Outlook 2020: The Race to the Next Platform
Four trends shaping the future of media & technology
Welcome to the IPG Media Lab’s 2020 Outlook. Each year, we round up the ideas that excite us for the next few years: new technologies, market forces, and shifts in consumer behavior that are changing the media landscape. Since 2006, the Lab has worked with clients to help them best adapt to disruptive change.
Guided by a forward-thinking perspective, the Lab team explores emerging technologies and their potential to become new media platforms. Our focus on research and strategy enables us to analyze the latest platform developments, understand how they will impact consumers, and advise our clients on how to navigate the disruption they bring. Through a finely tuned vetting process, the Lab team organizes their findings, manages introductions, and recommends these partners to solve client challenges or bring forward new opportunities.
The Outlook is informed by our growing team around the world. While the Lab has been based in New York for years, in 2018 we added Singapore as a second home. Over the past two years, we have expanded our network, with team members representing every region of the globe, ready to help our clients find innovative solutions to business challenges no matter where on Earth they might appear. Our 2020 Outlook features not only a global perspective, but custom content developed by local teams in each region, all available on our website at ipglab.com.
This Outlook is an overview of the trends and topics that we expect to break out in the next few years, why we’re convinced they’re important, and how you should respond. We hope you enjoy it.
Comments, questions, and opportunities to work together are very welcome. Please reach out to Josh Mallalieu, at email@example.com.
2020: The Race to the Next Platform
Last year we talked about how the Unintended Consequences of the past decade of rapid technology advancement and adoption would be impacting innovation for the foreseeable future, asking us to slow down a bit, take stock, and pay our dues before charging ahead into the future. While those tolls are being extracted, it’s clear that our major tech platforms are still racing head-long into the future, eager to be a winner in whatever computing platform comes after the smartphone.
It may seem premature to talk about a world beyond the smartphone. Despite the prevalence of wearables, voice interfaces, and artificial intelligence, nothing seems ready to pluck our phones from our hands. And yet, these things happen in cycles. Since the earliest days of Silicon Valley, advances in engineering have progressed enough to yield a new computing paradigm about every 15–20 years: from mainframes to personal computers to smartphones. If that history is any guide, we should be due for a new platform to emerge soon, one which will define who controls the apps and services that underpin our culture well into the 2030’s.
All of the major technology companies in the West are placing their bets on what might emerge as the platform of the future. Computing has matured, and these giants are so large, that until computing itself is disrupted, each future platform shift will simply be a reshuffling of the four or five largest companies. The companies at the top of the smartphone era will continue to dominate all downhill additions, such as AR, wearables, and voice. Notably, these new platforms are emerging in spaces where traditional advertising doesn’t fit — there is no space for a display ad on a watch, and no user would tolerate a 10-second spot being added to their voice assistant’s responses. Instead, brands will have to find new ways to add endemic value in order to engage with consumers on these platforms.
The companies at the top of the smartphone era will continue to dominate all downhill additions, such as AR, wearables, and voice.
The design-led culture at Apple has meant that they have been a major driver of platform shifts historically; even when they didn’t “win” in PCs, the original Macintosh was the trigger, just like the iPhone after it. Today, Apple is placing their bet for the future on wearables and augmented reality. While these may seem like disparate platforms, rumors of augmented reality glasses, which could one day be paired with an Apple Watch and AirPods, paint a picture of a dual-sided strategy wherein wearable hardware powers an AR software layer. AR itself has the potential to be a super-platform, uniting the digital and physical worlds, and replacing every screen we use today with virtual ones. If Apple is right, their expertise in miniaturizing computers and designing devices users are willing to wear could solidify their place as a major player in an AR future. The big question is if they can find enough use cases to justify interest from users and developers over the next few years.
