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Salzman: Mining Social Trends (or Previewing 2011)

It’s a fact: Human behavior models cultural trends. So reading society’s zeitgeist helps brands clarify what they need to know and position themselves best to match the social mood and needs. From my annual trends report, here’s what I think brands (and all of us) can expect next year.

After a fractious midterm election season, what remains—and markedly so—is how angry, truly mad as hell, the American public is. Citizens are furious at government, unemployed husbands are irked at their working wives and the American feedback loop is stuck on tantrum as the new normal proves anything but cool or calm.

Populist frustration crosses from political platforms to consumers. They’ll lash out against brands that fail to meet expectations or that fall down on service. Have a strategy in place in case you misstep, which will be especially important on SoMe (social media), where you’ll need to avoid viral contagion.

Americans are pragmatic; we all know that. But rarely have we seen so much widespread interest in reinvention as we’ll be seeing next year. Boomer Joes and Janes will look to apply “Yes, we can” not to politics, but to their sense of reactualized human potential.

The phenomenon slides from individual to institutional. Just as people confess and redeem their crooked roads through new good works—I see a big trend to volunteerism among boomers—citizens will offer a similar chance for a refreshed third act to public figures or corporations that have erred (dare I even say BP?).

Call it Reinvention, Part II.

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Change is, of course, always a hot topic as we head closer to Dec. 31.

A new year ushers in reflection and resolve—and, for many, that means introspection.

My decade and a half of trendspotting have been more like a form of extroverted social excavation. As I stayed awake in my hotel room in San Francisco watching the capsule that lifted the Chilean miners one by one out of the ground, it struck me as symbolic of how interested we all are becoming in stories about everybody.

Watch in 2011 for this to reveal as a further decline in traditional broadcasting and a surge in mycasting, or individually curated interactive content. Urges to “share” and retweet are aspects of expressing your self-identity by forwarding news of the public figures you relate to or the shoes you wear. This trend extends to users signing up for new blog platforms such as Tumblr—and a world of iPhone apps for bloggers to convene their individual voices into constituencies.

"Men, no longer masters of all they survey, will need to adapt to being depicted either as stay-at-homemakers or sex objects for working women."" -President, Euro RSCG Worldwide , Marian Salzman

How to succeed?

Speak sincerely, in short, bold snippets of content.

All this net gain for real people’s gatherings on the Web, SoMe and mobiles describes how, more and more, individuals will be newsmakers. The rule of thumb is to talk up what you care about. That will, in turn, make online matches that much more meaningful.

And “meaningful” is serious business next year.

In 2010, hyperlocalization—people valuing their five-to-10-mile radius where familiar relationships form—was a buzzword I cited in my annual report. In 2011, there’s going to be a lot more of this seeking and probing for deep meaning as we ask ourselves which of our jobs, activities and hobbies feel soul-satisfying.

Our answers will prioritize self-reliance. Respect accrues to brands that can talk to the hands, as the can-do spirit resurges not just in ever-burgeoning DIY movements (in everything from e-publishing to motorcycle maintenance) but also in trends such as urban farming in blighted U.S. cities and time-banking in countries from the U.K. to Canada to Israel to South Korea.

It used to be that success was measured in stuff.

But now big money is as suspect as Bernie Madoff, and the old perks that separated us at worth won’t match up to the emo bling (that’s emotional bling) that people are craving. Friends who show up for friends will make for powerful sympathetic markets who want sincere pitches, not plastic perks, in 2011.

Among those who are going to have to make special adjustments?

Men, no longer masters of all they survey, will need to adapt to being depicted either as stay-at-homemakers or sex objects for working women. And this gender bender will be matched by both genders’ suspicions of unseen systems, as all of us ask: Who’s really in control?

We know millennials are rising both in tech-savvy workplaces and as consumers. But despite (or because of?) having helicopter parents, many lack the thick skins to deal with the reality of being (metaphorically) tossed out of airplanes and asked to land on their feet. Boot-camp entrepreneurs who can toughen them will see pots of gold next year.

And where goes maximal strength, so comes the rise of minitrends, which next year will include new pools of African consumers and small-scale solar energy.

Don’t forget that 2011 marks a new decade. We’ll still be carrying the economic burdens of the past 10 years (it’ll be that long since 9/11, as we’ll solemnly remember next September), but recession scars will reveal the healing tissue of a real network fabric.


Marian Salzman is president of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America. Named one of the world’s top five trendspotters, Salzman is best known for launching metrosexual mania in 2003, but she also created several other buzzes, including “the rise of singletons,” “It’s America Online,” Europe’s cyberspoon, globesity and “sleep is the new sex.” Author or co-author of 15 books, including Next Now and The Future of Men, she currently blogs on the Huffington Post, for the World Future Society, and at eurorscgpr.com and eurorscgsocial.com.