2018 was a fractious, tumultuous, unnerving year to say the least, and we’re seeing this play out in pretty much every new consumer trend for 2019 as people seek to mitigate and protect against the barrage of aggressors they face on a day to day basis.
On a macro level there is, of course, the political landscape which runs from fascism-flirting in the US, to Brexit uncertainty in the UK. There is environmental change creating unsettling, and real freak weather events. Technology is starting to transcend screens and become an ambient, intuitive, cloud around us offering convenience but also creating anxiety, FOMO, and more. Not to mention mass surveillance. Meanwhile large sector change, tech change, and economic forces are creating uncertainty about jobs and the future.
More to come. And here are the trends we are seeing emerge as a result.
New Millennial Outlook
Millennials are starting to push back on the stereotypes about their behaviours and attitudes and point towards the real, long-term, systemic ways in which they have been shafted from housing prices to student debt (no wonder they are so into wellbeing. They’re going to have to work until they are 90.) And that’s if we’re allowed to call them millennials now, because the term’s redundancies of grouping a generation that span 15 years of age are now becoming are apparent. The older ones have emerged from the global economic crisis and are recovered – but still scarred from a decade of working insanely to get ahead, and now seeking stability and work life balance. The younger, grappling with a shifting job market in entire sectors might be obliterated are engaged in side hustles, professional influencing and more. Hyper tech users, they are now also showing signs of anxiety from their tech habits. We are now refining our research in to millennials, at both spectrums. Most recently we identified a core sub-group, the ‘Xennials’ – people aged 30-45 who encapsulate the older millennials and lower aged Gen Xers who have a unique experience after the recession and are now having families. As the millennial cohort ages in to new life stages, expect a more nuanced approach to discussing this group.
Expanded Idea of Wellbeing
The definition or umbrella for wellbeing continues to expand, encompassing everything from sleep optimization, to air purity. One interesting development — increasingly seeing sexual health and sexual fulfillment become aligned with holistic wellbeing, and recognized as part of being a healthy, whole person. As such we are seeing exciting brands like Maude, a direct-to-consumer ‘sexual wellness’ company presenting a modern alternative to Trojan condoms and Ann Summers with sleek design and palette, and a pop-up boutique in Williamsburg, New York, that could double as a chic beauty store. This is the Aesop of sexual health, and the condoms, lube, vibrators, and massage candles are affordable too. It’s added to a range of companies like Goop, Hims, and newly launched hers, offering libido boosts and supplements packaging up sexual wellness in an aspirational modern way.
Marijuana is another category being absorbed in to the wellbeing space. The industry which is burgeoning in the US and Canada is throwing off the stereotypes of Baby Boomer hippies and college dorm kids, and instead becoming championed by urban, affluent, educated consumers seeking alternatives to alcohol for relaxation. (See the new wave of hip start-ups offering relaxing ‘Nano Sprays’ to mums; CBD oil for dogs; edible cannabis candies to festival goers; luxurious skincare products that are anti-inflammatory, and new culinary companies incorporating hemp.)
Let’s linger here on stereotypes for a second. One of the other major shifts whether it’s singles (now a massively growing cohort of all ages rebelling against patronizing marketing), or men (who don’t see themselves in toxic masculine narratives), or teenagers, or ambitious career women (who happen to be mothers), we’re seeing a push back on lazy assumptions about people’s behavior and attitudes, and instead a need for a nuanced individualized approach. New media platforms and brands are appearing that reframe these narrow dialogues. Does masculine mean you have to mean “dominant”, “alpha”? And all the other archaic words brands have usually associate with it. Are all singles infantile desperate chardonnay drinkers? No. (Just see Tinder’s new bang on ‘Single, not sorry’ campaign. Should mothers who want a career be demonized? Or rather as empowered women, stimulated by their work, who – yes – still love their children.
Tech platforms have been in the news of late and we’re starting to see the mass fallout of this now. Whether it’s protests against Uber working conditions, or Google employee walkouts, or Facebook’s continued privacy gaffes, what started out as the chatter among tech journalists has reached mass consciousness and people are starting to wake up to the reality of what many of these platforms and companies represent – darwinistic capitalism and private data being used for profit. As such, we’re seeing a wave of new think tanks and influencers start to point out the big, and the subtler flaws and biases of today’s internet landscape. Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the original internet is launching a magna carter for a new, fairer, internet that is closer to the decentralized idea he originally had in mind. The Feminist Internet is asking – why are all voice assistants female? Amnesty International and the World Economic Forum are looking at the impact of AI from a human rights perspective. More to come.
Sustainability is also an interesting one – a trend (if you can call it that) which is increasingly intersecting with every lifestyle vertical. People are selecting vegan diets not just because of long-term health benefits, but because of the environmental impact of mass meat production. Plastic, and excess packaging, once something consumers thought was nice for brands to cut is suddenly becoming essential. Brands that used recycled packaging once impressed their customers, now they are expected to obliterate plastic entirely from their supply chain – and not only that, innovate in material science to create new sustainable alternatives. Sustainable packaging and behaviors are also being reframed as something sexy and aspirational, a world away from worthy brown packaging and campaigns we saw before.