Ten trends for 2011

2011-01-08 14:31

This year is going to see a shift in lifestyle as we tune in, tune out and keep up, while super-geeks, eco-warriors and gardeners become the new A-listers.

1. The business of beta thinking
New technology is tested for viability and functionality before it is formally launched on the market. This is called beta-testing and in many cases it relies on customer feedback.
Beta-testing now moves into the corporate realm. In a post-recession world we are witnessing the demise of tried and tested business models in many industries, from marketing and advertising to print media and retail.
New business methods, or models, are now ­being tested, much like products in a beta-phase. Companies will be required to remain nimble and agile, ready to push forward or pull back, as some ideas succeed while others fail.
The next year will see this cycle of change ­accelerate, bringing about both uncertainty as well as new opportunities. Rigid long-term planning is no longer possible, but flexible, short-term strategies will be the new normal, as companies ­acclimatise to a protracted state of beta-thinking.

2. Re-evaluating mass-produced food
Last year half-a-million eggs were recalled in the US while SA was recently rocked by Supreme Poultry’s reprocessing scandal. People are becoming increasingly wary of what food they put on their plates.
Investigative documentaries such as Food Inc. have exposed the cruel realities of the global food industry while situating global corporate companies and governments at the centre of the problem.
Global food production is under scrutiny and consumers – throughout the world – are slowly realising that what arrives beautifully on a plate might have gone through less-than-savoury processes before it gets there. Hence, consumers are starting to question the production processes relating to the food they eat.
The urban farming trend – self-sustaining allotments, owning your own chicken coup and even urban bee-keeping – is no longer regarded as an unusual hobby, but rather as an
earth-conscious and forward-thinking strategy.

3. Curated networks
As we move into a bite-sized media landscape, encouraged by the likes of Twitter and Facebook, the old maxim “everyone hears what you say, but friends listen”, becomes particularly telling.
We are learning from the millennials (those in their late teens to early 20s) how to cope with the information overload of the digital age. They consume media via “information filters” – a carefully curated network of friends in the social media space.
They rely on chosen “vendors” to filter the information flow, whether it is a breaking news story via Twitter or a word of mouth recommendation for a retail purchase.
Trying to digest all the information available to you is impossible, so it’s become essential to pick and choose.
Deciding who edits this information for you becomes a critical means of formulating your perspective on the world.
So, whose opinion do you really trust?

4. Reversal of the flow of ideas
The US and Europe were once revered as the source of new ideas, but now that role is slowly being taken over by emerging nations, specifically the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.
The traditional flow of innovative ideas was from the first to the developing world, but there is a growing flow in the opposite direction as emerging economies forge ahead while much of the West struggles to kickstart their economies after the devastating recession.
Trendspotters are already keeping an eye on new lifestyle brands (in fashion, food, decor and even cosmetics) from BRIC nations that are set to infiltrate stores and shift Western tastes, much like the Japanese brands did in the 1990s.
New business models from countries like India are spreading into the global village, such as Ghandian Engineering, which aims to give more, for less, to more. In other words, more value in terms of product or service, for less cost, to the benefit of more people, rather than the capitalist paradigm which serves to benefit a few. Grameen Bank and Professor Muhammad Yunnus, who pioneered microcredit for the poor in Bangladesh, is a perfect example of this new approach.
Emerging nations may have fewer resources but there is an appetite for new ideas and problem solving, and they’re challenging entrenched and outdated business models.

5. No really, I’m listening
Content at conferences is increasingly delivered to a wider audience in real time. Organisers now encourage tweeting, often designating the prescribed #hashtag for the event days before the conference goes live.
Traditionally, journalists blogged away at their laptops during proceedings, disseminating information to those outside the conference. But Twitter, which operates on the idea of smaller, quicker snapshots, has transformed live blogging into a real-time conversation, allowing a wide audience to interact and engage with delegates at the event.
Earlier this year, the local Daily Maverick’s #gathering reached a staggering fourth place as a global trending topic on Twitter. On the flip side of this “always on” modality, a backlash has already erupted in the form of products urging us to switch off and be present for those around us – something we all need reminding of.
An example of this is a napkin available on an alternative ideas website – Uncommon Goods.
While sharing an intimate dinner, you wrap your phone in the napkin, displaying the embroidered words “you have my full attention”. Yes, that’s what it has come to.

