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We approach next year having lived through the worst economic meltdown since the crash of the 1930s and are now navigating the waves that this has sent through every aspect of life—social, political, ecological. One phenomenon will weave through all of them: social media. It will be the greatest driver of all trends worldwide next year, melding with workplace dynamics in a new imperative about performance: not only how a company behaves and how an employer behaves, but also how an employee behaves. This might define next year’s version of total convergence and everything blending further.
With that in mind, here are the top trends I’m predicting for 2010:
Lines That Zig but Don’t Zag. Local empowerment means hyperpolarization and people who know one another by their party affiliations, their religious affiliations, the nuance of their opinions. Thus, there’s more voluntary segregation, although independents will emerge to serve as model crossovers and feed good ideas and consensual thinking across lines.
Beware the Mobmedia—the New Bullies. The new bullies might be virtual. People and brands will need to watch for flash mobs that pop up over controversial issues, especially when they happen around an immediate action and involve a well-known voice, be that a celebrity or a political figure. The attack-from-all-angles aspect could include the bureaucracy and advertisers, spurred by easy access to phone numbers, complaint sites online, organizations’ e-mail subscriber lists and all the social media platforms that are available at the click of a link. Plus—today the story transforms from one about the issue to one about the mob.
A Children’s Place. The Octomom. Jon, Kate and their eight. The Balloon Boy family. They all illustrate that the American opportunist has gone from empowered fringe to media freak show. What does the Balloon Boy story, in particular, really mean? And is it a purely American tale of the quest for fame, or is this part of a new normal that says children are prime-time accessories? We’ll see a new recognition that influence peddling starts at the youngest ages, and that everyone is a brand, and has influence. We are all media, and every campaign begins with the influence of one and my pass-along value; look what happened to J. Crew’s ballet slippers when the Obama girls wore them on their summer holiday.
Obamaclock. Tick, tock: The world will continue in 2010 to count days, weeks and months in Obama time, measuring accomplishments and setbacks against the president’s tenure in office and the slow hands of time (his daughters coming of age) versus the rapid pace of change (hourly inputs on the world economy, the fragile quest for peace, etc.).
Heading Off Angst. There will be increased awareness of possible links between cell phones and brain cancer, the hidden dangers of war and the impact of traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder on soldiers, their families and the community, and everyday injuries to the brain (so watch for lines of helmets to become fashionable and for new rulings on how kids can play). Also, spas and clubs will play up the importance of brain health on an aging population.
No Piggy in the Bank. Fundraising will be more creative for charities and startups in the near future, with everything from peer-to-peer lending to online benefits becoming commonplace. The genuine challenge in the United States will be affording higher education with the loss of home equity. So look for new instruments and schemes to pay for it, and for private liberal arts colleges to become extreme marketers to attract those who can fund a full tuition.
In-Your-Face Honesty. David Letterman’s straight-up acknowledgment of his sexual activities was a game-changer for public figures with something to hide. As Americans focus their worries on basics such as jobs and debts and their anger on banker bonuses, they will see sexual misconduct and frat-house antics as minor issues in the greater scheme of things. Watch out for big names playing the honesty gambit.
Go Community! The nation is too big and too diverse to make sense of and to influence. The individual is too small and too isolated to count, and too vulnerable to feel safe. Watch as people look for communities to belong to, where they can feel at home, understand the issues and make a difference. And watch as more and more brands and marketers connect to them there, with hyperlocalization being the buzzword. Online tools that can help people become more connected and more effective in communities will take the honors in 2010 and beyond.
The Shadow of the Bomb, Again. Through the Cold War ’60s and ’70s and into the ’80s, the world lived in the shadow of the Bomb (remember Dr. Strangelove?) as the two big powers played poker for global stakes. That all went away for a generation or so. Now it’s back, with more potential players: Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and maybe even terrorist groups. What’s the new game, and how is it played? Crank up the anxiety.
Hands-On Aspirations for Insourcing. Now that anybody can access theoretical knowledge online, and so much employment has shifted to the service sector and so much activity involves intangibles, there will be increased interest in mastering practical skills that were previously outsourced: growing things, making things, modifying things and mending things. This goes from the breakthrough high end of genetic engineering and surgery right through to the basics of fixing the plumbing, putting up shelves and growing vegetables. In anxious times, the watchword for peace of mind is: Every day, make something or mend something.
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