The Meta Trending Trends: 2020

Top 11 Overlapping Cultural Trends From 30 Reports

Matt Klein
Jan 22 · 7 min read

For the last couple years I’ve made it a tradition to read every available trend report and conduct a meta-analysis, identifying the most recurrent, cultural trends for the year to come (See: 2018 and 2019).

This year, the biggest yet, I combed through +500 trends from 30 reports by: Deloitte, Google, Forrester, Gartner, Trend Watching, Trend Hunter, Accenture & Fjord, Frog, Kantar, Facebook IQ, Pinterest, Mintel, Twitter, Edelman, Future Today Institute, Mindshare, Springwise, CB Insights, Global Web Index, Foresight Factory, JWT, Carat, Hubspot, Econsultancy & Adobe, WGSN, Isobar, Ford, Landor, The Future Laboratory & Daniel Ecker.

Why do this? Because collecting the reports and sharing them in a folder is one nice gesture, but reading them all and sharing what’s most important is another. Secondly, conducting a meta-analysis increases our “sample size” of trends and accounts for individual author bias, allowing us to recognize what’s agreed upon. We can calculate reliability as a proxy for accuracy.

After my analysis, I’m excited to share the top 11 prevalent, overlapping trends for 2020. Below, you’ll find the most recurrent trend themes, personal descriptions, how each organization named their trend, and starting this year, how the trend is manifesting and how to lean into each.


First, three high-level observations:

I. Over my last three analyses, several trend themes continue to thrive: Environmental Concerns, Prioritized Mental Wellness, Evolving Identity Boundaries, and A Physical-Virtual Blur. For three years straight, these remain the most ubiquitous subjects. Most meaningful, I believe the thread which ties these themes together is that they revolve around humanity — our habitat, ethics, mental state, sense of identity and role alongside tech.

II. Many of the +500 reported trends each year feel synthetic. In other words, nearly all “trends” feel propped up and perpetuated by business. Stop trying to make AR-shopping happen — it’s not going to happen. Cultural movements only flourish when there’s innate energy, I.e. organic behavior. There remains no need nor want behind AR-shopping, therefore it doesn’t thrive… this is despite +20 reports promising it will each year.

III. While these authors rely on reporting existing, surface-level signals, no one notes what’s not happening yet — movements beneath the surface. These reports illustrate where the puck is, not where it’s going next. It’s valuable to analyze the former, but invaluable to do the latter if we’re to strategize. Two catalytic events will transpire over the next year, which will re-model culture as we know it, however, not one report acknowledged them: The 2020 Presidential Outcome and The U.S.’ Next Recession. Both will catastrophically impact all consumers (their values, interests, and purchasing decisions) as well as all business verticals. However, because these events haven’t occurred yet, it’s seemingly difficult to report on. But such moments should not be neglected if we’re to plan ahead as businesses. After all, culture moves on even if we’re not ready.

The 2020 Meta-Trends —

01. One’s and Zero’s Fuse 👩🏽‍💻

The physical and virtual blur, making distinctions both uncanny and archaic

Physical & Digital Blend — Frog
Blended Realities — Twitter
Digital Twins — Gartner
Digital Twins — Daniel Ecker
Digital Twins — Future Today Institute
Digital Doubles — Fjord
Digital Fragrances — WGSN
Digital Atelier — WGSN
Brand Avatars — Trend Watching
Synthetic Influencers — Future Today Institute
Transcendent Retail — Springwise
New Shopping Worlds — JWT
AI Senses — Daniel Ecker
Humanizing Data — Isobar
Body Talks — Mindshare
Technology — Mintel
Sentient Tech — JWT
Empathy in Tech — CB Insights
IRL Filters — JWT
Augmented Beauty — Daniel Ecker

Yesterday: Virtual influencers repping brands on Insta
Tomorrow: Virtual employees firing you in the office