6. Considered consumption
“Considered” consumption takes the idea of “cautious” consumption a step further.
Cautious consumption was a trend born of the economic downturn.
With less disposable cash, people weighed their purchase decisions on a scale of want versus need. Eager to save on unnecessary expenses, some even turned to alternative means of acquiring goods, such as bartering,
deal-hunting, sharing and the like.
When big retailers started slashing prices, consumers quickly became aware of the extravagant mark-ups that were common practice and demanded transparency throughout the supply chain. This led to the exposé of unfair labour practices, and revelations that some manufacturers were boosting volumes with dubious and sometimes toxic additives.
Adding to this is the heightened awareness of eco-issues like carbon footprints. With a new set of values grounded more in the things we treasure, like happiness, rather than in things that can be taken from us, like material possessions, many people are asking questions about products before buying them.
This is “considered” consumption.
It’s the simple act of stopping to ask difficult questions: Where does this come from? Who makes it? Were the workers treated fairly? Will this product last? Will I still like it or use it five years from now?

7. Commercial tweeting
Tweeting has gone commercial as celebrities sell their popularity and, more importantly, their fan base, to big brands willing to pay per tweet.
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian, with her almost five-and-a-half-million followers, is paid to promote a variety of products. She is frank about this exchange, and claims she only tweets about products she believes in.
Locally, one of our well-known comedians has also “sold out” to a big mobile network. The Trevor Noah/Cell C debacle has left Noah followers sceptical of what he says, whether in TV ads or tweets. Can anything he says be trusted?
People begin to question where the persona ends and the brand begins. In 2011 online brand management will become crucial for any company with an online presence.
Hiring celebrities to tweet about products is similar to brands trying to commercialise blogs. This is coveted

space, which brands want to infiltrate; there is immense value in being part of a consumer conversation.
But there is a fine line between sincerity and inauthenticity, and tech-savvy consumers can smell a rat, even in cyberspace.

8. Geek celebrity
It seems that the social compass of cool has shifted. People are growing tired of the antics of the wealthy, the beautiful and the badly behaved.
Geeks are now seen as the new heroes of a post-recession world, an intelligent alternative to the trashy tabloid celebrities we’ve grown accustomed to. They’re unashamedly smart, promote a better tomorrow and offer innovative solutions to the problems of the world.
News of stars’ vacuous tequila flings and drug-fuelled binges has worn thin. Familiarity breeds contempt, as the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton get sent to rehab or to do community service – again.
In stark contrast, the story of Facebook recently hit the mainstream as a Hollywood movie, making founder Mark Zuckerberg a household name. FLUX predicts this trend will continue into 2011 and that the hero’s crown will be placed on the brainy heads of the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world.

9. Rise of eco-crimes and eco-justice
September 2010 was proclaimed international rhino month, as people mobilised against rhino poaching in South Africa.
The initiative was steered by a number of groups, including LeadSA and MyPlanet, in association with the World Wide Fund for Nature. For the first time a coordinated police crackdown on rhino poaching ensued, fully supported by the media. In the past, animal rights protests highlighted issues such as whaling and killing sharks for their fins, but made little impact. Last year we reached a tipping point, where we started to see real and immediate consequences for crimes against wildlife, as poachers were put through the justice system – as criminals.
This year, eco-justice will remain in the spotlight as more senseless wildlife crimes are committed fuelled by greed and superstition. Ecological disasters, both natural and humanmade, remind us that unless we fight for our natural world, the one we created will not survive.

10. Learning the art of being bored again
We live a life of digital distraction where work-life boundaries are not so much blurred, as simply non-existent. While adapting to our “always connected” lifestyle, we have forgotten how to switch off. The art of being bored is a skill that we are losing – fast.
Allowing your mind to wander is simply giving your brain a breather. Letting your brain just idle allows it to regroup and do some much-needed sorting and filing. It is only when your brain’s house is back in order that those clear thoughts, brilliant ideas and creative juices start flowing once again. They are vital to us, yet we bury them under a chaotic information heap.
Of late, there is a growing concern that young children – our true digital natives – are never given the opportunity to become bored, and increasingly show less ability to be innovative or solve problems.
By extension, the same could be said of adults in the business world. Boredom could result in more creative and effective solutions to the complex problems we face today.
Globally, the concept of “designed thinking” is gaining ground: in essence a call for a more creative approach in business as our traditional, linear thought processes prove to be inadequate for our new world order.
Are you brave enough to step away from the machines and give yourself over to boredom?

» Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. Visit www.fluxtrends.co.za

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