The much-mocked Belty, a connected belt measuring your waistline and alerting you when you need to lose weight, is perhaps the best example of this. It is arguably a manifestation of many of Mindshare’s trend predictions for 2015: "everything connects", "the quantified self" and "mass personalisation". It’s a hitherto unconnected product, which is now connected, generating highly personalised data to feed into a user’s sense of "quantified self". It even purports to be an "experience" (its founder commented that "the belt experience hasn’t changed in centuries"), so it counts in our "extrasensory dimensions" trend too. So, yes, Belty ticks all the trend boxes – and, yet, at no point does this product reference a consumer need. It has been developed because the technology to develop it exists. Belty is hardware for hardware’s sake, like so much else being fêted at CES.
The best manifestations of our trends combine technology with insightful data on consumer behaviour and engaging content or experiences. Brands already successfully exploring "extrasensory dimensions" are responding to consumers’ higher expectations of brand communications – eg. we don’t just want a print ad, we want a print ad that helps keep our kids safe on the beach (Nivea Brazil).
'Brands should be cautious buying into trends that treat technology as an end in itself'
As "everything connects", many brands’ products may become connected themselves. Here, the big opportunity is around enhanced customer understanding. Products will be transformed into digital owned media. There is no longer a delineation between off- and online media being connected – all media is connected, enabling memorable brand communication experiences for audiences. "Mass personalisation" is possible because of technology, but checkout facial recognition (Tesco), personalised newspapers (PaperLater), iBeacon etc are only valuable if the data used to micro-target is sound and the content served on a one-to-one basis is relevant and engaging.
The much-discussed "quantified self" trend was given a real boost at CES with the launch of LifeQ, a service that tries to bring meaning to the reams of data produced by wearables. Once this happens, we could see the "quantified self" movement expand into the mainstream.
What all of this shows us is that brands should be cautious buying into trends that treat technology as an end in itself. Instead, I locate the future in the place where data, content and technology collide – that’s where we’ll create valuable brand experiences for consumers.
Mark Creighton is the chief executive of Mindshare UK