Originally published on Advertising Week 360.
The Great Accelerator of Trends.
Far from halting our economic progress, 2020 has catapulted it years into the future.
Much like a brand, reluctant to change the successful routine it’s been running for years, we’ve been forced to change the way we get from a-b, the way we shop, the way we live and the way we work.
Times of crisis lead to spikes in innovation and enterprise. And times of global crisis lead to global changes. According to some researches, we could be about to enter a time of accelerated innovation, even greater than that of the electric and telephonic age.
Where are these big changes happening? And where will we feel it the most? Strap in for a quick whistle stop tour.
We’ve been on a steady path to mass electric cars for a while now, but during 2020 someone really stamped on the gas pedal. Was it because, cooped up in our homes, we all watched the same climate change documentaries, we all saw David Attenborough take to Instagram, and we were all bewildered by the dolphins returning to the waters of Venice?
I think actually what’s happened here is that someone’s taken their foot off the gas pedal. The world economy has slowed for a moment of reflection, like a commuter slapped out of a trance, and given the pressure on governments globally, most have decided to rebuild our economies greener. Experts claim there is massive upside to a green revolution, in the number of jobs created from having to transform the infrastructure of entire countries.
2020 saw the PM announce his green plan to phase out petrol, diesels and some hybrids from 2030. It saw Norway’s carbon rich economy become the world’s first country where electric car sales overtook their combustion counterparts. And it saw the herculean rise of Tesla, as it went from electric disrupter to mainstream car brand — making Elon Musk the richest man in the world. I do find a nice amount of irony in that a man focused on ditching the Earth for Mars has lead the charge to rejuvenate the Earth.
IS HOME-WORKING HERE TO STAY?
Last year I wrote an article outlining my trends for the next decade. In that, I touched on home working, and how over the next 10 years we’d move into something more flexible. Well damn, that was a quick 10 years.
As with electrification, the pandemic has accelerated the working from home trend. Companies have been forced to adapt, to change software, upgrade processes and experiment with new ways of getting stuff done.
Now all this WFH infrastructure has been laid out and business owners have seen the benefits (in employee happiness, output and potential hiring possibilities) is it here to stay?
It depends a lot on the individual company, the culture and the makeup of the people in that company. A start-up business employing less than 10 people might see no need for the burdening costs of bricks and mortar. Whereas a company filled with young creative talent, might want to get together in person from time to time to bounce ideas. Another, larger, corporate firm may choose to keep their city office life for the sense of gravitas it gives them.
It’s too black and white to ask questions like “is home-working here to stay?” What is absolutely true is that there will be no return to the world pre 2020. Whether you work from home or not will no longer be a choice for employers, but a choice for employees — when choosing the job. In that respect, we’ve certainly peeked behind the curtain.
CASH IS NO LONGER KING.
2020 was our most digital year yet. We’ve worked out, hung out, entertained ourselves and shopped more digitally than ever before. It’s shopping we’re most concerned with here, whether it’s online or using our phones and cards in-store, physical cash has had its worst year on record.
As cash falls, digital wallets are rising, with more people now using Apple Pay, Google Pay, Paypal and others to make their transactions. Especially in the UK, with over 40% of 18-26-year-olds registered with mobile payment systems. This is small fry compared to the take up of digital WeChat payments in China over the last decade — a trend we’re likely to follow.
As our spending becomes more digital, it’s easier to see how the rise in the crypto currencies can jump across to the mainstream. 2020 has seen the price of Bitcoin explode over 200% and major banking institutions accept that it’s more than just a fad crypto-geeks salivate over — but a serious contender for a people-owned, cheaply exchangeable, instantly transferable digital currency.
As more and more digital currencies come into play, expect to see more blockchain based loyalty ecosystems (think AVIOS on steroids), altcoins in the place of paper vouchers, and globally accepted currencies take over — without those pesky exchange rates.
Streaming is another trend that’s been growing for some time. The space is now heavily congested with users having to pick which they align with more, the trend-leading Netflix, the children-pleasing Disney+, or the home of US boxsets, Now TV.
Disney, which many people often forget is a theme park/cruise ship led business, was massively hit by closures during 2020. Their response? An enormous investment into the streaming space. Announcing 61 new movies and TV series for 2021 and beyond. Their powerful franchises Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar will likely do more damage to the cinema space than traditional TV, but it’s a good illustration of where brands like Disney think the future of streaming lies.
The one to watch is Roku – a hardware based company that’s in some ways the Rockefeller of the streaming space. Their studies suggest streaming will overtake pay TV in five years and they’re well placed to benefit. They’ve grown to unignorable levels, able now to sign deals with huge brands like HBO Max — rumoured to be launching in the UK this year.
Roku won’t just provide users with a single hub to access all their favourite streaming services as well as its free channels, it also has the potential to open up the steaming world to advertisers and marketeers.
Written by Alex Hamilton.
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