With 2.5 billion users worldwide, Facebook is the closest thing we have today to a super-platform, and yet is currently vulnerable to the whims of Apple and Google for their survival. While Facebook has recently created a new campus for developing new hardware initiatives, as well as their own operating system for future devices, thus far their largest future investment has been in virtual reality, through the acquisition of Oculus in 2014. Like AR, VR has the potential to replace all of the other screens in our lives, and act as a primary interface to our digital worlds. But unlike AR, it blocks out the real world, so like the internet of yore, it’s necessarily a destination, rather than something we use constantly. This has made for slow adoption from users, and trust will remain a challenge for Facebook for the foreseeable future. Still, their social graph is the one thing that could break VR out of its gaming niche, as they’ve shown with the announcement of a virtual social space in the forthcoming Facebook Horizon, and if they succeed, they could capture even more attention from their vast user base.
With a surprise break-out hit in Alexa, and an acquisition of Ring in 2018, Amazon is betting that they can extend their early lead in voice and smart home devices into new form factors and use cases beyond our front steps. But so far the biggest obstacle isn’t access, but rather that Alexa just isn’t good enough to tackle complex tasks. Until it improves dramatically, it won’t be a suitable replacement for touchscreens as a primary way to interact with our devices. Indeed, despite some recent negative press, Ring might be the better base to build upon: it’s established a true local platform that allows for communication and infrastructure to be deployed neighborhood-by-neighborhood. And while we should be rightfully skeptical of how integrated it has become with law enforcement, it’s one of the best examples in market of a smart city platform deployed at scale. This may appeal less to consumers directly, but could give Amazon an AWS-like advantage as other infrastructure pieces fall into place.
Google is also focused on infrastructure, but they’re starting from a more personal place, relying on Google Assistant as the glue for an ambient computing platform that lives in every connected device, both inside and outside our homes. Though Assistant often gets lumped in with Alexa and Siri as a voice assistant, it is actually a much broader endeavor. Currently, it is the connective tissue between all the Google products and services we use on the web, on mobile, and at home. But looking at things like Google Duplex, it’s not hard to see how it will one day be an interface for anything that’s not already part of Google’s ecosystem. This ambient computing, powered by artificial intelligence, is what Google is focused on for the future, providing consumers intelligent information and actions, in exchange for knowing even more about them.
This evolution will play out differently in each market, based on how deeply these platforms have taken hold. Particularly, the presence of Chinese platform companies like Tencent, Alibaba, and ByteDance within a market might tip the balance away from the US and influence how these trends develop. Consumers have never been more aware of their value in the media business, and will expect a fair trade of data for capabilities, right out of the gate. At the end of the day, they will pick the platform of the future, and their choices will be guided by entertainment, fashion, utility, privacy, and trust. We’ve identified four ways in which these platform priorities will shape how we connect with our consumers as this race accelerates, changing our technology, media, and culture over the next decade.
Consumers have never been more aware of their value in the media business, and will expect a fair trade of data for capabilities.
One piece of our culture which has changed dramatically since the advent of the smartphone, and which will impact all computing platforms going forward, is just how much we use our devices for creating. If the era when desktops and laptops ruled computing was defined by productivity, first with Word and Excel, and later with Photoshop and Final Cut, then it’s clear that the smartphone era has been dominated by creativity. The first generation was Instagram and YouTube — essentially ports of products we were already using on our computers, but optimized for a mobile world where the same device could be used for creation and consumption. More recently, it has meant Bitmoji and AR lenses in Snapchat and Memoji on iMessage, as well as things like Creative Mode in Fortnite, and challenges on TikTok. More people create, remix, and share content in more ways than ever before, and this high rate of participation means creativity will need to be baked into new platforms from the beginning, something which will give an advantage to Apple and Facebook, both as future platform owners, and as developers of creative tools.
More people create, remix, and share content in more ways than ever before, and this high rate of participation means creativity will need to be baked into new platforms from the beginning.
