by Faith Popcorn

Our world continues to be rife with unrest, uncertainty and angst since we were turned upside down with the events of 9/11 and the cascade of events which can be traced to direct bi-products of that world changing event. With the War in Iraq, new global tensions among nations, and a heightened sense of individual insecurity, we anticipate the drop of the proverbial “next shoe”.

We’re no longer surprised to see reports like that from a November 2007 Wall Street Journal poll revealing “70% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track”, and “57% believe America is in decline.” $100/barrel oil holds the promise of $4+/gallon gas; as the sub prime credit market threatens the very existence of brands like E-Trade, having already claimed the leaders of Merrill Lynch and Citigroup. The Siena Research Institute reports consumer confidence has declined 20 points in 2007.

We believe the “uber-movement” of the culture is represented by the Trend Anchoring; Reaching back to our spiritual roots, taking what was secure from the past in order to be ready for the future. (For more information on Faith Popcorn’s TrendBank, visit 2008 is going to be the year of the journey to the anchored destination. In the year ahead, we’ll continue to be buffeted by the winds of change, winds that will continue to threaten our path toward that safe harbor. We call those forces of change CULTURAL CURRENTS, the forces gaining momentum in the culture that are re-shaping and morphing our Trends.

1. MINDSET: Our mindset is characterized by the Current DissedTrust; People continue to reject the “establishment” (government, commerce, religion, etc.) because they expect it to lie, cheat and abuse employees, communities and the environment. There will be rich rewards for any institution that can reach the bar of trust; but most will find that measure simply too high to attain.

2. CONSUMER BEHAVIOR: We envision that consumer behavior will operate on a full spectrum marked by two Trends: Pleasure Revenge, (Consumers having a secret bacchanal. They’re mad as hell and they want to cut loose again) and Cashing Out (Working women and men, questioning personal/career satisfaction and goals opt for simpler living) with the overall culture tipping to the latter, guided ultimately by economic imperatives. Manifestations of this behavior are as follows:

Reactions to Pleasure Revenge:
Detox Retox: Taking their cues from the celebrity culture, we’ll see people rid themselves of the ill effects of over indulgence, only to binge again on all that is bad. The “cure” will be transient; there will be no expectation of permanent recovery.

As the health care system becomes the new Big Brother due to increasing costs, consumers’ lifestyles will be highly monitored. Only the rich will be able to afford to binge on life’s vices. The fat will be the new rich, and celebrated as a status symbol.

FantasyReality: As virtual experience becomes more prevalent and more commonly attainable, we’ll see more of it seep into our everyday reality and personalities. It will scream our desire to “chuck it all, and cut loose”. It’s easier in our conventional heads to fulfill our increasingly “poly-amorous desires” in a “parallel universe”, where a virtual being is one of our lovers. The notion of “indulgence without consequences” is becoming increasingly attractive, and fulfilling.

Reactions to Cashing Out:
Lagom: From the Swedish, most commonly translated as “just enough”, it’s an approach to both design and consumption that explains the essence of brands like Ikea and Volvo. We see notions of “minimalism” and “sustainability” taking on significant currency, as even Americans reject hyper-consumption as not just excessive, but actually damaging to themselves, others and to the planet.

KarmaCapitalism: As “Cashing Out” rises to this level of prominence, we’ll see a basic shift in the identity/mentality of people, as they make the transition from “consumer” to “citizen”—recognizing that every act of consumption has cost and consequence beyond the transaction, and that every transaction is a “vote” in favor of the offering entity, and against the options not chosen. To compete, Companies are going to have to weave “goodness” as a fundamental intent into their corporate culture. Binging on a dash of “corporate social responsibility”; whether the mere monetary commitment to a cause, or some other symbolic gesture, will not suffice to curry favor with the citizen. In a world of transparency, where every corporate practice is knowable, they will be watching and exercising that all important vote of the purse.

Activism is now the new narcissism. People will go from wearing their ‘cause’ bracelets on their wrists to posting their causes and beliefs on their resumes and business cards. Employers and prospective hires will court their perfect (cause) match.

3. MARKETPLACE RESPONSE: Last year, we introduced the idea of Liquid Brands; brands that become as capricious as consumers, constantly reinventing themselves. It’s a radically different construct for brand management, replacing elements like “constancy,” “reliability,” and “dependability”.

In 2008, we’re seeing further refinements of brands seeking a place in this chaotic environment:

Whisper Brands: As a logical progression from Cashing Out, the movement to simplicity, we look for brands to take themselves out of the clutter, noise and overload. These brands will become more subtle and intimate as a way to get our attention; brands that whisper in our ears, so as to be heard above the roar of the mediascape.

Mafia Brands: For those who go the Pleasure Revenge route, plunging headlong into the din of today’s brandscape, consumers will look to their brands of choice for “protection” from the chaos . As brands progress from ad buyers to content providers, we’ll expect them to keep out the competing sources of noise so that, ”Shelter from the Storm” is not just another Dylan tune, its an important functional benefit.

For over three decades, Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve has been the leader in bringing applied futurism to Fortune’s Global 500 Brands, including: Campbell’s, Colgate, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Pepsi and Yum Brands. Its founder, CEO and Chief Visionary Faith Popcorn drives the company’s overall perspective, direction, and leads the implementation of our mission in real time: to guide our clients to their Best Future.


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