One of the defining characteristics of this era is the expression of individual truth.
Each of us is constructing our own identity more freely than ever. We value individuality, are more open to fluidity and continue to find new ways to connect with people who share our passions. Algorithms and AI mean we’re no longer restricted by genre, labels and categories. New hobbies, niche interests and nuanced passions are flourishing everywhere. We’ve defined these as hyper-passions.
Hyper-passions reflect a new post-genre, post-demographic world. Often they emerge quickly and sometimes disappear just as fast - the most identifiable trends are almost always recognised after they’ve actually occurred. They are rarely formally reported in the rapid rise to popularity, but just after - forcing marketers to find new, creative ways to stay abreast of trends and connect with their customers.
In this new series, M&C Saatchi FABRIC will explore five hyper-passions each month, shining a light on weird and wonderful passions that are constantly emerging and evolving.
The resurgence of knitting has reached new highs thanks to Bernie Sanders’ homespun knitted mittens, worn at the inauguration of President Biden. The stereotypes of the domestic, mundane and tedious have been turned on their head, with the craft now being considered a form of social activism.
Days after #BernieMitts, a copycat knitting pattern on Etsy, was being added to baskets hundreds of times a minute. One keen crafter, Tobey Perales King, crocheted a three-dimensional version of Bernie and auctioned it off for charity, raising more than $20,000 for Meals on Wheels.
While the moment to hijack this trend has passed, the learning for marketers is to consider how to cultivate light-hearted ways for audiences to express and activate their personal views.
2. Investor Activism
Another form of activism worth examining is the new wave of investor activism sparked by the advent of micro-investing apps such as RobinHood. Investor activism isn’t new, but we’re witnessing a new generation of activists seeking to influence in a different way, and for different reasons.
For decades, an activist could make their voice heard at an AGM with the purchase of a single share. Whereas previously these trades were made by highly-engaged, purpose-driven activists, today, the #GameStop movement is fuelled in equal measures by anti-capitalism, economic opportunism, nostalgia and meme culture.
The implication here is the democratisation of corporate power, and the importance of transparency. How can your brand engage customers in its organisational purpose to drive true advocacy?
3. Ambience Rooms
As audiences continue to defy conventions, another surprising movement is the global regression back to ‘simpler’ times, seemingly triggered by lockdowns across the world.
Testament to this are ambience rooms - a new YouTube format that creates ambience rooms with soundscapes and imagery to create a relaxing, immersive experience. The popularity of ambience rooms appears to be a direct response to our increased exposure to multiple screens and “the act of viewing, consuming or interacting with multiple forms of media at once”, as noted by Eliza Brooke in the New York Times. Combined with the sense of entrapment and anxiety caused by the pandemic, ambience rooms provide an opportunity to escape to another world.
Ambience rooms represent an interesting collision of different cultural trends - mindfulness, mental wellbeing, escapism, slow TV, even fantasy and cosplay. The lesson for marketers might be more simple - shouting loudly for 30 seconds isn’t always the best way to be heard.
4. Buy Nothing
Another way consumers are revisiting simpler times is the “buy nothing” movement that is bringing together neighbourhoods in ways not seen since before the internet.
Born out of an attempt to create a cashless economy, the trend sees local residents sharing and distributing goods they no longer need to other locals. Whether you need two extra eggs, you’re looking for a new lamp or you have more orange peelers than you need, chances are there’s a Facebook group for that. Social media often gets a bad wrap for replacing real world connections with digital connections but this trend has reignited a village mentality.
What does this mean for marketers? These micro-actions signal a broader shift towards mindful consumption and zero-waste living. We need to adapt to the new wave of consumerism that assigns value to provenance, manufacturing, materials and sustainability.
As someone whose hyper-passions are dominated with food related interests, it wouldn’t be a trends column without acknowledging #FoodTok. Last month, the #bakedfetapasta movement with more than 740 million views on TikTok alone supposedly decimated cheese suppliers shelves around the world. Before that, it was the #tortillawrap and most recently it is #naturescereal.
Each of these trends infiltrated popular culture, not only spilling over into Instagram and Twitter, but also traditional media outlets such as Mamamia and Delicious Magazine. By the time they hit the mainstream, it’s almost too late to capitalise on the trend.
To avoid a feta faux-pas, marketers need to embrace the cross-cuisine surprise factor to get ahead of the curve. How can your product be transformed into a non-traditional recipe or unlikely use case?