Lean in by: Recognizing digital dualism is a fallacy: online and offline are one

02. Slowwwinggg Down 🐢

Anxieties and screens pressure us to hit pause and finally breathe again

Powering Down — WGSN
Unplug — Daniel Ecker
Social Media Wellness — Hubspot
Niksen: Doing Absolutely Nothing — WGSN
Betterment: Intervention Seekers — Trend Watching
Active Silence — Trend Hunter
Slow Travel — JWT
Tourism Decelerated — The Future Laboratory
Factual Healing — Trend Watching
Healing Festivals — JWT
Modern Therapy — The Future Laboratory
Financial Therapy — JWT
Bath is Back (US) — Facebook IQ
Digital Spas — JWT
Holistic Health — Twitter
Mental Health — Daniel Ecker
Wellbeing — Mintel

Yesterday: Nap studios and dopamine fasting
Tomorrow: Aimless walking and day dreaming

Lean in by: Adding mindful friction, offering alleviation before the need arises

03. Purpose Over Profit ♻️

Orgs, whether they like it or not, will look beyond bottom lines and to CSR

Brands Take a Stand — Kantar
Brands Will Take a Stand — WGSN
Call to Stand — Ford
Climate-Positive Brands — JWT
Clean Corporations — Twitter
Post-Purpose Activation — Isobar
Purpose is Everything — Deloitte
Shopping by Values — Springwise
Consumers Search for Deeper Meaning — Forrester
A Planet Centric Future — Frog
The Green Paradox — Ford
Better Business: Green Pressure — Trend Watching
Carbon Credit — JWT
It Pays to be Good — Landor
Civic Marketing — Springwise
Ethic Edits — JWT
Many Faces of Growth — Fjord

Yesterday: Recycling, 2030 pledges and PR-driven marketing
Tomorrow: Up-cycling, immediate action and proof-driven marketing

Lean in by: Rolling up the sleeves today— it’s more responsible and effective

04. Privacy. Period 👁️

After waves of transparency and reveals, protection becomes prioritized

Privacy Concerns Gain Steam — Forrester
Privacy & Digital Wellbeing — Google
Privacy Protection — Daniel Ecker
Privacy Hardware — The Future Laboratory
The Privacy Era — JWT
Top of Mind: Data Privacy — Edelman
Financial Privacy — GWI
Cookies Start to Crumble — Kantar
Cookie Cutters — Carat
Security & Privacy (+26) — Future Today Institute
Security Systems: Selective Presence — Trend Watching
AI Security — Gartner
Cyber-risks Become Real — CB Insights
Walking Barcodes — Fjord
Techno Utopias Laid to Rest — Frog

Yesterday: Ad blockers and campaigns to gain your data
Tomorrow: VPNs and campaigns to gain your trust

Lean in by: Prioritizing consumer responsibility, data and emotions, above all

05. Entertainment Breaks Itself 📺

Proliferating channels, content, and gaming tests the industry’s architecture

New Media Channels Are Emerging — Google
Old Media, Modernized — Daniel Ecker
Media Consolidation — Future Today Institute
Streaming Wars — Kantar
Living the Stream — Mindshare
Original Content Economy — JWT
Colliding Ecosystems — Carat
Social Gaming — GWI
Accessible Gaming — The Future Laboratory
Get Ready to Play — Kantar
Play it Your Way — Carat
Playsumers: Give Me Live — Trend Watching
E-Sports — Future Today Institute
E-Sports for the Win (Indonesia) — Facebook IQ
Multi-experience Development Platform — Gartner
Mixed Reality Arcades — Future Today Institute
VR Arcades — Daniel Ecker
Adventure Viewing — Trend Hunter

Yesterday: Selfish corporate desires for loyalty and to fragment channels
Tomorrow: Selfish consumer desires for choice and to reconsolidate channels