Much of this is due to the lower barrier of entry for modern creative tools. It used to take training to understand how to take a great photo or remove unwanted pieces of it in Photoshop. But today, our smartphones come with cameras increasingly powered by computational photography, which can optimize our photos as we take them. This levels the playing field for technical skills, allowing more people to be more creative. And this year we’ll see devices that can shoot 4K and 8K video in Dolby Vision, the same standard that powers the highest-end televisions and theatrical projectors. Those same cameras also power augmented reality lenses, which allow users to easily remix themselves and their surroundings in new and creative ways.
Those AR lenses will soon merge with the connected communities we find blossoming today in private Facebook groups, on sites like Reddit, and in games like Fortnite to spawn new creative communities inside virtual spaces. While 2D mediums will continue to thrive, 3D virtual worlds will open up new kinds of creativity, as more powerful devices and more intuitive design allow for everyone to participate, and the feeds of content we have today give way to more organic spaces. Facebook Horizon, Minecraft, Roblox, and Fortnite itself are laying the groundwork for what could be the next creative economy.
The companies that define this next-generation creativity won’t just be the platforms that distribute the content, but also the ones making the tools. Just as Spotify acquired podcast-production platform Anchor to help fill their podcast pipeline, owning the tools always gives you an insight into what creators are interested in. Apple has a strong track record in creative tools for previous generations, with GarageBand and iMovie providing entry-level features that made it easy to graduate to Logic and Final Cut when you were ready. In recent years they’ve even taken similar steps with coding, providing a path from Shortcuts and Swift Playgrounds up to Xcode when you were ready to develop a full iOS app. But where Apple often falls down is distribution — SoundCloud and YouTube became the way for musicians and filmmakers to distribute and monetize their creations, not anything from Apple. And even the App Store, as successful as it’s been, has long been plagued by lack of monetization options.
The companies that define this next-generation creativity won’t just be the platforms that distribute the content, but also the ones making the tools.
Facebook also has a long history of making great tools, from influencers on Instagram to the first no-code AR solution in Spark, to their robust Oculus developer tools. And while Apple’s Reality Composer and Adobe’s Aero tools for drag-and-drop AR development have since come to market, Facebook’s focused investment in 3D content creation might give them a head start. But this year is also expected to see the launch of iPhones which can capture objects in 3D, a leap ahead from current technology, which might not just create new opportunities in virtual space, but might also rekindle the fires of 3D printing — when it’s easy to capture, it will also be easy to reproduce.
And what will be the GarageBand and YouTube for AR and VR? The former two fundamentally shifted the business model which had supported the music industry for decades, and the latter two are poised to do the same for almost every other industry. Will Apple and Facebook dominate the tools, while Google and Amazon dominate the distribution? Though that would play to their strengths, it seems unlikely that the next-generation platform landscape develops with such interoperability being possible. Instead, platforms are retreating into their own ecosystems, and so, for a while at least, we may be forced to choose better tools with worse distribution, or vice versa. But the ability to have a commonplace to discover music or video content cannot be dismissed, so perhaps a new common platform will emerge outside of the bubble of the big four.
As we look toward new platforms with new business models, monetization for creators on the platform must be well-considered and baked in from the start. We’ll likely see a variety of business models tested that blur the lines between content and traditional products, as these new virtual products will be able to update live, and be instantly available around the globe. Everything from subscriptions to new outfits and virtual decor, to one-off payments, perhaps even to CPM models will be possible. It’s not hard to imagine that you could purchase the ability for your next ten thousand views to include your avatar in new Prada shoes, and revert to something lower-cost once those are done.
For all brands, this focus on creativity will cause a fundamental shift in how we engage with our consumers. While legacy media channels will continue to support broadcast brand messaging, which is tightly controlled and top-down, new platforms and younger consumers expect to be engaged in the conversation, and to be given the tools to incorporate your brand into their culture, in ways that may not be on-message, but which feel organic to them. A recent study by MAGNA Intelligence and the Lab found conclusively that brands who engage with culture reap a whole host of benefits, including higher rankings on authenticity and inclusiveness. What better way to participate in culture than by providing the raw materials?
