If Kevin Kelly, the founder of WIRED magazine and one of the most prominent futurists, says THE FUTURE IS UNPREDICTABLE, then I believe him.
I don’t believe in trends. In fashion, in technology, in marketing and in any other field. This is one of the most overused words
The future is unpredictable because “whatever will shape our world in 10 years – doesn’t even exist yet,” said Kelly. And again – I believe him. I’ve been doing research for 12 years – my belief is supported by evidence.
Why do we need trends?
People feel bad when they have no control. This is the foundation for all religions and sects. If they don’t give us control, they at least give the illusion of it.
We take trends as the only or at least the dominant and certain, long-term direction in which the world moves. It’s interesting that trends are usually used in a positive sense. For example, there is no oncology or allergy trend – even though all the indicators for these matters are growing. Because a trend is something we want and something that we can use. The above-mentioned trends surely exist, but in pharmaceutical companies.
Trends give us confidence – and that’s why we love them so much. But as reality shows us, not everything we love is good for us. This love blinds our alertness and creates an illusion that provides comfort but weakens our visual acuity.
People love numbers – because they aren’t up for discussion. But the truth is that they are also an illusion. We can spend our whole lives believing in research, especially large, quantitative studies with completely reliable statistics that clearly show what will happen in the near future. But suddenly, we wake up and Donald Trump is the American president. In one night, many trends went into the trash: pro-social, pro-women, pro-common sense. Women were supposed to vote for Hillary Clinton – the statistics said so. However, it turned out that they realized that sexism isn’t their problem. The greatest minds were wrong in predicting this “trend”. Who would imagine that during the era of LEAN IN and the fight for equal rights, populism would be a greater trend than pro-women, pro-equality, or plain healthy thinking. Why didn’t anybody predict this? If you ask therapists with 50 years of experience about this, they’ll all tell you the same thing: no matter how much we want to simplify human nature, it’ll never stop amazing us with its level of complexity and spontaneity.
I’m a big fan of calling things like I see them. This is the ONLY way to communicate well – it doesn’t matter if you’re a child, an ex-husband, or a brand manager for flavored vodka.
Right after our insight workshops, we receive the most requests about trends presentations. Whenever we run our trend speach, we start with a statement that repeatedly came up at the 2016 and 2017 Cannes Lions Festival: FUCK TRENDS.
Instead of trends, we want to teach you to recognize 3 things that help shape the present and future of an organization much better than any trend report:
Reality has a problem with its PR- no one likes that word. It seems too gray, too common. That’s why people decided to make reality a trend. Let’s take the most popular trend – the mobile phone. It shines in the programs of every conference and is used in every example. Question: What kind of trend is this? Mobile phone now is our everyday life. Even if some people have an iPhone and others only dream of one, this doesn’t change the fact that we ALL have one reality – mobile phones – the only things that are different are the reasons, benefits, problems, or costs.
The mobile phone is an INTEGRAL part of our lives. It’s a trampoline to other possibilities- and that’s a FACT.
So calling it a trend is like saying humidity is a trend in the tropics, or the color white is a trend in Antarctica.
There is no joking with reality. You need to look it in the eye – and see it for what it is. Bending it is rarely successful, if ever. You have to be a genius and have a lot of money, along with some deep emotional disorders, to let yourself treat reality like modelling clay, just like Steve Jobs did. An important piece of information for those who aren’t such huge fans of Jobs as I am and who haven’t read every possible fact about his failures – everything that was bent “went” into the trash and ended up being a financial fiasco.
Contrary to what defiant people often emphasize, Steve Jobs was successful not when he bent reality, but when he was as attentive to it as much as possible. When he told his people to work couple of weeks more so their system would run a few seconds faster, the iPod would be even thinner, and the blue color of their computers would be exactly the same blue as a gummy bear – he knew that such details are important to people in REAL LIFE.
Calling reality a trend is dangerous because it indicates that it’s still a PROCESS and that some other option exists.
The mobile phone is NOT an option. It’s just like the car is not a trend since Henry Ford.
Reality either changes incredibly slowly or so suddenly that it is unpredictable. Therefore, the only thing that’s left for us to do is be ALERT and constantly do what we at IZMAŁKOWA call: a reality check.
For some reason, people also don’t like the word “possibilities.” It’s too commonplace, not confident enough, and not trendy enough.
The precise ads targeting isn’t a trend – it’s a technical possibility that will get better and better. Just like a computer processor or the customization of everything: from clothes to computers that will become better every month, every year, and with every update. This is no trend. People ALWAYS had a need for individualization (just look at teenage girls in EVERY generation), so now we have new POSSIBILITIES to fulfill a very old need.
Once at IZMAŁKOWA, we did an exercise in our workshops: we completely disconnected people from the Internet and asked them to do a some simple tasks. Do you know who handled these tasks the best? The oldest group members, because they remembered other possibilities.
When it was necessary to look up a very difficult and unknown word, they all called … their grandparents and heard in the phone “Calm down, calm down, let me look it up in my dictionary, I just need to find my glasses.”
They also found their way without Google Maps.
They checked the movie times at the cinema. It took them a while, but they managed to do it.
Did they enjoy it? Not really.
But they managed to do it.
Because possibilities form habits.
The important thing about possibilities is that we don’t want to use every one of them. They aren’t compatible with our nature, or they don’t fit into our personal routines. Remember something called “Google Glass?” Remember how it was supposed to change our lives? Remember how it was supposed to be this great trend? Do you still remember it? I only remember because I made a presentation saying that I didn’t believe it could ever be successful. The truth is that anyone who knows at least a little about psychology and pays attention to human’s needs could have predicted it.
