For the past six months I have been curating stories and insights for the upcoming 2019 edition of Non-Obvious, and it will be out in just a few weeks. This post offers a sneak peek at five of the trends from the upcoming report this year. If you’d like to read the full report, you can join the waitlist for my early reader list with the link below (available until December 15th, 2018) or preorder your copy with the link below:
Here’s a short summary of all five trends that will be featured in this post:
Fear leads entrepreneurs, businesses, and institutions to envy competitors and approach innovation with admiration or desperation.
Excerpt: “Amazon’s Embarrassing Beauty Contest”
Amazon’s search for a second headquarters was promised to come with close to 50,000 jobs, and would deliver an economic boom for whatever city was lucky enough to win the bid. What followed was an embarrassing spectacle of state politicians desperately doing whatever their could imagine to entice Amazon to consider their cities. One critic even described it as the “Amazon Hunger Games.”
Why did the 230 cities that bid to become Amazon’s new home offer so many desperate enticements? One likely reason is the proliferation of link-bait-style lists that rank cities, countries, and places: ”The Best Places to Live,” or “Most Livable Cities in the World” which drive media attention, and generate envy from city administrators and politicians. Fearful of being left behind, they focus on offering short-sighted incentives like drastic tax cuts, or compromising their moral standards. This is Innovation Envy at work.
Often unsure of whom to trust, consumers look back to organizations and experiences with brands that have a legacy, or those with which they have a personal history.
Excerpt: “Why We Trust In Products And Brands From Our Past”
When you look at consumers embracing retro video games and toys, reboots of older entertainment shows, or products made by real people with real craftsmanship, it’s clear we are gravitating toward products with a history, or with which we have a history. As we’ve become more skeptical of brands’ ulterior motives when they market to us, we’ve also become more uncertain about trying new things. The past we know is safe. RetroTrust is growing because putting our faith in products we recognize, or with which we have some prior experience, with helps us make decisions about what to pay attention to or buy.
Brands and creators intentionally use spectacles to capture attention and drive engagement.
Excerpt: “The Humanity Star”
The most controversial rocket launch of the past decade took place on January 21, 2018, from a comparatively tiny launchpad in New Zealand. After days of weather delays, a U.S.-based aeronautics company called Rocket Lab finally launched a long-awaited test flight for their newest rocket: the Electron. The rocket carried the Electron: a 3-foot-tall, 23-pound spherical satellite covered with 76 reflective panels designed to reflect sunlight back to Earth. The Humanity Star, as Beck called it, promised to be “the brightest thing in the night sky.” Beck did not put it into orbit to fulfill some deep scientific purpose. He simply did it “to get people to look up.”
The response was swift and harsh. Some scientists immediately decried Beck’s move, calling the Humanity Star their worst fear, an example of light pollution and space graffiti. Others compared it to putting a disco ball in space. Many questioned whether it was ethical to place this performance-art-installation-meets-clever-marketing thing into the night sky–a domain belonging to no one, and unavoidable by everyone. Welcome to the age of the Strategic Spectacle, in which more industries than ever will resort to leveraging big stunts and engaging experiences like these to attract attention and make a bold statement.
The rising empowerment of women and reevaluation of gender itself are causing widespread confusion and angst about what it means to be a man today.
Excerpt: “Conquering The ‘Doofus Dads’ Stereotype”
Many brands continue to reinforce outdated stereotypes of men and masculinity. Perhaps nothing exemplifies this more than the countless ads showing “helpless” dads in childrearing or domestic activities.
Whereas women are getting more gender-shifting messages from advertisers (you can do anything!), men often continue to get the message that they are incompetent, lovable doofuses when it comes to domestic matters. The double standard sends a damaging implicit message: why even try, when you are going to be ridiculed and screw up anyway? Just leave it to the women, who are so good at this stuff….
A recent survey from MDG Advertising found that 85 percent of fathers said they knew more than advertisers give them credit for, and 74 percent of millennial fathers felt advertisers and marketers were “out of touch with modern family dynamics. In the coming year there will be more introspection and discussion of the role of men in culture and what it means to remain a good man, as well as a reevaluation of how we portray and appreciate fatherhood in the workplace.
Creators, corporations, and governments use virtual creations to shift public perception, sell products, and even make fantasy into reality.
Excerpt: “The Rise Of Holographic Celebrities”
In October of 2018, the father of the late singer Amy Winehouse announced a concert tour to be launched in 2019 featuring a hologram of his daughter onstage. A digital avatar of Winehouse, who died in 2011 at the age of 27, will “perform” some of her most popular songs, accompanied by a live band, real backup singers, and lots of special effects.
In the past year alone, other experiments with this technology have included the appearance of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur at Coachella, Michael Jackson at the Billboard Music Awards, and others.
As more computers act and perform like humans thanks to artificial intelligence (the other AI!), they will increasingly blur the lines between what’s real and what isn’t, influencing us to do unexpected things—like pay for the chance to see holographic versions of our dead idols perform one more time.