New platforms and younger consumers expect to be engaged in the conversation, and to be given the tools to incorporate your brand into their culture.
One of the most challenging hurdles for creators can be sourcing or designing assets, but platforms are beginning to fill that gap, as brands partner with companies like Unsplash to deploy product shots and brand images, and SketchFab to distribute 3D models and brand assets directly into VR and AR design tools. A great way for brands to take advantage of this wellspring of creativity among users is to seed their asset packs in the right places, providing consumers the tools they need to include our products as part of the conversation. Just as memes have changed how we discover and engage with movies and television, availability for remixing will be a foundational part of how we engage with all culture going forward. This may be the most effective way to market in a world where everyone is a creator: don’t try to control the message, just give them the raw materials and the freedom to use them.
“When it comes to media, we keep trying to get closer to what the world actually looks like. We started with paintings, then we got photography, then video. But we live in a 3D world and the future of digital content is volumetric. The good news is that it’s getting easier and easier to create 3D content, and there are more and more ways to consume it, with cross-platform experiences enabled through the web. Tools like Sketchfab mean any brand can leverage their existing CAD data, or solutions like photogrammetry, to easily showcase digital twins of their products for ecommerce or product configurators.”
– Alban Denoyel, Co-founder & CEO, Sketchfab
If Apple and Facebook are focused on platforms which may enable new ways of expression and a blossoming creative economy, Google and Amazon’s future appears to lie in building the infrastructure that will deeply embed our digital lives into the physical world around us. Google’s focus on ambient computing is centered on the personal, and is poised to use Google Assistant as the glue between different parts of Google’s ecosystem, as well as a bridge to the rest of the world. We can see this coming together today, as Duplex turns Assistant inside out, placing a phone call on the user’s behalf to restaurants and salons which are not integrated into Google’s platform, or navigating a car rental website to book a reservation. For Google, the integration point is the user, and they will build out from user-facing apps and services to steadily integrate with retailers, homes, offices, transportation, and public infrastructure.
Google and Amazon’s future appears to lie in building the infrastructure that will deeply embed our digital lives into the physical world around us.
Amazon, in contrast, is building from the outside in. Despite attempts to put Alexa in more places, as a platform it remains primarily focused on the home and in the car — a device itself which, as autonomous technologies advance over the next decade, will become more of a “home on wheels” than pure transportation. Instead, look at the retail infrastructure that Amazon is putting into place: Amazon Go, as a platform, allows users to be “logged in” to a physical store in the same way they are logged into Amazon.com on the web. Today, this is used for checkout, but it’s not difficult to imagine how things like product recommendations and personalized offers could surface in the future.
One day soon, all retail stores will work this way, and will be powered by a small handful of companies providing this functionality. The ability to provide identity and “login” to physical infrastructure will be an important component of the smart cities of the future, and by shipping early, Amazon has ensured that they will be one of the providers. The technology that powers it — whether it be facial recognition, device recognition, or some hodgepodge of QR codes and NFC — is less important than the platform that controls the identity layer. And with new display technologies like the “parallel reality” screens from Delta and Misapplied Sciences, which will allow up to 100 people to see different content on the same display, we might see out-of-home advertising become more personalized and targeted at scale.
The ability to provide identity and “login” to physical infrastructure will be an important component of the smart cities of the future.
The average adult in the US is now listening to digital audio for an hour and twenty minutes per day, and this number is growing, thanks to devices like AirPods that allow for audio in more contexts. As more consumers adopt AirPods and other “hearables,” the computers in our ears will become more of a platform for interacting with our surroundings, and open up new media opportunities. Imagine being able to hear custom flight updates in the airport, or a foreign movie in a theater translated into your local language. While augmented reality glasses will blur the lines between digital and physical, the first version of AR that we use continually may very well be rooted in audio.