Lean in by: Realizing content transcends platforms — moats can evaporate

06. Civil Social Media 🤝

Optimistic to minimize hate, new online dynamics hope to bridge not bruise us

Community & Conversation Come Together — Edelman
Don’t Build a Brand, Build a Community — Landor
Following to Friendship — Daniel Ecker
Peer Platforms — The Future Laboratory
Dark(er) Social — Carat
Connecting Through Video — Twitter
Joyning: Civil Media — Trend Watching
Civic Ads — The Future Laboratory
Digital Kinship — Isobar
Engineering Companionship — JWT
P2P Advice — Trend Hunter
Taming Tech’s Influence — JWT
Tech Takes Responsibility — Daniel Ecker
Anti-Bullying Gaming — JWT

Yesterday: Wholesome social posts
Tomorrow: Productive communities

Lean in by: Organizing and empowering hives of like-minded people

07. Human(e) CX 👋🏽

Experiences are becoming even more expedited and empathetic per customer

Human Experience as a Premium — GWI
Paying Down Experience Debt — Deloitte
How to Brand the Customer Experience — Landor
Great Expectations — Ford
Satisfying Immediacy — Google
Everything on Demand — Daniel Ecker
Youniverse: Metamorphic Design — Trend Watching
Customer in Context — Econsultancy & Adobe
User-Generated Content — Hubspot
Amplification of Consumer Participation — Deloitte
Back to Reality — Kantar
Single Serve — Trend Watching

Yesterday: Personalization at scale
Tomorrow: Human touch at scale

Lean in by: Revering each customer as an individual with stories and choice

08. Turning the Volume to 11 🔊

Auditory experiences get louder as we look beyond the visual playing field

Sonic Branding — Springwise
Sonic Branding — JWT
Turning up the Volume — Kantar
Listen Up: Rise of Audio Influencer — Edelman
Audiophilia — Foresight Factory
From Pods to Screen (US) — Facebook IQ
Branded Podcasting — Trend Hunter
Voice Everywhere — Daniel Ecker

Yesterday: Branded podcasts and voice assistants
Tomorrow: Branded music and voice companions

Lean in by: Seeing the ear as a more intimate sensory input and to honor it

09. Open Character Construction 💄

Identity binaries break as we question the integrity of past personality patterns

Gender Redefined — Twitter
Ungendered X — Trend Watching
Genderless K-Pop — Trend Hunter
Beyond Binary — Pinterest
Identity Matters — Ford
Identity — Mintel
Transhuman Beauty — JWT
Flexitarianism (US) — Facebook IQ
Liquid People — Fjord
Represent Me — Twitter

Yesterday: Companies stepping back and welcoming
Tomorrow: Companies stepping up and servicing

Lean in by: Providing individuals tools to discover and author their identity

10. Throwback Remixes ⏳

Longing for comfort, we seek the pre-existing and reassuring in our styles

Out with the New, in with the Old — GWI
90’s Rerun — Pinterest
80’s Youth (Brazil) — Facebook IQ
Re-Commerce (UK) — Facebook IQ
Retro Gaming Retail — JWT
Pre-Loved Premium — The Future Laboratory
The Second Time Around — Ford

Yesterday: 80’s and 90’s nostalgia
Tomorrow: Last year nostalgia

Lean in by: Watching out for faster style cycles and jump in accordingly

11. Questionable Consumption 🛒

By not buying, many will declare their values, forcing organizations to comply

Anti-Excess Consumerism — Springwise
Anti-Excess Consumerism — JWT
Conscious Consumption — Pinterest
Unconsumed — Trend Watching

Yesterday: Consumerism focused on minimalism and quantity
Tomorrow: Consumerism focused on essentials and quality

Lean in by: Auditing existing products and services, questioning their necessity


Further reading: The Trending Trends: 2018 & The Trending Trends: 2019

Matt Klein is a Director of Cultural Strategy at sparks & honey, researching culture, our relationship with technology, and emerging social behaviors to grow businesses. Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This piece is an educational review and does not infringe upon any copyright material as covered by Fair Use, Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107.

Matt Klein

Written by

Cultural Researcher & Business Consultant at Sparks & Honey. Fascinated with the relationships between psychology, technology and culture. [KleinKleinKlein.com]

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