Trends for 2012: A Balancing Act

By Crystal Markowski

Each year for the past several years, advertising agency JWT has released a report on 100 trends to watch in the coming year. Many of these trends are fueled by new technologies (or new applications of current technologies) that alter the way we shop or do business. To get my 2012 started, I was curious to know what JWT had on their radar. What trends should I be watching for, what types of experiences will consumers want, and how will this all impact how we shop? After reading through the list, I started to realize that some trends on the list existed solely to balance out the effects of other trends. Seems odd, right? Allow me to explain.

One of JWT’s trends for 2012 is “Objectifying Objects,” meaning as our worlds become more digital, we will start to value and hang on to the old tangibles. (Think of those who just can’t trade paperbacks for an eReader. They say, “There’s just something so satisfying in turning a page.”) As technology pushes us further into the future of consumer goods, many of us start to feel as if some part of the experience has gone missing. Another example of a counter-trend is “Reengineering Randomness.” What is this trend you ask? According to JWT, we are narrowing ourselves into a smaller range of content, interactions, and experiences because technology has allowed us to customize our worlds. Companies like Ticketmaster and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines are exploring the possibilities of using social media to allow for “Social Seating.” In the not so distant future, KLM may allow plane passengers to select their seats based on other passengers’ social media profiles. Because we have control over so many of our interactions, we now need ways to randomize our lives again. As a reaction, a company called Airtime is “reengineering randomness” by offering users the thrill of connecting via real-time video chat with complete strangers. In 2012 we will seek ways to allow for randomness, new perspectives, and new discovery beyond what we’ve selected for ourselves.

Why are we allowing trends to propel us in one direction, then, developing ways to undo the affects? One thing we can take from this is the importance of understanding the emotional role certain experiences play in consumers’ lives. While everyone can benefit from the conveniences of technology, this doesn’t mean consumers want everything to be streamlined all the time. We shouldn’t forget that consumers seek connection by nature. Consider the times when your customers are best served by automation or customization, but don’t discount the times when they want to preserve a feeling from their past. Finding the right opportunities to provide conveniences without completely losing organic, human experiences might mean the best possible scenario for your consumers.

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