One company experimenting with targeted audio and new kinds of location-based services is Foursquare. The one-time social network has location data that powers thousands of apps, and in turn receives the most data about where consumers spend their time than anyone outside of Google, Apple, and Facebook. Today, they use this data to help retail businesses understand their customers and connect the dots between their advertising and foot traffic. But it would be an easy evolution to turn this data into a platform to “login” to physical stores.
If our personal identities will increasingly become tied to public space, our smart homes will soon become stitched together into neighborhoods and eventually cities. We can see this happening today with Ring, as neighbors share video and create neighborhood message boards. Though Ring had a rough 2019, an increased focus on privacy and security should right the ship and allow for continued growth of Amazon’s neighborhood platform. Amazon’s other smart home initiative, the Dash Replenishment Service, is already connecting the home to outside infrastructure, allowing devices like printers, coffee makers, and washing machines to automatically reorder their own supplies. Over time, we’re shifting more of our entertainment and dining into our connected homes, making them a new point of integration for commerce, bringing inside many of the activities that used to happen in public.
If our personal identities will increasingly become tied to public space, our smart homes will soon become stitched together into neighborhoods and eventually cities.
As we build out from the home, and in from the city, eventually these two initiatives will meet, and there may be a reckoning in terms of platform interoperability. 5G will help connect them. Identity platforms will power them. But we’ll still need to redefine the boundary between public and private, and create tools and technologies to transition between them. Today it is relatively easy to be anonymous in a big city. But tomorrow, it will be increasingly difficult, as our online identities start to become more entwined with our physical location.
“Foursquare always believed that context is king, and in 2020, we believe that innovative brands and developers will continue to look for new and exciting ways to leverage location technology to create enhanced, contextual and personalized real-world experiences for their users. With the Foursquare Pilgrim SDK, we enable creators the freedom to deliver location to surprise and delight consumers. The reality of what was once considered “science-fiction,” is actually not as far off as people may think, and Foursquare is set to be one of the foundations for location innovation.”
– David Shim, CEO, Foursquare
For decades, media had run parallel to the rest of our lives, on a regular schedule: morning papers, drive-time radio, evening news, prime time TV, Tuesday releases for books and albums, Saturday morning cartoons, Sunday evening prestige TV. But uncoupling media from the constraints of physical media and analog distribution has meant not only the breakdown of the monoculture, but also such a high proliferation of content that keeping up with it has become impossible. We are well past the time when even professional critics could credibly watch every TV show or listen to every podcast and offer a comprehensive opinion. And so to alleviate the issue, we developed algorithmic recommendations, offering to help us find what we want when we want it.
Algorithms have been running things like the stock market (via robo-traders) and content recommendations for awhile. But the shift of social media to purely algorithmic timelines which attempt to show us the most engaging content, rather than the most recent, has broken our sense of time. Faced with an overwhelming amount of on-demand entertainment, and news that arrives as real-time alerts rather than a scheduled broadcast, it’s clear we are already seeing most of our cultural consumption being ruled by algorithms.
The shift of social media to purely algorithmic timelines which attempt to show us the most engaging content, rather than the most recent, has broken our sense of time.
It’s taking some time to get used to, as we’re just starting to come to grips with the idea that recency isn’t always a marker of what’s most important at any given time. This is most evident in entertainment, where the past few years have seen not only the rise in popularity of 90’s sitcoms like Friends and The Office being discovered by a new generation on streaming platforms, but also in the way that Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” became a chart-topping song at the end of the decade, twenty-five years after its initial release. For some things, quality or relevancy will mean more than recency, and algorithms can help amplify the deep-cuts of a few users into mainstream trends. And newer platforms like TikTok prioritize the algorithm over the network, designing their experience to always show you the most engaging content, whether or not you follow the creators.
There was a recent commercial for the Apple Watch which starts and ends with the phrase “this watch tells time.” But most of the running time of the commercial was dedicated to outlining all of the other things it could do, including showing off the Siri watch face, Apple’s own algorithmic timeline, that shows you what Apple thinks you need to know, when you need to know it. Just as the Phone app on the iPhone is its least important feature, the Clock app on the Apple Watch is destined to become its least important feature, bringing about its own demise by providing a better interface for telling you what you should know, see, and do at any given moment.
