The 'solo self' to the new hedonism: 5 fresh trends from the Future Foundation

From multi-faceted paths to purchase, to hedonistic offsetting and solo living, Rebecca Coleman unveils the top trends from this week's Future Foundation #Trending2016 conference in London.

The 'solo self' to the new hedonism: 5 fresh trends from the Future Foundation

1. Alone doesn’t mean lonely anymore

A new hotel in Japan allows guests to go solo for their entire stay. Staffed entirely by robots (including a dinosaur receptionist), the Henn-na hotel has been designed to reduce human interaction to the bare minimum. This was the case study used by the Future Foundation's commissioning editor Laura Dennehy to introduce the trend ‘Scrolling alone: engaging the solo self’.

It is an extreme example of avoiding others, but walking down a UK street, watching people stare into their screens, it’s clear to see that we are living in our own little bubbles more than ever before.

Alone doesn’t mean lonely because it is now seen as an opportunity for growth and improvement

According to the agency’s own global research, a number of people (37%) who live with others often engage in at least three solo pursuits - such as shopping, gaming, exercising or even drinking - on a regular basis. For those who live alone, this rises to 77%. As Dennehy commented, ‘solo living is embedded’.

Future Foundation predicts that these stats will only increase with the rise of ‘selfish media’, such as consumer VR, which puts you at the centre of your own universe. She also alluded to the idea that this tech, and even new convenience foods, such as Soylent, will free up time to pursue self optimisation. Alone doesn’t mean lonely because it is now seen as an opportunity for growth and improvement.

2. Consumerism gets complicated

When it comes to the ‘path to purchase’, we’re going to have to extend this metaphor pretty significantly to keep up with how people shop now and into the future. "We’ll see paths get shorter, longer, and sometimes have no end at all," said Will Seymour, brand officer at Future Foundation.

Wishlisting is now essentially window shopping for the digital age, and may never lead to an actual purchase as we perpetually pin, post and ponder aspirational goods.

On the other side of the retail coin is the impulse buy. Nothing new in itself, but there are now more ways than ever before to deliver the buzz of instant gratification through the on-demand economy. According to Future Foundation, one third of US consumers are interested in using a delivery service to their location within two hours.

The other way it’s all getting a little more complicated is that the two-way dialogue is now getting truly two way, with consumers being rated and reviewed on the likes of Lyft and Ebay. Future Foundation believes it is only a matter of time before this shifts from the sharing economy to the services sector.

3. Emojinal intelligence

Future Foundation’s managing director Meabh Quoirin spoke about how brands could harness the power of the emoji, but also the power of real emotion. No-one can deny that emotional marketing works, but the ways in which brands are getting there is becoming increasingly varied.

Amplifying emotional messages is one way that brands can meet the ‘adblockalypse’ head on

Quoirin believes that amplifying emotional messages is one way that brands can meet the ‘adblockalypse’ head on, as people are much more willing to share ads and content that makes them feel.

She also touched on artificial emotional intelligence, predicting that e-commerce and customer service are about to get a whole lot more mood-based as facial recognition tech and machine learning come of age.

The four emotions picked out for brands to focus on in 2016 were pride, nostalgia, challenge and reward.

4. Hedonism meets wholesomeness

Hedonism is no longer about the pure pursuit of pleasure, abandoning all responsibilities and wellbeing worries in exchange for debauchery. And, if this kind of hedonism does still exist, it is temporary and must be offset by episodes of holier-than-thou wholesomeness.

Brands have a part to play in supporting consumers at both ends of their polar-extreme lifestyles. ‘The future of hedonism will be about manufacturing meaningfulness to create occasions around indulgence,’ explained the Future Foundation’s Michael Agnew.

Another side of this not wanting to be too naughty, is the idea that every moment is now captured and archived for future nostalgia. This lack of transience makes embarrassing drunken antics seem much less appealing to the youthful social media user.

5. Beware the Robots?

As explored in Marketing's November 2015 postcapitalism issue, the way we work, play and consume is being changed forever by the rise of abundance of information goods.

Consumers hope to supercharge professional productivity and skills, and cultivate multiple economic personalities

With the traditional 9-to-5 day no longer holding wide appeal, people are beginning to think about how they can ‘supercharge professional productivity and skills, and cultivate multiple economic personalities,’ according to Future Foundation’s director of global trends, Dom Harrison.

The agency’s research shows that 50% of global workers complete work tasks from home, while 1 in 3 Gen Y in EU and US expect to start their own business.

The impact of this could mean even further blurring of professional and leisure time, as well as an increase in sharing economy platforms as people look to make money by capitalising on their personal assets.

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