intent. Why? Because cross-channel attribution models prove that Reach is a key driver of incremental response to digital marketing activation channels and sales results. Recomnended reading: "How Brands Grow" by Byron Sharp.

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