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Management Tap into these 15 societal currents for marketing ideas

Deep diving is on the upswing – the media will be happy to learn – as people seek more insightful articles. Women are expressing themselves through fierce femininity, while many of us are displaying side quirks. And companies need to be more alert to passive loyalty rather than continuing to believe customers are truly loyal, as their research suggests.

Those are among the 15 societal currents that marketing-trend expert Rohit Bhargava identified in his Non-Obvious Business Trends Shaping 2017. The Washington-based consultant, whose annual examination of trends we looked at last week, aims to find unexpected currents that will jar us and open our minds to unexpected opportunities. Here are some of them:

  • Fierce Femininity: As our definitions of gender become more fluid, fiercely independent women are increasingly celebrated as heroines and viewed as role models, with an accompanying shift in the role of women in modern society. We’re seeing remakes of movies with all-female casts. Priya, a village girl and survivor of gang rape, is the centre of a widely read graphic novel in India. He notes that Ivanka Trump, daughter of the incoming president, might be seen as an exemplar since she doesn’t back down and people seem to respond to her strength.
  • Side Quirks: A shift to individualism continues, people of all ages embrace what makes them unique, follow their passion, often start a side business and increasingly appreciate the quirky differences in one another. Online marketplace Etsy captured this with their “Difference Makes Us” campaign.
  • Desperate Detox: With the complexity of our daily lives increasing through technology and the availability of too many physical things, people are desperately seeking new ways to enjoy moments of reflection by simplifying.
  • Passive loyalty: With switching brands becoming easier, companies need to become smarter about earning true loyalty since many customers are only with them because of habit or discounts. The popular net promoter score can deceive when it asks if someone will recommend the brand. “If you bought a $3,000 laptop for $1,000, of course you will recommend it. But that’s not true loyalty,” he says.
  • Authentic Fame Seekers: A new generation of creators are becoming authentic fame seekers, turning to social media to establish their brands and become the next big thing. Oprah Winfrey, move over: These days, influencers are widespread.
  • Loveable Unperfection: More brands and creators intentionally focus on imperfections, flaws and personality to make their products and experiences more human and believable. The Swedish Tourist Association invited us to phone “The Swedish Number” and speak randomly to one of 2,500 citizens who offered to answer questions about their country, without a script.
  • Preserved Past: Technology offers new avenues for us to preserve history, changing the way that we learn from, experience and preserve the past for future generations.
  • Deep Diving: In a world of “instant media,” he finds hope in signs people will spend ample time with experiences and content that truly capture their interest. He points to the success for Wired in its online archive of longer stories from the past that attracts admiring readers.
  • Precious Print: In a digital era, we prize the moments during which we interact with print or physical objects. He cites as examples the resurgence of neighbourhood bookstores and the explosion of art collection.
  • Invisible Technology: The more sophisticated technology gets, the more it is able to anticipate needs, protect us and provide utility while blending unnoticeably into our daily lives. He is fascinated by new technology that fixes microscopic cracks on airplane wings by itself – “self-healing airplane wings,” as he puts it.
  • Robot Renaissance: Robots are moving into the home and workplace, with better human-like interfaces and even micropersonalities built in.
  • Self-Aware Data: The combination of artificial intelligence and better sensors allows data to predictably organize, identify insights and even take action with little or no human intervention.
  • Moonshot Entrepreneurship: More organizations are thinking beyond profit, trying to use business to make a positive social impact.
  • Outrageous Outsiders: In July, as he was formulating his trends, he picked up on the phenomenon Donald Trump tapped. Increasingly people believe it takes an outsider to transform a company or a country, “which may or may not be true” he stresses in the interview.
  • Mainstream Meditation: Meditation, yoga and quiet contemplation have moved from the fringes to become powerful tools to improve performance, wellness and motivation.

He urges you to consider each trend with your staff and determine which are most relevant to your situation. "Trends relate to strategy as a telescope to the stars. Trends can allow you to find and illuminate something quite specific," he concludes.

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Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter

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