The future ain’t what it used to be

Back in December 2018 I made up some stuff contributed some words of wisdom to Prolific North as part of the feature: ‘Looking into the Future of Marketing’.

Based on Gartner’s Tech Hype Cycle I made some bold assertions, namely that 2019 would be the year of tech stasis.

2019 will be the year of doing what we’re doing now, but better…better data, better AI, better branding all coming together to deliver better consumer experiences”

I was half right – 2019 is proving to be the year of doing what we’re doing now, but better. However, the predictions about better data and better AI may still need a bit longer in the oven of innovation. Sure, we’re still hearing a lot about AI and data but away from the BIG (FAANG) platforms it’s been slow to go far beyond trials and tests and into meaningful action and results.

The big tech manufacturers have unswervingly set out on a path to disappoint this year.  Samsung’s foldable phone that breaks when you fold it, Apple’s obsession with launching things that already exist (but with an Apple logo on them) and even Google simply launching a cheap version of their flagship Pixel phone. Huawei did nail the foldable phone and then promptly fell out with the entirety of the Western world (apart from Theresa May).

All of this is making things feel a bit odd…either austerity is truly biting, we’ve run out of ideas or maybe other things are grabbing our attention? For me this is where 2019 has got interesting.

History Repeating

It’s all a bit like the 1970’s where things got so grim that the world simply tilted on its axis, invented punk and gave birth to the politics of the ‘80s, maybe the advent of the twenty-twenties will see another seismic shift.

Obviously, we have the scourge of Trump and Brexit, growing inequality and the upsurge in nationalist and partisan thinking, but on the flip-side we have big youth movements driven from an agenda of climate crisis and political dissatisfaction.  This in turn is driving innovation and change all over the place; single-use plastics, eco-technologies, vegan diets and radical thoughts around transport, cities and just about every aspect of our lives.

This noisy revolution may or may not drive really rapid change, but it will certainly drive the trends that should shape our product development and marketing strategies.

Change is already happening

We can already see signs of how this may shape the future.  Slowly but surely big companies are enacting supply chain and policy shifts driven by global consciousness and consumer pressure.

Some of this will impact our economy adversely, like Honda swinging investment away from dirty tech in Swindon to international investment in Electric Vehicles.

But this is not only big industrial changes, but changes in our everyday lives; swathes of plant-based food and eco-packaging on a march to consume supermarket shelf space encouraging healthy and sustainable nutrition, and what self-respecting workplace hasn’t had at least one lunchtime Pilates session this year?

None of these trends are new and it’s fair to say that they fit into existing macro-trends of carbon reduction and on a more human level around physical and mental health and wellbeing.  But they may now gain greater traction and also work as survival strategies for unequal, austerity-hit Britain.  In fact they may not actually just be coping strategies they might be the start of something big.

Welcome to the Revolution.