Longtime trendspotters can tell you that some of the most important trends can be grouped into übertrends (thank you, Germany, for a prefix that has become a trend in its own right, and for other big ideas such as angst and zeitgeist). It’s not necessarily that trendspotters want to tie up everything with a neat little bow; it’s more that many distinct and important phenomena are originating these days from a single root.
For 2016, that root is the übertrend that Havas PR, the agency I run, is calling Uneasy Street.
Blame it on the various terrorist attacks over the past 15 years, the financial crisis and unemployment, the euro crisis, the refugee crisis, the obesity crisis, the media or the frantic pace of life, or maybe blame the blame culture itself. A sense of unease pervades our days right now. Whether we’re taking our kids to school or trying to fall asleep, we’re living with the nagging feeling that things aren’t as they should be, that threats are looming and that somebody needs to do something about it. Something is off and I should be scared. We’re constantly on the verge of the urge to fight, flee or freeze—so much so that the emotional alarm bells ringing endlessly seem normal. So we try in various ways to quiet the din and deal with the stress.
But it’s seriously tough to silence the clanging. For anyone with children—whose numbers are worryingly decreasing in many parts of Europe—keeping the kids out of harm’s way seems to have become a full-time occupation. But to add to the worries, it looks as if going the extra kilometre to look after them makes them more vulnerable. Are they—and we all —spending too much time with technology? What is it doing to their brains and bodies (and ours)? Maybe we won’t know for sure for another few years, and by then it might be too late. And even if it turns out that technology is bad for us, it’s likely to prove a very difficult habit to kick; research has shown that each new cycle of technology is more addictive than the one before. (It’s right up there on our list of supremely pleasurable but ultimately self-sabotaging behaviours, like eating the junk food and processed foods that we consume in increasing proportions.)
Then there’s climate change. Many are worried about it, or at least seriously uneasy, while others have decided that everything is cyclical and there’s nothing to be concerned about. Either way, Europe is having its share of the weird weather that’s got people worried about what is going on. Glaciers in the Alps are retreating; summer heat waves are setting new records in Spain, Germany and the U.K.; and torrential rain has caused flooding in France, Central Europe and the U.K. We try to Keep Calm and Carry On, to Bleib Ruhig, to Rester Zen, despite feeling that something is amiss. Then again, what can we do about any of it? So we try to tamp down our anxiety. Fear drives us, yet we want to be hopeful. (This ties into the trend Havas PR spotted for 2013 of people pressuring businesses to do good.)
More worries: Who can we believe on anything? Whose opinions can be trusted on so many issues demanding attention? Are Europe’s social models a bulwark against hard times or a drag on economic regeneration? Is it better to stay in the European Union or to leave it? Does immigration represent a threat to Europe’s cultures or a crop of new energy and ideas? Does health and safety legislation reduce the risk of injury such as brain damage in sports, or does it make people softer or more careless? (We spotted the trend of increasing angst over all things brain-related for 2010, and today discussing brain health is mainstream.)
The underlying question raised by this anxiety übertrend is: How can I make my present and my future more secure? Or, rather, since this is almost 2016, after all: What’s the easiest, most enjoyable way to make my present and my future more secure?
Businesses are rushing to answer that question, but for now, real answers are still elusive. This is why marketers should understand the Uneasy Street trend, so that they can satisfy opportunities as consumers strive to find peace of mind.
Havas PR’s “11 Trends for 2016” annual trends report also covers the following 10 trends:
1. Tech Addict, Control Thyself. Expect to see programs of cyber self-control becoming as common as diets and exercise plans.
2. The Golden Age of B.S. Facts and truth matter increasingly less in what is being said. It turns out that most people are satisfied with some form of truthiness.
3. What’s Renewable Will Be New Again. People who aren’t sure how worried to be about climate change will be inspired to act with new consumer-oriented renewable technologies.
4. Out: Overprotective Parenting. New activities will toughen up kids but with a reassuring margin of safety.
5. Mind the App. Expect non-techie DIYers to invent apps in a massive wave of crowdsourced problem solving.
6. Getting Smart. Expect any item with a chip built into it—from watches and fabrics to diapers and cups—to get described as “smart.”
7. The Roar of the Cloud. People will increasingly find no functional, operational value for many activities requiring a physical presence, so they won’t bother.
8. Livin’ Large No More? Cost and space pressures in the world’s great cities are creating incentives for the smartest people to move on—or to bypass them altogether. Second- and even third-tier regional cities are becoming new magnets.
9. Experience Is the New Classroom. Organisations will understand that robust experiential education for people of all ages has to be key to their business model.
10. Cooking, R.I.P. Preparing meals from fresh raw ingredients will seem old-fashioned and unnecessary; at every level, the market for easy-cook and no-cook ingredients will keep rising.
Marian Salzman, CEO at Havas PR
Image Credit: creativecommons.org/Trevor Butcher