Part of a connected city is increasingly about using software to control other people, summoning food delivery, drivers, and house cleaners on-demand, customizing coffee orders and asking drivers to be quiet in ways we would never have the courage to request in person. The next phase of development will leverage algorithms to allow us to automate the same kinds of actions for ourselves. Our devices can already tell us when to sleep, wake, work, exercise, and meditate. And in the near future they’ll be able to tell us not only when to eat but what to eat, not just when to work, but what type of work our minds are best suited for at the moment. And all of this self-maintenance will be mixed in with content recommendations — music and podcasts to listen to, movies to see, books to read, and, of course, a never-ending barrage of television to watch.
Part of a connected city is increasingly about using software to control other people; The next phase will leverage algorithms to allow us to automate the same kinds of actions for ourselves.
A major point of concern over the next decade will be the inherent biases of these algorithms, and the preconceived notions of those who create them. While it may seem fairly inconsequential if a TV or music recommendation engine isn’t perfect, it’s easy to see the problem when we think about how news content is prioritized and promoted, or how we’re advised about our own health and wellness. There is no easy solution for this, except that we must push for diversity in the teams developing them, built-in mechanisms for user feedback and adaptability, and a competitive marketplace where users have multiple pretty-good options for the feeds of data that will increasingly structure our days. The spread of misinformation on social media has shown us the risk of not considering bad actors, and as these algorithms reach deeper into our lives, we must learn those lessons and do better going forward.
Success for brands, creators, and individuals in a culture driven by algorithms can come by thoroughly embracing the algorithms, or by pushing back against them. To embrace them, one needs to provide a wide variety of content to discover, remix, and re-engage with. While playing into the algorithm used to mean generating news-worthy material on a consistent basis, giving people something to talk about, as algorithms shift away from recency being the most important trait, other factors will become just as important. A transmedia strategy, embracing different types of content distributed on different platforms, will help, and plays directly into the ongoing shift towards every brand becoming a lifestyle brand. So, too, will the assets we discussed in Democratized Creativity, that can be absorbed and remixed into new kinds of content, whether that’s memes on social networks, or 3D models in world-building video games.
Success for brands, creators, and individuals in a culture driven by algorithms can come by thoroughly embracing the algorithms, or by pushing back against them.
Rebelling against the algorithms will also be a sound strategy, as human-curated collections and trusted brand names carry more weight with overwhelmed consumers. While algorithms may be powered by detailed data profiles on our actual behaviors, for a long time they will still be lacking in novelty, blind to our hopes and dreams, and disinterested in our motivations and interests that lie outside the boundaries set by their creators. Regardless of how good those algorithms get or how much data about us they can ingest, there will remain an important place for human curation, at least for the foreseeable future.
“In 2019, Old Town Road, Area 51 and Baby Yoda became worldwide phenomena and morning show conversations due to their meteoric rise across digital platforms. What we witnessed was the tipping point of mainstream culture being shaped by the algorithms that prioritize the content instead of the creator. In 2020, algorithms that are focused on democratizing distribution — in parallel with the rise of digital creativity — will have an even greater impact on driving mainstream culture around the globe.”
– Alan Schaaf, Founder & CEO, Imgur
The Age of Anxiety
This investment in human curation is part of a larger trend that is simmering beneath everything we’ve been discussing in this year’s Outlook: a slow but growing drumbeat of anxiety surrounding the momentous changes that are being borne out of our always-connected, always-online culture. But the common punching bag of the “24-hour news cycle” is no longer confined just to news: we’re increasingly overwhelmed with new content to watch, listen to, or read, even for entertainment. How often has a friend or colleague told you about a new TV show you “had to watch immediately?” Consuming all of this must-see-TV is in itself more than a full-time job, as is staying on top of all of the latest news in sports, entertainment, fashion, gaming, or finance. It’s simply impossible to keep up with all of the things we would like to, let alone the things we feel like we should be keeping up on. And as the new wave of Democratized Creativity takes hold, there will be even more content to sift through.
