Trends and predictions are everywhere. While we appreciate trends, we might respond with an eye-roll when we hear the word since they are predominately superficial and not really rooted in a deeper understanding of human behavior. That’s where Padilla’s Insights + Strategy team comes in – our goal is to provide more evergreen, holistic and helpful cultural connections that are beneath all the trends you’re reading about.

Let’s start with a little context. Remember 2019? Seems so long ago! People were looking at the world around them and pushing for societies, governments, brands and movements to redefine their relationship with technology, take a stand on important issues and be honest in the depiction of their lives. As people were being pressured by these extrinsic forces it also began to challenge their intrinsic values: People were taking a more critical and self-reflective look at who they really are. As people questioned these outward forces (that they really couldn’t control), they were challenging their beliefs and values (that they could control) in hopes of finding balance.

And that will definitely continue, but it’s an important behavioral marker as our narrative shifts to the 2020 top trends theme of “being in flux” – not being stagnate. Being in flux reflects a desire and expectation we will start to see unfold with people’s behaviors and motivations in the next few years.

Being in flux is where we start to see our top three cultural trends for 2020:

1. Hustle Culture

While it was largely predicted that Americans would have more leisure time in the 21st century (ah, the promises of tech efficiencies), we’re actually working more hours than ever. Leisure time also used to be a symbol of wealth but now “being busy,” synonymous with being “in demand,” has become a status symbol. Have you heard of Liz Lemon-ing? Look it up.

Why should you care? People are struggling to get “woke” with that true work-life balance. Increased cost of living, rising student debt, stagnant wages and other economic realities have required people to work more to make ends meet. In response, we’re spending more of our “leisure time” hustling on an entrepreneurial or passion project, binging Netflix, ordering in and engaging in self-care.

Brands should look for ways to help people find balance and manage their busy lives without adding to their plate. However, it isn’t just about streamlining or making something more efficient. Brands that want to get people’s attention must find ways to be the small, gentle voice at the right time rather than the loudest voice around. Brands can’t assume that people will see that their product is worth leaving the house for – instead, recognize that engagement now includes physically getting them to leave the house or finding a way to bring the experience to them.

Chillin’ with Cheetos: Cheetos based their Super Bowl ad on the insight that millennials want/need an excuse to do nothing. Their ad shows how Cheeto residue offers a way out of the hustle through brief incapacitation.

2. Fluid Identity

With the proliferation of social media, how we see and express ourselves and the world at large has changed. People are engaging with more communities that awaken different aspects of their identities – providing new perspective and changing viewpoints or experiences. Although access is important, so is the support and comfort that comes with connecting to others with similarities – of all kinds.

Why should you care? People have never felt more empowered to be their true selves , make their own rules and question societal norms. As we better understand our own multifaceted identities, naturally we begin to question how binary labels can stifle our ability to thrive, ultimately gaining awareness and embracing fluidity in all aspects of identity – gender, sexual orientation, physical attributes, educational needs, mental health – even things as seemingly benign as hobbies and interests or dietary choices. Think back to high school, instead of being labeled as jocks, theater kids, gamers, nerds, etc. – the understanding today is that one person can be all those things at different points during the day. For the youngest generations, the more unexpected facets and multiple expressions of your identity, the better.

For brand managers, think of audience through the lens of values and personal expression rather than “type of person.” Facilitate self-expression and nurture inclusive communities built around shared interests and/or challenges; give collaborators the tools to communicate with each other as well as your brand? Ensure that branded spaces, whether online or off, feel inclusive and democratic.

No Estás Solo (You Are Not Alone): Sprite created a series of forums on Reddit designed for young people who feel they are alone for a variety of reasons –they’re still virgins, they’re flat-chested, they feel like they’re in the wrong body. Topics were identified using Google search data.

3. Sensory Renaissance

Our digital screens deliver an unrelenting stream of visual information while, for the most part, ignoring our other senses. Ever bombarded by content, people are visually engaged, but without deeper sensory engagement, there is much less for people to feel. It’s no secret the more senses we engage, the more strongly we are tied to a moment, an object, or a place. That’s why we can never get a sizzling fajita platter out of our heads!

Why should you care? Sadly, in our visually dominated digital world, we are experiencing a sensory imbalance resulting in an emotional imbalance. Rather than feeling fulfilled by the plethora of visual content, people are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, distracted and bored. It isn’t just about getting attention but holding and sustaining it. Let’s get back to ALL the feels.

The great thing about our senses is that we have five! Brands should be having multidimensional conversations – allowing consumers to find their own voices and to respond viscerally and subconsciously to them. When we think about how to help organizations connect to their audience, also think about ways to build emotional intent into your marketing strategy.

Sense and Sensibilities: Mastercard is seeking to build out a “brand DNA” that customers can see, hear and taste – from sonic branding to “The First Taste of Priceless” bespoke macarons (yes, you read that right) to a PRICELESS restaurant in New York and a bistro in Rome International Airport. [News Release]

Interested in learning more? Good, because we have a lot more to share! Connect with Mike Garrison who leads our Insights + Strategy team and let’s talk about how we can leverage “being in flux” in 2020 to help shape your company’s communications strategy and more. 

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