The most important trend in recent years: VIDEO. Proof of how big, universal, and inevitable this trend is is that young people watch YouTube more than they read. And they even learn thanks to this site.
That’s how they do it.
That’s how they’re going to do it.
young people talk about video NOW the same way we talked about computers.
Video will keep growing until something new comes up. And then we’ll hail that as a new trend. Young people will be in love with something that is as cool as or even cooler than video, just like YouTube today is cooler than reading the newspaper.
We love what we grow up with, what we are raised on. We love our first choices. We grow attached to them. Possibilities create preferences. Preferences narrow down our opportunities.
Of course, we can call this a trend if we want, but the truth is that there isn’t much to think about – young people were born with iPads, so why should they see reality any other way?
Just because we, who talk to them, see things differently doesn’t mean it’s some kind of great trend. This is a generational PREFERENCE, so it’s better to quickly arm yourself with patience and take some time to understand “why? how? when?” Without judging, and without lamenting “back in my day…”.
Trends give us a sense of control. I UNDERSTAND THAT – because everyone would like to feel that they can impact their future. As the famous psychologist Aronson is saying that illusions helps u survive. But I think that the lack of illusions lets us grow. That’s why, instead of using the general formula “what trend do we have,” it’s more important to call it:
An opportunity, potential, or a threat.
Then, we apply the appropriate reaction technique:
Observing, keeping your finger on the pulse, reacting, fighting, or ignoring (this is an extremely effective strategy).
I know that everyone would like to think of themselves as unique.
The truth is that each generation is different from the previous one. And this is called PROGRESS.
But each generation is shocked by these differences. WE – we are completely different from today’s youths!
The way our brain operates is unfortunately very selective, and memory is dramatically unreliable, so we aren’t able to remember everything. That’s why we call Millennials selfish (even though developmental psychology tells us that everyone must go through a process of extreme selfishness by the age of 21/22). Some older Millennials – we call them narcissists. However, the facts show that typically 6% of people in any society are pathological narcissists, and the number of narcissistic tendencies nearly corresponds to the number of people in high positions who earn more than they should. Research shows that CEOs who score high on narcissism tests tend to get promoted faster and earn much more money. It’s a sad truth that we prefer charismatic arrogance to boring humility.
And now I’m going to show you what we deal with at IZMAŁKOWA instead of trends:
1. A Social Barometer
Technology won’t develop by itself. We may be faced with a fact – either you use something, or you don’t exist. In this case, you have no choice. For the most part, however, we decide what we buy, what we choose, and what we use.
What makes up our minds is our mental map and our emotional state.
Research shows us that whenever newspapers write about unemployment or layoffs, people immediately begin to buy less – because they’re afraid.
The more frequent changes in government become, the greater the sense of fear and instability. This means avoiding anxiety messages (because people are living in their own horror movie) and being more susceptible to emotional hara-kiri (when any tragedy approaches, we are always more sensitive to someone else’s misfortune because we identify with them).
Each year, I observe what campaigns are rewarded at Cannes, and it’s significant that the number of social campaigns in this area is increasing annually. And with it, the number of pseudo-social BRAND campaigns that “care” about our confidence, that tell us to be nice to our moms or animals – offering us a doubtlessly simple and effective solution in the form of their products.
There are fewer and fewer alarming ads. People are totally immune to this and avoid these kinds of messages. There are also less and less humorous campaigns that win because laughter becomes dangerous in times of the plague – that’s how many assess the current socio-politico-economic situation.
2. Cross cultural analysis
It’s not true that we are all one global village. “Coca-Cola” has suffered a dramatic setback in Africa, like its “LIVE Positive” campaign, because we have our own cultural codes in our social DNA (positive in Africa is associated with HIV positive). Regardless of whether we all wear H&M and drink Starbucks coffee, we have our own culturally-conditioned preferences. Wise global brands accept this cultural reality – that’s why there are more clothes with glitter in Russia, while coffee from a Japanese Starbucks is served with sakura syrup from cherry blossoms.
Just because Poland borders Germany or the Czech Republic doesn’t really mean that we can adapt the same studies or “trends” that are in those countries. The average woman in Poland doesn’t earn as much as a not-so-wealthy woman in Germany does. Besides this, she likes things that aren’t as sweet (that’s why German jams, compared to Polish ones, seem so dramatically inedible to us Poles) and doesn’t care whether or not cosmetics are eco. Because she can get eco in her garden. Polish women want super hyper posh cosmetics – with proof that after using them, their wrinkles will disappear like mosquitoes after getting hit with OFF bug spray.
3. Cause and Consequences
We serve many customers related to the food industry, which means that we research some health “trend,” campaigns, or promotions based on this “trend” at least once a month. The thing with so-called trends is that for each one, an exact opposite is developed. This means that as more health products or campaigns appear on the market, more “pleasure oriented ” options will pop up as well. Don’t you believe that sandwiches help you lose weight? Or that “Bubble Tea” is healthier than coffee?
We always ask these questions:
What is this behavior reacting TO?
What are people running away from?
And what are people running to?
Losing weight in women is most often associated with beauty. Six-year-old girls would rather have cancer than be fat, as Madonna Badger said during her performance at the Eurobest Festival. That’s why I don’t think we have a healthy trend. I think we have a plague of low self-esteem and a lack of resistance to social and media pressure. And it’s better not to call this a trend. That would only diminish the weight of this problem.