We’re increasingly overwhelmed with new content to watch, listen to, or read, even for entertainment.
It’s this ever-rising tide of culture that will push us into the arms of the algorithms, hoping for some guidance on how best to spend our free time. But the latent anxiety will not be quelled, for there are real concerns about the motives of the algorithms. The recent backlash against major tech platforms was driven by a breach of trust, one which has yet to be repaired, and this lack of trust will carry forward into questioning the motives of the algorithms and the companies who create them. This is why human curation will be an important differentiator — even though an individual’s motives may be opaque to us, we at least possess the tools to be able to evaluate them and navigate them. With a faceless algorithm, it’s not always clear what motivations or assumptions are baked-in, and there’s certainly no way to alter them.
Lest we think that this is entirely a first-world problem, merely about how we spend our leisure time, as Ambient Computing pushes out into our cities and public spaces, it will quickly take our anxieties about being always-online to new levels. If we’re not able to leave our homes without being tracked, targeted, and messaged to, if we’re unable to go to a store or a restaurant without disclosing items we considered but didn’t buy, or the nutritional makeup of our meal, there will be an even stronger backlash against technology, and we will have squandered some of the greatest technological advancements ever achieved. In an ironic twist, due to their dense population and propensity for innovation, cities will be the first place much of this technology will come online in public spaces. And if not implemented with care, it could turn the big city — once the best place to be anonymous, to disappear into the teeming crowds — into one of the least anonymous places at all. Instead, we would do well to look to how consumers respond to the connected home, focusing on security and privacy, and try to replicate that in public, carrying our data with us, but creating a bubble of protection that is carefully managed by each user. And we also must look to create offline spaces in the city, the digital equivalent of the public park, where we can relax and “re-wild” in setting with less technology, if not none at all.
As Ambient Computing pushes out into our cities and public spaces, it will quickly take our anxieties about being always-online to new levels.
And that’s not all: anxiety abounds in concerns over privacy and data use, jobs eliminated by automation or replaced by new ways of working, and new digital tools which must be learned, not to mention the rapidly eroding notion of what constitutes a fact, and what is actually true, in a time when strongly held beliefs may have a larger impact on the world. There is no shortage of concern about the new world we have built. And for brands, there are many opportunities to help abate this growing anxiety. While distractions will be gladly welcome, true respites will be the most beneficial of all.
Most importantly, we must be sure that we’re not contributing to it, by being respectful of our consumers’ privacy and personal data. As the Age of Anxiety progresses, the brands who are the most consumer-friendly stand to benefit by default, absorbing the overflow as segment after segment of the market begins to take their data ownership more seriously. Next, we can provide tools to help consumers navigate this new reality. Whether it’s human curation of content, or customized agents and algorithms which can help personalize while preserving privacy, consumers will be hungry for answers from trusted sources. And finally, we can offer an escape — whether that be a total digital detox, or a quick escape in the middle of a mediated workday, comfort and control will be in short supply, and any brand that can offer a respite will be welcomed with open arms. Keep in mind, this need not be core to the brand offering: expectations travel across categories, and a trusted brand in one part of our lives might be a welcome salve in another. More so than ever before.
As the Age of Anxiety progresses, the brands who are the most consumer-friendly stand to benefit by default.
“Music has always helped people deal with the problems of daily life, but recent science has shown just how powerful this truly is, and how we can design function music to greatly reduce stress and anxiety. With technology all around us that distracts and causes stress, we can also use emerging technology to help people too.”
– Daniel Clark, CEO, Brain.fm
Comments, questions, and opportunities to work together are very welcome. Please reach out to Josh Mallalieu, at firstname.lastname@example.org.