On Friday the 7th of November, the Brussels edition of LaFutura (feat. Herman Konings, Tom Palmaerts, Brian Tiong, Piers Fawkes and many more) took place in the Hello Bank! pop-up, a creative setting where innovation, technology and education, initiated by youngsters from Brussels, already set the pace: the future is approaching fast – but are we ready to deal with it? Let’s zoom in how Gen Y and Gen Z deals with today’s Zeitgeist – and what this means for brands.
Because to be honest: the future doesn’t look so bright. The pressure is on for youngsters: we have to be beautiful, successful, funny, rich, talented, caring, smart and if possible also a bit special. And for years, we actually went along with it and tried to meet these high standards society is expecting. But strikes, climate change, wars and poverty are haunting us every day, confronting us with the imperfection of life. Times they are a-changing: maybe we should just embrace the different. We ended up in a schizophrenic situation where forces are joining that normally wouldn’t join. Being bad is not so wrong after all. And yes, fake can be cool once in while. In several areas, themes that are normally opposites or just a ‘no go’ are now combined.
Schizophrenia factor 1: digital and human
It’s nothing new: digital is all around us. We can’t do without it anymore: on our way home we already put on the heating via the energy app on our phone, in the meantime some music via Spotify is getting us into the Friday night mood via Bluetooth and the wearable Nike Fuelband+ will tell you next morning you haven’t broken your record yet (and you know it’s because that one last drink). Technology is in our blood. It is not even a delighter anymore, but a basic. This also means experiencing technology & products should be easy. So easy you don’t even have to think about it anymore. No more manuals but just a three step plan: 1 button, 2 options and 3 seconds to have it started. And of course it all starts with relevance: as a brand you have to care about your customers. Beacon technology makes sure customers get tailor-made suggestions and promotions, perfect for people who don’t want to waste time and shop efficiently:
But let’s not forget about the human factor. Because digital is all around, human is more than ever crucial. Although computers are there to deliver, they will not comfort us and congratulate us spontaneously with our achievements. Dtac knows how to translate this feeling perfectly:
Being human has never been more important. Although brands might be able to calculate behaviour and use technology, the path to success is only for those who show guts. Pharell Williams gets what’s it’s all about: he recently toured around the world and surprised quite some fans by just showing up and making them ‘happy’. One of the most remarkable ‘happy’ moments was for the show ‘Surprise Surprise’ on BBC:
Hot tweetaway: #ConsumerSchizophrenia #trend 1: The paradox of the #digital revolution insit.es/1HtSJy0 by @AnneleenBoullar via @CoolBrands #millennials
Schizophrenia factor 2: Good girls gone bad
Being human also brings us to another trend that has risen from the underground: the Nasty Sexy Girls. Not too much harmony, simplicity or naturalness for them, but rather rebellion, fun and a big ‘fuck you’. Take a look at the television: the neo-feminists are getting our attention. And it’s just not a niche group of tall lesbian bullies, but even the mainstream brands are picking up the trend: Chanel used it on its runway, NastyGal literally translates the trend and some new icons like Miley Cyrus are only confirming more.
It’s not about natural beauty anymore, but about breaking with the routines. Following your instincts rather than being pure. The Profound-trend, as Oliver Schmid from Politur calls it, is about escaping this digital world and going back to nature. Traveling to the must unknown countries and going back to the roots. Nature is everywhere as well in advertising: Tommy Hilfiger for example.
At the same time, bright colors and unnatural make-up are everywhere. Radiant Orchid was chosen as color of the Year: a purple, funky, unexpected color. A bit ‘wrong’ and not very subtle, but right in your face. Like the nasty sexy girls are these days.
Hot tweetaway: #ConsumerSchizophrenia #trend 2: The good girls gone bad movement insit.es/1HtSJy0 by @AnneleenBoullar via @CoolBrands #millennials
Schizophrenia factor 3: hippies and big spenders
But let’s not go to fast: of course we all still love the hippie-attitude. The nasty sexy girls of which we were talking in the previous part are mainly eating chia seed, coconut milk and quinoa salads and organic and gluten-free is the definitely way to go. The maker-movement is another expression: the hippies with a business plan. Think about all these new start-ups like Uber, Air B’nB etc.: a good idea, some crowdfunding on Kickstarter to pay for start-up costs, and use the power of the people: often it’s not more than that. And it’s in all kinds of sector: health sector, energy, food, fixing bikes, sharing cars… You name it and it’s there. At the same time we’re spending more money than we’re actually earning: a study from Moody’s analytics shows this trend amongst people younger than 35. We’re very sceptical about the banks and a lot of us face education debts already from the start of their careers.
Hot tweetaway: #ConsumerSchizophrenia #trend 3: The hippies with a business plan insit.es/1HtSJy0 by @AnneleenBoullar via @CoolBrands #millennials
And how are brands actually dealing with it?
Brands are supposed to embrace the schizophrenia, looking at the success some examples already have shown us. Take for example Stromae: a mix of everything, in every sense: an androgyn, mixed blooded-Brussels techno-pop icon. And it works.
Does it mean that brands these days should also act more ‘schizophrenic’? Do people expect brands to be fragmented? In these unstable times the answer is: no. Youngsters these days are looking for authenticity and clarity. You can’t change the core of the brand – or you have to be really good! Changing different brand values and identities every two months would probably decrease brand loyalty. An simple example maybe: A few years ago, Pizza Hut actually wanted to drop the ‘Pizza’ and just become ‘The Hut’. It only lasted for a very short time: people started bashing about it immediately. Pizza Hut may claim it’s not true – but some pictures prove the opposite.
Luckily, Pizza Hut has learned from its mistakes and recently introduced its new logo:
They claim to “rework its pizza options to include such exotic ingredients as sliced banana peppers, sriracha, and curry and double menu offerings with customized toppings, crusts, sauces, and drizzles. To signal the revamp, Pizza Hut is rolling out a new logo inspired by a swirl of tomato sauce on stretched pizza dough“. Their slogan is: the flavor of now. Not yet: the flavor of the future.
New product extensions, partnerships and communication could be the ways to cope and play with the schizophrenic trend.
Hot tweetaway: How can brands deal with the #ConsumerSchizophrenia #trend insit.es/1HtSJy0 by @AnneleenBoullar via @CoolBrands #millennials
Pampers for example tries to look at things from another perspective. They actually missed a momentum, introducing their product in the 70ies, just after the Babyboom generation. But if you think about it: this generation is getting older and also has its specific issues related to the Pampers product. Time to make up for the past losses and target those Babyboomers after all. It’s all about looking at it from a different angle.
Brands in the future will have to show even more guts and combine the unexpected: unexpected partnerships, colouring outside the lines, combining the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s going to be an interesting future.
Hot tweetaway: Combine the unexpected and show guts #ConsumerSchizophrenia insit.es/1HtSJy0 by @AnneleenBoullar via @CoolBrands #millennials
Want to learn more on paradoxes in consumer trends? Download our 5 Paradoxical Consumer Trends paper.