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Stylus talk review: "The groups that will shape the commercial landscape in 2019."

Trends and insights researcher Stylus gave a presentation on "The groups that will shape the commercial landscape in 2019" on Tuesday, February 12 – here's my roundup (with extensive commentary).

TL;DR: Interesting in terms of hearing about big and small trends (and the Zeitgeist in general), but also relatively niche and very US-focused. It was definitely about the "haves" rather than "have nots" – though that makes commercial sense I suppose. Also: I'm not entirely sold on the figures cited... Still, events like these are definitely worthwhile because with the insane amounts of information out there, anything that can shed light on what some of the distinct trends are, and where we're headed, makes the infoscape a bit more navigable.

The speakers' main points: Don't just focus on Millennials and consider the "new" lifestyles which people are embracing – specifically...

1) "Supercharged Kids"

Basically: the rise of woke children of even woker parents who introduce them to complex topics early on – e.g. through picture books about non-gender-conformity and displacement.

2) "Tenacious Teens"

29% of US teens are "regularly active in their community." (My question: have these levels changed recently, especially seeing that UMC kids have been doing the volunteer thing to pad out college applications since forever? Also: "active in their community" could cover quite a lot...)

"Representatives": Emma Gonzales (gun control); Amika George (period poverty)

The speakers emphasised that this demographic is also very active on social media and talked about Crunchet, a social channel curation app which sponsored the January 2018 Women's March. (From my preliminary desktop research, figures on Crunchet usage etc. aren't easily available.)

3) "Gen XCel" (38-53 year olds)

Apparently Gen Xers ("the invisible generation") are often overlooked by marketers in lieu the Boomers and Millennials which sandwich them – to their peril, as GenX accounts for >25% of consumption spend in the US with US$2.4 trillion of spending power.

"Representative": Busy Philipps, who started acting in her teens, built up a huge social media following, and turned this into a book deal and a talk show.

4) "Post Urbanites"

Because 67% of US Millennials live outside cities, the takeaway was that more people are "fleeing" urban life for the 'burbs or even beyond. (Note: no detail or figures on how many of these either live with their parents or are setting up their own suburban families).

Some are documenting their journeys (viz City Quitters; How to Leave) and communities like the Folkestone Creative Quarter are built on finding alternatives to city life.

That being said, I'd revise the speaker's imperative "Brands need to prepare for post-urban lifestyles" to "There's a (potentially vicarious) rising interest in post-urban lifestyles."

(In terms of plus ça change: more than a century ago, the German Youth Movement was founded on pretty much the same ideals of escaping grey city life for the countryside.)

5) Boundary Breakers

This one's about the visionary adventurers interested in space exploration (could space tourism be a reality by 2023?) but also in improving our existing technologies (e.g. Vollebak's grapheme-coated jacket).

Innovations to help people with different abilities was drawn out as a category with huge opportunity – people with disabilities have an alleged spending power of US$12.1 trillion (this 2016 DWP report and Scope's disability stats paint a slightly grimmer picture), providing a space for companies that embrace aesthetic inclusive design (think pretty hearing aids).

"Representative": Sinead Burke, advocate (here's her TED Talk about "Why Design Should Include Everyone")

6) Self-Carers

2019 started with a bit of a self-care backlash; in her essay on Millennial Burnout, Anne Helen Petersen excoriated the industry: "Much of self-care isn’t care at all: It’s an $11 billion industry whose end goal isn’t to alleviate the burnout cycle, but to provide further means of self-optimization."

The event didn't touch on this aspect, instead focusing on the rise of apps that tap into your circadian rhythms and body-positive influencers.

7) Enlightened Men

The rise of men who are trying to come to terms with (and actively counteract) toxic masculinity.

"Representatives": Professor Green's 2015 BBC documentary Suicide and Me and the books Reasons to Stay Alive; How Not To Be a Boy; and Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different.

The speakers' conclusion: "A broader range of masculine identities needs to be acknowledged."

8) History Remixers

This category apparently includes the 5 million people who have gotten their DNA tested through 23andMe and are "embracing new parts of their heritage." (Cynics might say: white people celebrating small amounts of ethnic heritage without this impacting how they're perceived within society.)

Also mentioned: books celebrating "authenticity" (like "decolonised" Mexican cooking) and ventures like the Kremer Museum which makes it possible to explore art up close through VR.

9) The Experimentals

The people who make "taboo" issues mainstream (specifically: marijuana and sex).

"Representatives": Bake Edibles with Birdie, Netflix's Sex Education, and the CES controversy around whether Lora DiCarlo's robotic sex toys should have won the innovation awards.

The speakers described the still-prevalent lack of sex education as an opportunity for brands to reach these audiences.
(There was a 10th group, which I've clearly forgotten to take notes on.)


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