Faith Popcorn a leading future-focused consultancy has some interesting predictions for 2007 on how they see consumers and brands evolve in the next few years. They are talking of a new identity called The New Networked Self. Take a look:
- Identity Flux
Technology has enabled us to experiment with different personalities, leading to a much more fluid sense of who we are. Having tasted the nectar of virtual liberation, we're beginning to reject the singularly defined roles we're expected to play in society.
The Future: Gender-neutrality goes mainstream. People list skills on their business cards rather than title, and dress up in various costumes depending on who they feel like being that day.
- Liquid Brands
Today's consumers are capricious and non-committal. Brands will have to become more liquid to keep up with their constantly moving targets.
The Future: Chameleon-like brands focus less on communicating a static message and more on being the right thing for the right persona at the right time. Constantly morphing retailers carry products until they sell out and never restock.
- Virtual Immortality
Consumers globally are creating fully fleshed out existences in the virtual world-dressing up their avatars, making friends, having affairs and buying property for their pixilated alter-egos. And now that people have multiple lives, who says you can't live forever?
The Future: While some let their avatars drift away to online purgatory, many more leave behind specific instructions on how their virtual selves should proceed. Services offering avatar surrogates flourish, and we bequeath avatars to friends and family in our wills.
- EnvironMENTAL Movement
Like the movement to combat environmental pollution, the next consumer-led reaction will be against the mental pollution caused by marketers. With every corner of the world both real and virtual becoming plastered with marketing messages, bombarded consumers are starting to say they've had enough. The current attack against marketing to kids is just the beginning.
The Future: Companies are expected to reduce the amount of damage they are doing to our minds. Savvy companies sponsor marketing-free white spaces in lieu of polluting the environment with models and logos.
- Product PLACEment
In the globally networked age, consumers are much more concerned about the consequences of consumption. Is my garbage poisoning someone in a developing country? How much fuel was burned in order to get these strawberries to my local supermarket?
The Future: Enviro-biographies are attached to just about everything, letting consumers know the entire life story of a product: where the materials were harvested, where it was constructed, how far it traveled, and where it ended up after being thrown away or recycled.
The government has let us down when it comes to providing the social services we had once expected from it. Brands are stepping in to take over where the government left off. Companies are already finding there's profit to be made from providing affordable healthcare to the masses.
The Future: Socially responsible brands make a buck while providing desperately needed services. Communities are revived by Target daycare, Starbucks learning centers, and Avis transportation services for the elderly.
- Moral Status Anxiety
In today's increasingly philanthropic climate, expect conspicuous self- indulgence to go straight to the social guillotine. The globally conscious consumer regards altruistic activities as a necessary part of self- improvement.
The Future: A person's net worth is no longer measured by dollars earned, but by improvements made. Families compete with each other on how many people they fed while on vacation, and the most envied house on the block is not the biggest, but the most sustainable.
- Oldies but Goodies
Our culture is suffering from an experience deficit. With the availability of online knowledge, we're claiming expertise based only on secondary experience. Now that everyone's a web-educated know-it-all, we're secretly longing for authority figures to guide and assure us with indispensable nuggets of wisdom that could only come from having actually accumulated life experience.
The Future: Respect for elders makes a comeback in the form of Ask Your Grandma hotlines and the proliferation of online video clips by seniors showing us how to tie knots and concoct home remedies.